Guide:System Setup Guide

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System Setup Guide

A Mandatory Prerequisite for Step's Bethesda Game Guides

by: The Step Team  | Forum Topic

This guide describes the expected configuration of the PC environment in order to complete ANY Bethesda mod-build guide on this wiki. This standard configuration prevents some common modding issues and facilitates support and resolution of many others.

A couple of notes before continuing:

  • This guide assumes a Windows 10 environment.
    • Windows 7 is at End-of-Life and Windows 8 is not recommended, therefore, Windows 10 is the only OS supported by Step.
  • Step recommends solid state drives (SSD) over hard drives (HDD)
    • SSDs are much faster than HDDs, therefore, users will have an improved experience using SSDs.

Modding Folder[edit]

First, set up a directory location for modding. Due to issues with some modding programs and Windows User Account Control (UAC), Step recommends using a location outside of UAC jurisdiction. Avoid installing games and modding resources within the following directory locations without first understanding why this can cause issues and how to circumvent them:

  • C:\Windows\..
  • C:\Program Files\..
  • C:\Program Files (x86)\..
  • C:\Users\{logged in user}\AppData\Local Note that some modding applications like BethINI and Mod Organizer may validly create files under this location.

Also consider the space requirements for modding, which can be significant for a single game. For a heavily modded setup, at least 50 GB of free space per game is typical. This accounts for downloaded mods, installed mods, temporary LODGen files, modding tools, etc. Additionally, allow for at least 20 GB of free space for each game (e.g., Skyrim requires 13 GB, and Fallout 4 requires upwards of 30 GB). Also remember that no PC drive should be filled to more than 90% of its capacity.

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NOTE

A good rule of thumb for modding drive space requirements is ~100 GB per game.

Specifically, begin by creating the following folders:

  1. Games, located at the root of any drive: e.g., C:\Games,
  2. Modding, inside the new Modding folder created above: e.g., C:\Games\Modding

This keeps path depth shallow and path strings brief.

Folder Structure[edit]

Extend the modding folder structure as follows, based on the game being modded:

Bethesda Games[edit]

..Games\Modding\Tools\

No Man's Sky[edit]

..Games\Modding\NoMansSky\
..\NoMansSky\Tools\
..\Tools\PSArcTool

File Extensions[edit]

It's recommended to unhide file extensions so that they are visible. This makes working with files much easier when modding.

Click here to show instructions for unhiding file extensions

  1. Click on the Windows button.
  2. Type in the search, File Explorer Options.
  3. Click on the File Explorer Options listing.
  4. Click the View tab on the window that opens.
  5. In the Advanced settings pane, remove the checkbox next to Hide extensions for known file types.

Steam Installation[edit]

Steam is a digital distribution platform by Valve Corp. used for purchasing, downloading, installing, and launching PC games.

  1. Download the program from their website
  2. Run the installer and install Steam to the Games folder created above: e.g., C:\Games\
    • This location is outside of UAC control and keeps path depth shallow.
    • Steam installs its games in the ..\Steam\steamapps\common\ sub-folder.

Steam can be installed to any drive and any location, regardless of the paths used for this Guide. However, all our Guides will reference these default paths, therefore, users will have to remember to change the paths to suit their setups. When installing Steam to an alternative path...

  • avoid installing to a location controlled by UAC (see Modding Folder)
  • keep in mind the space requirements for the games that will be installed

Steam can be installed one of two ways:

Show Steam installation instructions
 
  1. Using a physical copy of the Steam-hosted game purchased from a retailer:
    1. Insert the game disk into your disk drive.
    2. If the installer doesn't run automatically, open the disk from Explorer and run Setup.exe.
    3. Follow the on-screen instructions to install Steam (see video link below)
  2. Download Steam from their website and install it:
    1. Navigate to the Steam website
    2. Download the Steam installer
    3. Navigate to your downloads location and launch SteamSetup.exe (see video link below).

Moving Steam and Installed Games[edit]

Since Steam installs its games in the ..Steam\steamapps\ sub-folder by default, UAC restrictions are usually not an issue, regardless of install location; however, users are encouraged not to install within a UAC location to avoid any potential issues with the modding tools and unknown security setups. Users who already have Steam installed and desire to move their game installations can utilize Steam to do so.

Game Installation[edit]

Games are installed using the Steam application, and this can be done on one of two ways:

  • Users who purchased a physical copy of the game from a retailer should already have the game installed from the Steam installation above.
  • Use Steam to download and install:
Show game installation instructions
 
  1. Open the Steam application.
  2. Users who need to purchase a game can use the search bar to search for and purchase it from the app.
  3. Users who have already purchased a copy of the game, click Library at the top.
  4. Users will now see a list of their purchased games. Games in grey are not installed. Click on the game needing to be installed.
  5. On the game's page (right pane) click the Install button.
  6. Check the shortcuts desired and ensure the path is correct (e.g. C:\Games\Steam\ ).
  7. Click [Next], accept any EULA/Agreements, and install the game.

