Guide:SystemSetupGuide

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System Setup Guide
by: The Step Team

Contents

This Guide will walk users through setting up their system for a modded gaming experience for Bethesda games. All of Step's game guides will reference steps from this Setup Guide. Though this Guide is specific to how Step Modification recommends setting up a system for our modding guides, all users should find it helpful for setting up an organized modding structure and completing necessary and recommended pre-modding steps.

A couple of notes before continuing:

  • This Guide assumes users are using Windows 10.
    • 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 using Solid State Drives (SSDs) whenever possible!
    • SSDs are far faster than HDDs, therefore, users will have a far better experience using SSDs.


Installations

Modding Folder

First, users need to select, and set up, a folder to use for most of their modding. Due to issues with some modding programs and Windows User Account Control (UAC), Step Modifications recommends using a location outside of "C:\Program Files\" or "C:\Program Files (x86)\". For all our Modding Guides we recommend users create the following folder: C:\Modding\

Step Modification recommend the "C:\Modding\" location due to using Mod Organizer 2 "Instances" for our guides. Using Instances and installing tools the to C: drive will keep MO's data and other third-party tools located on the same drive. However, users should consider the space requirements for modding a game, which can be significant for a single game. For a heavily modded game users should expect to have at least 50GBs of free space on the drive chosen for each game planned to be modded. For example, a Step Administrator's system is currently using ~80GBs for Skyrim LE and Skyrim SE, combined, just for the mods. When using Instances, mod installations are kept on the C: drive. Users who don't have enough space on their C: drive, can create the Modding folder anywhere of their choosing and install MO2 as a portable application. We will provide side notes for these users, where appropriate.

Info-Logo.png Notice: For more information about MO2 installation options, please see the Mod Organizer Guide.

Folder Structure

Next users need to create new folders within the Modding folder to set up the structure for future use. At this time, STEP recommends the following folder structure:

  • ..Modding\
    • ..\Tools\

File Extensions

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

  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

Steam is a digital distribution platform from Valve used for purchasing and playing video games. Its program by the same name (Steam) is used to purchase, download, and install digital games from their online store.

Blub!

Most of the Staff run the Guides with their games installed to separate drives from the ..\Modding\ due to space constraints on their system drives. This practice is fine to use with all the Step Modification game guides.

Users should not install Steam a location controlled by UAC. When choosing a location, mind the space requirements for the games that will be installed. If space permits, we recommend the ..\Modding\ folder created above, however, many users opt to install their games to a separate drive reserved for game installations.

Steam can be installed one of two ways:

  1. Purchase the physical copy of the game 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).

After installation the Modding folder structure should reflect the following:

  • ..\Modding\
    • ..\Steam\ (optional; Steam and games may be installed elsewhere)
    • ..\Tools\

Moving Steam and Installed Games

Some users may already have Steam installed "C:\Program Files\" or "C:\Program Files (x86)\". For these users, Steam makes it easy to move the installation location. Follow their instructions here: https://support.steampowered.com/kb_article.php?ref=7418-YUBN-8129

Game Installation

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:
    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:\Modding\Steam\ ).
    7. Click [Next], accept any EULA/Agreements, and install the game.

Initial Launch

Once the game is installed, it needs to be loaded, with the default launcher, to register it with the system and create necessary files, like INIs. 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.


Game Backup (optional)

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 )

Any time a user wishes 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

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. To do this:

  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 except for the Data and DirectX10 folders.
  5. Open the Data folder and select all (CTRL + A), now hold CTRL and deselect only the games vanilla files. For example, for Skyrim LE one would deselect the following files:
    • HighResTexturePack01.bsa
    • HighResTexturePack02.bsa
    • HighResTexturePack03.bsa
    • Skyrim - Animations.bsa
    • Skyrim - Interface.bsa
    • Skyrim - Meshes.bsa
    • Skyrim - Misc.bsa
    • Skyrim - Shaders.bsa
    • Skyrim - Sounds.bsa
    • Skyrim - Textures.bsa
    • Skyrim - Voices.bsa
    • Skyrim - VoicesExtra.bsa
    • Skyrim.esm
  6. Now hit the Delete key on the keyboard.
  7. Navigate to: %USERPROFILE%\My Documents\My Games\GameName and delete all files and subdirectories (make backups if desired before deleting).
  8. In the Steam app, right-click the game and select Properties.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.


Configuration

Video Card Setup

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, so it is important to get these settings done correctly. Below are listed only the essential settings. No further tweaking is necessary beyond them. It is highly recommended that only the bare minimal tweaking be done here. Users can expand upon the settings after they have a modded setup that is configured and confirmed to be in stable condition.

Update Display Drivers

If there is any reason to believe the latest drivers installed are not installed correctly, then complete all of the following instructions. Else, users only need to complete steps 1 and 6; skip 2 through 5.

  1. Download the latest stable AMD drivers / Nvidia drivers.
  2. Download DDU and install it (DDU forum Page).
  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 while using Windows 8 or later, 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.

AMD

AMD users should read the Radeon Settings Guide to correctly configure their driver settings before continuing.

Nvidia

Nvidia users should read the Nvidia Settings Guide to correctly configure their driver settings before continuing.


Overlays

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.

Discord

To disable the overlay in Discord:

  1. Run Discord and open the User Settings (gear icon next to username).
  2. Click the Settings icon (gear) at the top.
  3. In the left navigation under App Settings, click Overlay.
  4. Toggle off Enable in-game overlay.
    • Some users may wish to have Discord overlay active in some games but not others. These users can leave this setting toggled on and see the next steps.
  5. Still under App Settings, now click Game Activity.
  6. Users will see 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.
    • Skyrim LE users should turn off the overlay. It's label "at your own risk" by Discord.
  7. Close the window.
Info-Logo.png      Notice:Users can find more information about Discord's overlay at Discord's official documentation.

GeForce Experience

To disable the overlay in GeForce Experience:

  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

To disable the Steam overlay for Skyrim Special Edition:

  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.
Info-Logo.png      Notice:This process is the same for all games. Simply replicate the instructions for the game in question.

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 Game Bar

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 other programs available that do the same thing, better. It's recommended to remove the Xbox services from the computer altogether. To do this:

  1. On the task bar, search PowerShell.
  2. Right-click on Windows PowerShell from the search and select, Run as administrator.
  3. Type in, Get-AppxPackage *xbox* | Remove-AppxPackage and hit Enter.
    • The process will run and return an error. This is fine, the uninstall still works.
  4. Users should restart their PC.
Info-Logo.png      Notice:Users who wish to turn of services selectively should see this article.



Display Calibration

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. It's ideal if all users' systems are somewhat 'standardized' for comparative purposes alone. 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|