Skyrim Tweak Guide – Graphics and Performance


Elder Scrolls V Skyrim has been released on PC and it didn’t take the curious PC Gamers long to start playing with the game files to fine tune the game on PC. If you are looking to squeeze performance from your old PC rig which somehow runs Skyrim, you can tweak the following variables in Skyrim ini file for the desired outcomes.

You can disable or enable these ini tweaks to improve either graphics quality or performance of the game. For more troubleshooting, read our PC troubleshooting guide.

For more help on Skyrim, read our Characters Build and Skills Perk Tree guide.

How To Disable Mouse ‘Smooth’ Acceleration
Open SkyrimPrefs.ini with a text editor and look for bMouseAcceleration=1 under [Controls] and change it to bMouseAcceleration=0.

How To Disable Vsync
Open SkyrimPrefs.ini with a text editor and add iPresentInterval=0 at the bottom under [Display].

How To Tweak FOV
Open SkyrimPrefs.ini with a text editor and add fdefaultfov=XX at the bottom under [General]. Replace XX with your desired FOV.

How To Set Ultra Settings and Max Antialiasing and Anisotropic Filter
Open Advanced Graphics Options and max out everything but leave FXAA and Object Detail Fade unchecked.

Tweak Vertical and Horizontal Mouse Movements

  • Go to C:\Users\[USERNAME]\Documents\My Games\Skyrim.
  • Open SkyrimPrefs.ini, and check for [Controls] section.
  • Add fMouseHeadingYScale=0.0200 and fMouseHeadingXScale=0.0200 (You can tweak these values to what suits you best).

Skyrim Memory Tweak – Lag Fix and Performance Boost

  • Go to C:\Users\[USERNAME]\Documents\My Games\Skyrim.
  • Open skyrim.ini, and check for [Papyrus] section. You can add this section to your config and then add the following values under it, if it isn’t present.
  • Add iMinMemoryPageSize=100000 and iMaxMemoryPageSize=5000000
  • Add iMaxAllocatedMemoryBytes=1800000000
  • Be careful with these variables, especially – iMaxAllocatedMemoryBytes, setting it too high may result in random crashes and freezes.

How To Enable Tree and Rock Shadows

  • More geared towards enhancing the graphics, this tweak will give your game an eye candy boost. You know what I mean!
  • Go to C:\Users\[USERNAME]\Documents\My Games\Skyrim
  • Open SkyrimPrefs.ini
  • Change bDrawLandShadows=0 to bDrawLandShadows=1
  • Change bTreesReceiveShadows=0 to bTreesReceiveShadows=1

How To Deactivate Quest Marker

  • Go to C:\Users\[USERNAME]\Documents\My Games\Skyrim.
  • Open SkyrimPrefs.ini, and search for [GamePlay] section.
  • Change bShowFloatingQuestMarkers=1 to bShowFloatingQuestMarkers=0
  • Change bShowQuestMarkers=1 to bShowQuestMarkers=0

How To Deactivate Compass

  • Go to C:\Users\USERNAME\Documents\My Games\Skyrim
  • Open SkyrimPrefs.ini, and search for [Interface] section
  • Change bShowCompass=1 to bShowCompass=0

Skyrim .ini Tweaks – Graphics and Performance

Go to Documents/My Games/Skyrim and find ‘SkyrimPrefs.ini’ file. First, to be on the safe side, make a copy of back up of this file and save it somewhere on your hard drive.

Open ‘SkyrimPrefs.ini’ with any text editor and find these lines to tweak them per your requirement. I will walk you through the effects of changing these configuration variables – what benefits they bring at how much system resource.

If you are tweaking Skyrim for performance, you may need to find a good balance between eye candy and performance.

Note. Don’t forge to back up your ini files. If things go hazy, you can always delete these files, and Skyrim will re-create them next time you launch the game. To make the changes stick, set the ini files to read-only – It will lock them. To lock them, right click on the ini file, and select ‘Read-Only’. To tweak more, you can unlock, make the changes, and then re-lock them.