Initial Launch[edit]

Once the game is installed, it needs to be loaded with the default launcher to register it with the system, install missing support software, and create necessary files. To do this:

  1. Click the Play button on the games page in Steam.
  2. Load the game to the game menu.
  3. Exit the game.

This completes the initial game setup. Repeat the above steps to install all the desired games before moving on.

Game Backup (optional)[edit]

Though not necessary with the use of Mod Organizer, some users may wish to create a backup of their vanilla game before modding begins. If so, now would be the time to complete this task. For this, Step recommends using 7-Zip to archive the following directories:

  • Replace 'GameFolder' with the name of the folder being archived.
  • ..\Steam\steamapps\common\GameFolder
  • %USERPROFILE%\My Documents\My Games\GameFolder
  • %LOCALAPPDATA%\GameFolder (e.g. C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Local\GameFolder )

To return those game folders to a vanilla state, the archives may simply be extracted to the same or analogous paths as above.

Reverting to Vanilla without a backup[edit]

During the modding experience it is handy to know how to re-establish a clean game installation. If an archived backup was not created (see above), there is still a much simpler way to achieve the same effect, which is essentially just deleting the game's files. This will require Steam to redownload these file.

Click here to show instructions
 
  1. Deactivate all mods using the mod manager.
  2. In Steam, navigate to the Workshop and unsubscribe from every mod. (If mods from the Workshop are installed)
  3. Now browse to the game's directory: ../Steam/SteamApps/common/GameFolder
  4. Delete all files and subdirectories.
  5. Navigate to: %USERPROFILE%/My Documents/My Games/GameName and delete all files and subdirectories (make backups if desired before deleting).
  6. In the Steam app, right-click the game and select Properties.
  7. Under the Local Files tab, click [Verify integrity of game cache...]
    • This will download any files that are corrupted, missing, or didn't pass a CRC check. It may take some time to complete, depending on Internet speeds.
  8. Launch the game from Steam to redo the system registration and recreate new game files.
The game installation should now be refreshed to a vanilla state.

Tools Installation and Setup[edit]

Step recommends the tools for modding be installed and setup as “standalone” applications, when possible. This means a tool is installed once and used for all games. Most of the modding tools used already have this feature built in, and some are meant to be used as such. This will also reduce redundant tool installations while maintaining a good organization and saving hard drive space. All Step guides will assume the tools are installed as “standalone” applications; however, users are free to set up their tools as they see fit.

Mod Organizer (Forum)[edit]

  1. Download MO from Nexus.
  2. Install MO by running the installer and changing the path to the Modding folder (e.g. ..Games\Modding\Mod Organizer\)

Mod Organizer 2 (MO) is the official mod manager for all Step guides. MO supports both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Bethesda games and has basic support for a few games from other publishers. The major changes MO brings from the old version are:

  1. A return to normal plugin/archive relationship
    Users will no longer be able to load archives without loading their corresponding plugin, as MO(1) allowed. In MO, the plugins must be active for the archives to load, which is the intended behavior expected.
  2. New installation options
    • MO may be installed as "instanced" or "portable". Certain third-party (mostly deprecated) applications like Merge Plugins can require special configuration with instanced installations of MO, but Step recommends it's successor, zMerge, which works fine with the instanced install method. Also see Gamerpoet's zEdit tutorial for all assets and instruction.
    • Step recommends “instanced” installation, meaning a single installation of MO is used for all supported games. Not only is this option cleaner and better organized, but it also allows us to design all of our mod-build guides around using MO's instances, which allows management of independent mod lists.
    • See the Portable vs Instanced Installation Sidebox on the Mod Organizer Guide for more information.
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NOTE

No Man Sky users should stop here and skip to the MO Initialization.

Modding Tools Setup[edit]

Install tools to the location created above (e.g., ..\Games\Modding\Tools\).

Info-Logo.png

NOTE

These tools are 'generic' and pertain to multiple Bethesda games, regardless of the game guide being followed. Simply make the adjustments indicated by the referring guide for the particular game of interest.

