Guide:System Setup Guide

From Step Mods | Change The Game
Delta c.png

System Setup Guide

A Mandatory Prerequisite for Step Mod-Build Guides

by: The Step Team  | Forum Topic

This guide describes the expected configuration of the Windows 10/11 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.

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\ 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 60 GB of free space per game is typical. This accounts for 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.

Info-Logo.png

NOTE

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

Specifically, begin by creating the following folders on any drive (C:\ is used here for demonstration). This keeps path depth shallow and path strings brief:

C:\Modding
C:\Modding\Tools

File Extensions[edit]

It's recommended to unhide file extensions so they are visible to make identifying assets easier.

Steps to Show Windows 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 some folder under the C:\ drive (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 of our Guides will reference these default paths, so any deviations must be taken into account when following our guides. 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 Installation Steps
 

Steam can be installed one of two ways:

  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).

Steam Game Installation & Maintenance[edit]

Games are installed using the Steam application. Those who have installed a physical copy of the official game will have done this.

Game Download & Install Steps
 
  1. Open the Steam application.
  2. First, to purchase a game, use the search bar to find the game.
  3. Once the game has been purchased by the Steam account owner, click Library from the top nav.
  4. Games in grey are not installed. Click on the game to install, and click the Install button in the right pane.
Steam Support

Moving Steam and Installed Games(optional)[edit]

Since Steam installs its games in the ..Steam\steamapps\ sub-folder by default, UAC restrictions are usually not an issue. To avoid any potential UAC issues with the modding tools and unknown security setups, Step recommends installing all modding-related software into the "Modding" folder as described previously. If Steam was previously installed into its default location, it can optionally be moved into a custom location if desired.

Disabling Steam Automatic Updates(optional)[edit]

To stop Steam from automatically updating a game, select "Only update this game when I launch it" from the game Library > Properties > Updates.

Initialize the Game[edit]

Once the game is installed, it needs to be loaded with the default launcher to register it with Windows and create necessary files:

  1. Click the Play button on the games page in Steam.
  2. Load the game to the game menu.
  3. Some games download their DLC from within the game, after connecting to game servers. Allow games to automatically download DLC or manually start the downloads, if available.
  4. Exit the game.

Game Backup(optional)[edit]

Though not necessary with the use of Mod Organizer, some 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> )

Reverting to Vanilla[edit]

During the modding experience it is handy to know how to re-establish a clean game installation. If the game was backed up as described previously, the archives may simply be extracted into the desired location (see previous instructions).

If an archived backup was not created, the default game content can be downloaded fresh from Steam. This is a two part process:

Remove Installed Content[edit]

Steps to Remove Installed Content
 
  1. If mods from the Steam Workshop are installed, navigate to the Workshop and unsubscribe from ALL mods.
  2. Browse to the game directory: ..\Steam\SteamApps\common\<gameFolder>
  3. Delete all files and subdirectories.
  4. Browse to: %USERPROFILE%\My Documents\My Games\<gameName>, and delete all files and subdirectories.

Verify Integrity of Game Files[edit]

Steps to Reacquire Game Data From Steam
 
  1. Close any open mod managers
  2. In the Steam app, right-click the game and select Properties
  3. Under the Local Files tab, click [Verify integrity of game files...]
    This will reset all game data to it's latest official state.
  4. Launch the game from Steam
  5. Load to the main menu. Download any DLC from within the game, if applicable
    Keep the game window active for this process. Some games will pause downloads when they're not the active window.
  6. Once finished, exit the game
  7. Reopen any mod managers

Tools Installation and Setup[edit]

Step recommends the tools for modding be installed and setup as “standalone” applications whenever possible. This means a tool is installed once and used for all games.

Install all of the following modding tools to the location created above (e.g., ..\Modding\Tools\).

Mod Organizer(Forum)[edit]

Mod Organizer 2 (MO) is the required mod manager for all Step Guides, since mod installation instructions are written specifically for MO. Other mod managers can be used, but they are NOT supported.