Ambient Occlusion

If you are running Skyrim on Nvidia video card, you can enable Ambient Occlusion by installing the latest ‘290.36’ drivers. Open the Nvidia Control Panel, click ‘Manage 3D Settings’ > Program Settings > then select ‘Elder Scrolls V Skyrim’ from the drop-down menu. Enable Ambient Occlusion and select ‘Quality or Performance’ preset. It will give you more realistic feel of the game.

High Quality Anisotropic Texture Filtering
Skyrim uses High Quality Anisotropic Filtering which improves the visuals significantly for a low frame rate price. You can enable it using Nvidia Control Panel.

From Program Settings tab, select Elder Scrolls V Skyrim, and set Anisotropic Filtering to ’16x’. Set Texture Filtering – Quality to ‘High Quality’.

Shadow Quality

You can set the distance ‘range’ of shadows in Skyrim. When you will open their activation range, they will suddenly pop-in, but if you will set the distance ‘range’ too large, it will significantly affect your performance.

Open SkyrimPrefs.ini – You can find it in your My Documents\My Games\Skyrim folder, scroll down to the [Display] section, and change the following variables.

iBlurDeferredShadowMask=0
It will increase the sharpness of the shadows. 0 is the best setting; 7 is the worst.

fInteriorShadowDistance=3000.0000
Reducing this value will decrease the indoor shadows – performance boost in the dungeons while decreasing the value may cause fade-in.

fShadowDistance=8000.0000
It is the distance at which the shadows appear outside. 8000 is the recommended distance to avoid shadow pop-in. If you want to increase the shadow detail, you can lower the value. Trick is to find the best value by experimenting on distance vs quality grounds.

iShadowMapResolutionSecondary=4096
It increase the detail level of the shadows. 8192 is the max setting which improves shadow quality but it will eat a lot of resources so it is recommended that you set it to ‘4096’ for optimum quality and performance. Other values you can set are 2048 and 1024.

iShadowMapResolutionPrimary=4096
Similar to what we have explained above.

Impact of Shadow Tweaks is directly proportional to whatever value you set for ShadowMapResolution. Defaults for ultra are 1024 and 2048 – Which will increase the performance cost of secondary shadows by four times, and double the cost of primary shadows.

Lower the secondary value and then primary if you are getting low frame rates.

Tree Shadows
Tree Shadows are disabled in Skyrim by default. You can enable them by tweaking your ‘SkyrimPrefs.ini’. You can set bTreesReceiveShadows=0 to ‘1’ – You will find this tweak under [General] section of the config file.

Other Performance Tweaks

fTreesMidLODSwitchDist=0.0000
It improves tree LOD distance. You can change it to 10000000.0000 if you want to improve the LOD distance or keep it as it is.

fShadowLODStartFade=200.0000
It improves LOD distance of shadows. You can change it to ‘1000.0000’.

iShadowFilter=3
It improves shadow filtering. You can set it between 1 and 4 (Low, Medium, High, Ultra). You can set it to 4 to improve shadow filtering or lower the quality of shadow of filtering if you want to improve performance.

bTransparencyMultisampling=0
Change it to 1 to enable Transparency MS.

iWaterMultiSamples=0
It improves Water AA sampling. You can change it from 1 to 4 (Low, Medium, High, Ultra). Change it either to improve the eye candy or to improve the performance or find a good balance between two.

bDrawLandShadows=0
It enables land shadows – You can change it to 1 to enable land shadows. Again, shadows eat a lot of system resources and video card memory, keep it disabled if you are looking to squeeze performance.

fGrassMinStartFadeDistance=0.0000
It improves grass distance. Greatly effects performance. I have tested it up to ‘400.0000’ – you can tweak it this variable either for graphics or performance.

iWaterReflectHeight=512 / iWaterReflectWidth=512
It improves Water Reflection Resolution, which obviously will use your system resources. You can either keep it as it is, if you want to improve the performance or even lower it. Or change both to 1024 for eye candy.

bMouseAcceleration=1
If you want to disable mouse acceleration, you can change it to 0. You will need to increase the mouse sensitivity in-game when you disable the mouse acceleration.

uiMaxSkinnedTreesToRender=20
If you are experiencing low textures and other textures related graphics issues, you can tweak this variable to improve texture and skin rendering. You can set this value to 40 to start with. Or keep it as it is, if you are looking to squeeze performance.

uGrids

Skyrim divides its huge game World into thousands of mini-sections (UGrids), and then loads the nearest five within your line of sight, and one in which your character is. World beyond these UGrids is rendered in low quality trees, objects, and terrain.