BethINI (Forum)[edit]

  1. Download BethINI from Nexus.
  2. Extract the archive to the *Tools* folders (e.g. ..\Games\Modding\Tools\BethINI\)

LOOT (Forum)[edit]

  1. Download the latest version of LOOT from their GitHub page (LOOT.Install.exe).
  2. Install LOOT by running the installer and changing the path to the Tools folder (e.g. ..\Games\Modding\Tools\LOOT\)

xEdit (Forum)[edit]

  1. Download xEdit from Nexus Mods.
  2. Extract the archive to the xEdit folder: ..\Games\Modding\Tools\xEdit
    xEdit Guide

The "Modding" folder structure should now reflect:

  • ..Games\Modding\Mod Organizer
  • ..Games\Modding\Tools
    • ..\Tools\BethINI
    • ..\Tools\DynDOLOD
    • ..\Tools\LOOT
    • ..\Tools\xEdit
    • ..\Tools\xLODGen

Configuration[edit]

Mod Organizer Initialization[edit]

Step recommends installing all applications as standalone programs, including Mod Organizer 2. If MO was installed as a 'portable' application, the instructions below will need to be reinterpreted accordingly. For further information about this process, see the Mod Organizer Guide.

  1. Launch MO by running its executable (e.g. ..Games\Modding\Mod Organizer\ModOrganizer.exe)
  2. Upon launch, a windows explaining "instances" will be presented. Click [Next].
  3. Next is the choice of using as a standalone or portable application. Choose [Create a global instance].
  4. The installer will detect games that are installed. Select any one of the games listed and click [Next].
    If it didn't find a game, users can manually browse to the game's location.
  5. Leave the default name or create a custom one. Step recommends using the default name or appending a custom name to the end. Click [Next].
  6. Now user have the option of changing the location of data stored. Step recommends the default location, unless space restraints prevent this. Click [Next].
  7. Next window is for connection to Nexus Mods. Click the [Connnect to Nexus] button.
    • If this fails, wait a moment and try again.
    • When successful, a browser window will open to Nexus Mods. Log in, if required. Click the [Authorise] button to allow the connection.
    • The browser page will reload and display a success message. The window/tab can be closed and the user should return to the installation. Click [Next]
  8. A confirmation window will display with the installation information. Click [Finish].
    • A prompt will appear for first time installers asking to run the tutorial or not. First time MO users should run it for a quick lesson on MO. Experienced MO users can skip it.
    • Another prompt will appear if MO is not set up to handle .NXM links, users should select [Yes].
  9. MO is now ready to use.

System Drivers[edit]

A driver is software that allows computer programs to interact with hardware devices. Most drivers are updated relatively frequently, especially drivers for graphic devices such as video cards. Driver updates often fix bugs, expand compatibility, and provide performance improvements. As such, it is important to have up-to-date drivers for all hardware on the system, and users should ensure they do.

If the system being used for mod testing is pre-built (i.e., an off-the-shelf computer under a brand name: HP, ACER, or ASUS) an application is usually included that assists users with installing vendor specific driver updates. If this is the case, use this application since many pre-built systems have drivers specifically designed for their proprietary hardware.

Exception: the latest display drivers for these systems should always be obtained from the video card company's website (AMD or Nvidia).

If the system is custom built, then there are several applications to assist with driver updates. These will usually scan the system and list hardware that are using outdated drivers for free. Downloading them usually requires the paid versions, but users can take the list and manually download them individually from the web.

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WARNING

It's not recommended to allow this program to update your display drivers. This is best done manually by downloading them directly from AMD or Nvidia.

Video Card Setup[edit]

Often under-appreciated, display and driver settings have a huge potential impact on the graphic quality of games and anything else displayed on the monitor. Unfortunately, Step can only provide recommendations, which may not be optimal for all systems, due to the wild variation of GFX cards and drivers...not to mention the added variation of PC components beyond just the display adapter (e.g., drive type, CPU, monitor, RAM ... can all impact GFX rendering to more/less degree).

Update Display Drivers[edit]

If there is any reason to believe the latest drivers installed aren't installed correctly, then complete all of the following instructions. Otherwise, complete steps 1 and 6 only.

Click here to show instructions
 
  1. Download the latest stable AMD drivers / Nvidia drivers.
  2. Download DDU and install it (DDU forums).
  3. Restart the system and boot into safe mode by repeatedly pressing F8 once the boot check initializes and before the OS begins loading (no need to uninstall the current drivers, but it will not hurt at all).
    • If using UEFI, go to to your power options and while holding down the Shift key, press restart. This will open the advanced menu where you can select to boot into safe mode.
  4. Launch DDU, and select the appropriate driver from the drop-down combobox.
  5. Note the recommendations in DDU and initialize the cleanup.
  6. Reboot normally and install the latest drivers downloaded from step 1.

Example Settings - reference only to eliminate stutter or other glitches with AMD Adrenalin-powered systems.