  1. Log in to Nexus and Download the MO Main File.
  2. Install MO into ..\Modding\Tools\Mod Organizer\
Warning-Logo.png

WARNING

No Man Sky: The following modding tools don't apply, so skip ahead to MO First-Launch Setup.
BethINI(Forum)[edit]
  1. Download the BethINI Main File from Nexus.
  2. Double-click the archive to open it in 7z, and double-click into the top folder to expose all of the BethINI files/folders to be installed.
  3. Create the ..\Modding\Tools\BethINI folder, and drag all files/folders into this folder.
    • When upgrading BethINI, remove all existing files/folders, and replace them with those from the latest archive.
LOOT(Forum)[edit]
  1. Download the 7z archive of the latest 64-bit version of LOOT (e.g., loot_#.#.#-win64.7z).
  2. Double-click the archive to open it in 7z, and double-click into the top folder to expose all of the LOOT files/folders to be installed.
  3. Create the ..\Modding\Tools\LOOT folder, and drag all files/folders into this folder.
    • When upgrading LOOT, remove all existing files/folders, and replace them with those from the latest archive.
xEdit(Forum)[edit]

'xEdit' is the generic name that applies to all applicable game variants (e.g., SSEEdit, TES5Edit, FO4Edit, etc.). For example, SSEEdit is the same application as FO4Edit, and the only difference is the name of the EXE files in the downloads. The application's game-specific behavior is triggered by the file name but can be overridden by command-line argument. In keeping with all modding tools being installed as standalone applications, Step will use the command-line argument via MO to invoke the applicable game mode rather than installing each variant (more on that later in the Guide).

  1. Download SSEEdit (i.e., xEdit) from Nexus. 'SSEEdit' is 'xEdit', and applies to all Bethesda games!
  2. Double-click the archive to open it in 7z, and double-click into the top folder to expose all of the xEdit files/folders to be installed.
  3. Create the ..\Modding\Tools\xEdit folder, and drag all files/folders into this folder.
    • When upgrading xEdit, remove all existing files/folders, and replace them with those from the latest archive.
xLODGen(Forum)[edit]
  1. Read the OP carefully before downloading and using xLODGen.
  2. Double-click the archive to open it in 7z, and drag the xLODGen folder directly into ..\Modding\Tools\.
  3. Create a folder inside the xLODGen folder for the application output: ..\Modding\Tools\xLODGen\xLODGen_Output
    • When upgrading xLODGen, remove all existing files/folders except xLODGen_Output, and replace them with those from the latest archive.

The "Modding" folder structure should now reflect:

..\Modding\Tools\Mod Organizer
..\Modding\<gameName>
..\Modding\Tools
..\Modding\Tools\BethINI
..\Modding\Tools\LOOT
..\Modding\Tools\xEdit
..\Modding\Tools\xLODGen


MO First-Launch Setup[edit]

Warning-Logo.png

WARNING

For many instructions to make sense, this guide expects mods to be downloaded from Nexus using the "Mod Manager Download" button when it's available. This requires a Nexus user account to be associated with MO to leverage the API. Step doesn't support issues related to either 1) manual mod metadata maintenance or 2) obtaining mods from Nexus anonymously. Both add layers of complexity and potential issues that are beyond the scope of this guide.

As mentioned previously, Step recommends installing all applications as standalone programs. For MO, this behavior is configured at first launch of the program and creating a "Global Instance". For more detailed information about the MO configuration at first launch, see the Mod Organizer Guide.

  1. Launch MO by running its executable (e.g. ..\Modding\Tools\Mod Organizer\ModOrganizer.exe)
  2. Upon first launch, a window explaining "instances" will be presented. Select "Create a global instance", and tick [Next].
  3. MO will detect games that are installed. Select any one of the games listed and tick [Next]. If the game wasn't auto-detected, manually browse to the game directory.
  4. Type a name, or use the default, and tick [Next]. It is useful to include the guide name and version in the instance name.
  5. Choose an installation path, and tick [Next].
  6. Tick the [Connect to Nexus] button. This is necessary to leverage the Nexus API for mod data integrations between Nexus and MO!
    • If this fails, wait a moment and try again.
    • When successful, a browser window will open Nexus Mods. Log in, and tick the [Authorise] button to allow the connection.
    • The browser page should present a 'success' message. Close the window, and tick [Next]
  7. Tick [Finish] after the confirmation message appears.
    • A tutorial prompt may appear. First time MO users should run it for a quick lesson on MO.
    • Another prompt will appear if MO is not set up to handle .NXM links. Select [Yes].
  8. MO is now ready to use.