Performance Tweaks continue on next page with UGrids Tweak and Example Config.

1
2

By Zawad Iftikhar

Zawad is the lead editor of SegmentNext. He primarily manages what gets published on the site. He is a finance student and PC games enthusiast.


Around The Network
    • Duncan

      screwed up. was going to disable/enable an ore vein but forgot to click on the vein to bring up the code. The code for the door of the Left Hand Mine was up instead. It disappeared and I didn’t realize it till I had clicked on the vein and lost the code for the mine door.

      Can anyone find the code for me? And to return it, would the command simply be \enable (000code)\?

      • Jack Nitro

        You could try typing “help mine 0″ in the command console and then pressing pgup until you find the code for the door. If that doesn’t work, try googling it…

    • Chris

      First thing, make sure you are using the latest Skyrim version (1.3.10).

      Then get yourself SkyBoost or TESVal. Google them. Some people report even 20 FPS raise by using one or the other! I didn’t notice any change, but maybe you will.

      Now if you want to squeeze the best out of Skyrim in regards of performance, with negligible graphics loss, here are my suggestions:

      First make sure you \use application settings\ in Catalyst’s AA and AF settings. The other settings don’t matter, I didn’t notice any change in FPS messing around with them. MipMap detail level should be set to High Quality. It’s needless to say that to get the best performance, make sure you have the latest ATI driver for your card and the latest Catalyst version.

      Then while in the Options screen of Skyrim’s launcher, click on Ultra to get the default Ultra settings.

      To get an instant 10 FPS raise set AA and AF to Off(best performance)! You will use FXAA to antialias and filter the graphics, so click on Advanced and check FXAA. Since you are there, uncheck Reflect Objects in the water details (you will not see a big difference). Close and Save (I think it’s OK button, don’t have the launcher on this laptop).

      The problem is now that FXAA overdoes the job, and everything gets too blurry! To fix this you will use a post-processing engine. I know a lot of people are using FXAA post process injector, but this may drop your FPS, so I suggest Darker Nights and Environment, which is what I am also using, and haven’t noticed any FPS drop at all. You can set it not to darken anything if you want by the way, so don’t let the name scare you.
      To adjust it, simply open the injFX_Settings.h file in any text editor. Any change will have an immediate impact on your game, so you don’t need to restart Skyrim everytime you change something. Just tab in and out of it, while playing.
      I suggest to enable TONEMAP and POST_SHARPEN only. I also use TECHNICOLOR, but this is a matter of personal taste.
      You can achieve some amazingly looking graphics with the correct settings! Here are my settings, but they may not look good on your game, don’t forget I am also using the Real Lighting mod which over-exposures everything.
      TECHNICOLOR:
      TechniAmount 0.1
      TechniPower 7.0
      NegativeAmounts 3.0
      TONEMAP
      Gamma 0.95
      Exposure -0.26
      Saturation -0.01
      POST_SHARPEN
      0.05 currently, but I was using 0.04 before.

      The above would darken the game if you don’t use Real Lighting, in this case disable TECHNICOLOR, and play with Exposure and Saturation to get desired results.
      Before Real Lighting I think I had Exposure set to -0.15 and Saturation to -0.05, because I don’t like to have a colorful looking game, this is supposed to be Skyrim, a dull Nordic cold place.

      Anyway, now your game should already run smoothly, and the graphics should be sharp and very very nice.

      If you want to get even more FPS, while fixing some ugly bugs on the shadows of the Skyrim engine, here is what I suggest:
      1) Open Skyrim.ini in your My DocumentsMy GamesSkyrim folder
      1a) add:
      fSunShadowUpdateTime=.25
      fSunUpdateThreshold=1.5
      under [Display].
      This will make the constant flickering of shadows much less noticeable. Now the shadows move once in a while, and the update(flickering) takes splits of a second!