Overlays[edit]

Certain programs, especially ENBSeries, don't work properly when other program overlays are active. Therefore, users should consider disabling all overlays other programs are providing (MSI Afterburner, RivaTuner, GeForce Experience, etc.). Below are instructions for disabling the most common overlays. Disable all that are applicable to the system.

Discord[edit]

To disable the overlay in Discord:

Click here to show instructions

  1. Run Discord and open the User Settings (gear icon next to username).
  2. In the left navigation under Activity Settings, click Game Overlay.
  3. Toggle off Enable in-game overlay.
    • Some may wish to have Discord overlay active in some games but not others. To do so, leave this setting toggled on and see the next steps.
  4. Still under Activity Settings, click Activity Status.
  5. This will show a list of installed games with each listing having a monitor icon. Ensure this icon is toggled off (red) for each game the overlay should be disabled for.
  6. Close the window.
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NOTE

Find more information about Discord's overlay at Discord's official documentation.

GeForce Experience[edit]

To disable the overlay in GeForce Experience:

Click here to show instructions

  1. Open the GeForce Experience application.
  2. Click the Settings icon (gear) at the top.
  3. Mid-way down the Setting page toggle IN-GAME OVERLAY off.
  4. Close the window.

Steam[edit]

This process is the same for all games. Simply replicate the instructions for the game in question. To disable the Steam overlay for Skyrim Special Edition:

Click here to show instructions

  1. Open Steam
  2. Click LIBRARY at the top
  3. In your game list, right-click on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition
  4. Select Properties.
  5. Uncheck the “Enable the Steam Overlay while in-game” box
  6. Close the window.

Alternatively users who would like to disable the Steam overlay for all games:

  1. Load Steam.
  2. On the toolbar click Steam.
  3. On the dropdown menu click Settings.
  4. On the new window, uncheck the Enabled the Steam overlay while in-game box then click OK.

Xbox Apps & Game Bar[edit]

The Xbox Game Bar is an app on Windows 10 that is part of the Xbox services. It's an overlay to display various features and widgets, which allow users to chat, record gameplay, control music, and more. Sounds nice but this takes up valuable system resources, has been reported to cause issues with some games, and there are better programs that do the same thing (not covered here). It's recommended to remove the Xbox services from the computer altogether. To do this: Template:Alert small

Click here to show instructions

  1. On the task bar, search PowerShell.
  2. Right-click on Windows PowerShell from the search and select, Run as administrator.
  3. Copy and paste the following, then hit Enter to list the xbox packages installled:
    dism /Online /Get-ProvisionedAppxPackages | Select-String PackageName | Select-String xbox
  4. If packages are found, use the following to remove them:
    Get-ProvisionedAppxPackage -Online | `
    Where-Object { $_.PackageName -match "xbox" } | `
    ForEach-Object { Remove-ProvisionedAppxPackage -Online -PackageName $_.PackageName }
  5. Now rerun the code from step 3 to verify no packages are listed.
  6. Restart PC
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NOTE

To turn off services selectively, see this article.

Display Calibration[edit]

Color calibration is critical to photographers and graphic artists who work across media types, but it's also equally important for gamers due to there being a lot of screenshot sharing and qualitative discussion about in-game visuals. However, with that said, all monitors will be slightly different in their accuracy of displaying colors.

The gist: Calibrate the monitor's display settings based on the video driver configuration utility with all other configuration baselines set to something akin to "mid level".

There are three places to configure color saturation, temperature, brightness, contrast, gamma, etc:

  1. The monitor's built-in configuration menu
  2. Windows color management
  3. The driver configuration utility

The value of one setting can affect the appearance of other settings, and depending on the quality of the monitor, #1 above could be very good or just 'OK'. The #2 and #3 objects should be standard though, since they are made to work across various monitors.

  • Ensure that #1 above is set to "the middle ground" with respect to all settings. Having extreme settings in the monitor configuration could potentially constrain the other configurations. For some, setting all #1 values to mid levels will be best, but for others the 'auto-config' will be best (auto-config may not set all #1 values to mid settings). Depending on the monitor, there may be other auto-config options based on various presets. Whatever seems most "middle of the road" is probably best for option #1 above.
  • Optionally, also run option #2 (Control Panel > Display > Calibrate Color) and set to 'vanilla' mid-levels with respect to all attributes. If this was never run previously, then it should already be at mid-levels.
  • Finally, calibrate using option #3 (see below) using this reference image and in a room with no direct lighting that could affect what the monitor displays (not-too-bright, diffuse-lighted room). The main calibration should be done using option #3 once a baseline 'canvas' has been established for options #1 and #2.
    • AMD-CCC: |Desktop Management| > |Desktop Color| (click "Reactivate AMD color controls").
    • Nvidia Control Panel: Access from the Windows Control Panel. |Display| > |Adjust desktop color settings|