Display & Overlays[edit]

System Drivers[edit]

Most drivers are updated fairly frequently, especially if hardware is relatively new. Driver updates often fix bugs, expand functionality, increase compatibility, and provide performance improvements. As such, it is important to keep drivers up to date, particularly chipset drivers.

Pre-built PCs often bundle driver-update applications that can be used to download and install official driver updates specific to the PC. Drivers for custom-built PCs will be on the component manufacturer's websites. BIOS and firmware updates are often available as well but can be trickier and more risky to implement.

To help users of compatible Intel-based motherboards keep their drivers up-to-date, Intel provides it's Intel® Driver & Support Assistant(DAR). Once it has been downloaded and installed, it can: (1) easily identify drivers installed by Intel and third-parties, (2) scan for Intel driver and software updates as well as system and device information and (3) provide integrated support and links to other support information. Subsequent visits to the DAR webpage will show if any drivers need updating. All of which can make it easier to keep your motherboard's drivers current.

Users of AMD Radeon™ Series Graphics cards and Ryzen™ Chipsets can download and install amd-software-adrenalin-edition software to auto-Detect and install driver updates. This software is for use with systems running Windows® 11 / Windows® 10 64-bit version 1809 and later.

Display Drivers[edit]

Most graphics software applications (i.e., GeForce Experience) provide links or automated updates for their software and drivers. If updated display drivers are available:

  1. Download and install the latest stable AMD drivers / Nvidia drivers.
  2. Reboot normally

Display drivers can often be upgraded without issue, particularly if done so using the video card's software; however, a bad installation or corruption is possible. In such situations, it is necessary to perform a "clean-upgrade" as described below:

Steps to Cleanly Update Display Drivers
 
  1. Download the latest stable AMD drivers / Nvidia drivers.
  2. Download DDU and install it (DDU forums).
  3. Restart Windows, and boot into safe mode.
  4. Launch DDU, and select the appropriate driver from the dropdown.
  5. Note the recommendations in DDU, and initialize the cleanup.
  6. Reboot normally, and install the latest drivers downloaded from step 1.
  7. Reboot normally again.

Also see SSE Display Tweaks for additional information. Thought this article is in reference to SSE, much of it applies to all games.

Overlays[edit]

Certain programs (e.g., ENBSeries) don't work properly when other program overlays are active. Consider disabling all unnecessary overlays commonly found on modern Windows PCs.

Steps to Disable the Discord Overlay

  1. Run Discord and open Settings (gear icon next to username).
  2. In the left navigation under Activity Settings, tick [Game Overlay].
  3. Untick [Enable in-game overlay].
    • To enable in some games but not others, leave this setting ticked, and ...
      1. Still under Activity Settings, click [Activity Status].
        • Ensure the monitor icon is toggled off (red) for each game for which the overlay should be disabled.
  4. Close the window.
    Also see Discord's official documentation.
Steps to Disable the GeForce Experience Overlay

  1. Open the GeForce Experience application.
  2. Click the Settings icon (gear) at the top.
  3. Midway down the page, Untick IN-GAME OVERLAY.
  4. Close the window.
Steps to Disable the Steam Overlay

  1. Open Steam, and click on the LIBRARY tab at top.
  2. In the game list, right-click on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition
  3. Select Properties.
  4. Untick [Enable the Steam Overlay while in-game]
  5. Close the window.

To disable the Steam overlay for ALL games:

  1. Open Steam, and click on Steam in the toolbar.
  2. On the dropdown menu click Settings.
  3. In the pop-up, Untick [Enabled the Steam overlay while in-game], and click [OK].

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.