      2) Open SkyrimPrefs.ini
      Here are some settings which will make the shadows less blocky, less flickering (especially self-shadows), and appear smoothly in the distance:
      iShadowMapResolution=2048
      You can set it to 1024 for more FPS but this makes shadows too blocky for my taste. Or maybe you want to split that to:
      iShadowMapResolutionSecondary=1024
      iShadowMapResolutionPrimary=2048

      fShadowBiasScale=0.2500
      Anything less makes shadows flicker, anything more doesn’t give any noticeable improvement, at least for me.
      iShadowMaskQuarter=4
      Anything less than 4 creates particles, anything more doesn’t give any noticeable improvement, as far as I can remember.
      iBlurDeferredShadowMask=7
      This blurs the shadows very much, but I like it this way, I don’t like flickering of pixels on my game’s shadows. This is a personal taste, lower for less blur. I think the less the more FPS, though the impact is very low, if none at all.
      fShadowDistance=2500.0000
      I used to have it to 4500, but this creates ugly unnatural flickering on my self shadows so I had to lower it. Anything above 2500 seems to create this bug on self shadows.
      fInteriorShadowDistance=2000.0000
      I don’t see any reason for this to be above 2000
      iShadowFilter=3 or 4
      fShadowLODStartFade=2000.0000
      It used to be 200, but I hated how the shadows would instantly popup/fade out.
      iPresentInterval=0
      Don’t use Skyrim’s vSync. If you want to use vSync, set it from Catalyst to \Always on\, and don’t forget to enable triple buffering for increased framerate when vSync is used.
      uiMaxSkinnedTreesToRender=24
      anything more than 24 lowers your FPS without a big difference on display.
      bTreesReceiveShadows=1
      bDrawLandShadows=0
      bDrawShadows=0

      Turning those off won’t hurt your eye, but bTreesReceiveShadows gives much more immersion and nice looking forests, so I suggest turning that on, despite the FPS hit.

      If you are still in the look for more FPS, try these:
      iTexMipMapSkip=1
      This doesn’t load the details on far away objects, but doesn’t look too bad, and you can live with.
      bDoHighDynamicRange=0
      This turns off HDR. To tell you the truth, I didn’t notice any change to the lighting, so I’ve turned it off yesterday, and since then everything seems like it was before, and I got a 1-2 FPS raise. However I am using Real Lighting so this may affect it.
      bRenderSkinnedTrees=0
      If you don’t actually go to stare at the tree branches right in front of them, you won’t notice that those nice looking pine trees don’t actually have any branch texture applied to them, and a 0 (off) gives a nice FPS boost! The tree barks are still loaded, so you still get nice looking trees. Believe me, you have to get real close to notice the difference. Make sure that bTreesReceiveShadows is set to 1, if you disable this, otherwise the trees will seem really flat.

      As for world re-textures, don’t use any, none of the ones released until now are very well thought of, they are good in one location but then you travel to some other location and they don’t blend at all! The problem is that Skyrim mixes up textures to create the world, and this has not been taken in account from the re-texturers. I have a mixed collection of hi-res tectures plus a lot that I created myself. As being an experienced re-texturer myself I know what I am talking about (check my Morrowind mods).

      Of course the less resolution the more FPS! I currently play at 1280×720, as anything less is too ugly, and anything more doesn’t seem to get me more detail on my system.

      So, there you have it. A nice \walkthrough\ which hopefully should help you get the max out of Skyrim performance with little impact on graphic details. Of course there are many more settings which you can fix in the ini file to get even more performance, but I think I am happy with the above for now, so I leave everything else as set by default Ultra settings. I still have a copy of an ini file where I was getting 40-50 FPS by changing only shadow settings, but the above settings I gave you actually make shadows look better and give you an FPS boost! Anyway, a general rule is to play with the shadow settings, shadows are the biggest FPS-eaters in Skyrim.

      Oh, and a last thing! Make sure your system is clean when you start the game! Reboot before starting your game, just to make sure, remove all unneeded programs from the tray bar like antivirus software, printer apps, etc. which are loaded by default when you start Windows, and make sure you have at least 2GB of free RAM available before launching the game. Ctrl+Alt+Del opens the Task Manager, go to Performance tab to check your free memory. Close any unneeded programs.

      On my system I have played Skyrim on a 2 monitor setup (which is a bigger load for my graphics card), together with Internet Explorer, Mozilla Thunderbird, and Adobe Photoshop with lots of hi-res textures loaded without any issues! Of course I use WindowsXP SP3, the lightest Windows of all, and I strongly discourage using Vista for anything… in general!

    • Deziant

      Chris,

      I am using a 4870 ATI 512mb with same other specs. Any tips you can give? I have been messing around with mods and configs for this game more then I have been actually playing it. And no where near ultra :(

      Even a Mod list would help.

    • Chris

      Great! Your suggested ini file dropped my FPS by 25-30!!! LOL

      I’ve tweaked Skyrim so much, I play on Ultra -swear to God ULTRA settings all maxed- with constant 30-40 FPS! Here’s my \outdated\ system:
      Intel Core2Duo
      ATI Radeon HD 4670 512MB
      4GB Ram

      I see jaws hanging! :P

      And I use 6.28 GB of hi-res textures, plus the Purewaters mod, the Snotgurg Useful Food mod (hardcore mode), and the Realistic Lighting mod.

      OK, I got the experience, some of you may know me from the Morrowind era, I am grvulture, one of the \Hall of Fame\ modders of Morrowind.

      I wish I had the time to write a tutorial…

      Cheers to all, and don’t stop squeezing the max. out of this wonderful game!

    • Azumanko

      “iBlurDeferredShadowMask=0
      It will increase the sharpness of the shadows. 0 is the best setting; 7 is the worst.”

      Most be something like this: 0 is disables, 1 lowest, 7 higher.

      • http://segmentnext.com Zawad Iftikhar

        Nop. iBlurDeferredShadowMask=x dictates the crispness of the edge of the shadow. Low setting will give crisp edge, high setting will blur the edge of the shadow. Either way it has low performance effect.

    • dane

      thanks for sharing this!good resource!

    • gsevenr

      Skyrim only lags for me right before an npc speaks. Game runs perfect until an npc is about to speak, then it lag spikes and they speak their line and it goes back to running fine. Doesn’t always happen but it happens enough to make melee combat impossible.

      I read somewhere that realtek drivers aren’t always compatible with the game. So, I uninstalled my drivers and this issue stopped. The problem of course is I have terrible sound without the drivers making the game still rather unplayable.

      Any ideas as to why it only lags when producing npc speech sequence?

      • gsevenr

        Turns out it has nothing to do with my drivers, still happens when they aren’t installed, I just didn’t test it enough. This is mind numbing.

    • marco

      I got a stock 2600k 16 gig ram and GTX 570 2056 hd. Runs choppy on medium settings. I am using nvidias beta drivers. Would you suggest I start overclocking the 2600k then follow your tweak guide?

    • xsniperx

      Hi there, I have a bit problem, I need help with config, I want maximal graphic settings from my machine, because my own seems not working properly.

      Win 7, 64bit
      Zotac gtx 260, 896 Mb GDDR3
      Intel Core i5 750, 2,8 GHz
      MSI P55-GD65
      2×2 GB DDR3 Adata, 9-9-9-24, 1300 MHz
      SAMSUNG SpinPoint F1 HD642JJ, 640 Gb, 7200 rpm – game is installed here
      OCZ Agility 2, 60 GB SSD, SATA 2 – OS here
      Asus Xonar DX
      Corsair TX650, 650 W
      24\ IPS, 1920×1080

    • Rio

      Anyone also got the low graphic-high performance settings efficient? I’ve got a Geforce9500GT

    • Kris

      can someone put up a config with low graphic high performance?

      Or help me do it? Thanks!

    • Veikko

      A little fix: the FOV command is actually fDefaultWorldFOV=XX

      Otherwise, an excellent guide!

    • Chris Gilfoy

      GREAT post. Thank you very much 8)

    • joyrider

      Thanks,

      i’ve been messing with the console as well i somehow got the help command to work

      when i type for example help debug 0 it shows me all global variables, commands etc that has the word debug in it :)

      i didn’t think this was working before so i must have somehow enabled it

      these are some screens of it in action
      http://imageshack.us/g/638/tesv2011111212433058.jpg/

    • Lando

      My iBlur is set to 5 on default. Def not 1-3.

      • http://segmentnext.com Zawad Iftikhar

        Thanks for pointing out. FIXED! Some of the tweaks are subjected to further testing so feedback is appreciated.