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.
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.
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’.
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.
It will increase the sharpness of the shadows. 0 is the best setting; 7 is the worst.
Reducing this value will decrease the indoor shadows – performance boost in the dungeons while decreasing the value may cause fade-in.
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.
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.
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 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
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.
It improves LOD distance of shadows. You can change it to ‘1000.0000’.
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.
Change it to 1 to enable Transparency MS.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can force the game to load more UGrids at a time to improve scene quality in many locations. You can even load 9 or 11 but that many UGrids may make the game unstable.
Another thing you should know is that these UGrids are loaded from your hard drive, so loading more at one time may cause severe temporary performance drops as your hard drive tries to catch up.
Tweaking UGrids will change your save game so after changing the values, so if you face any performance issues and want to revert back the changes, you will have to follow these instructions to protect your save files from getting corrupted.
Fail Safe procedure will be to back-up your entire save folder before even attempting this tweak. You can find your ‘Saves’ folder in My Documents\My Games\Skyrim.
Open Skyrim.ini in My Documents\My Games\Skyrim and find the following variable in [General section and change uExterior Cell Buffer=36 to uExterior Cell Buffer=64 – These values should always be (uGridsToLoad + 1)^2. Find these values, you will find UGridsToLoad value – Any odd number (5,7,9,11).
Save the file and set it to Read-Only.
How To Revert Back To Default UGrids Value – UGridsToLoad=5
Backup SkyrimPrefs.ini, Skyrim.ini and your Skyrim ‘Saves’ folder.
Right click on Skyrim.ini in My Documents\My Games\Skyrim and uncheck ‘Read Only’ in properties.
Load your last save game.
Press tilde (~) on your keyboard.
Type setini “ugridstoload:general” 5 in in-game console and press Enter.
Type saveini and press Enter.
Type refreshini and press Enter.
Close the console using ~ – tilde key and create a new save game.
Delete Skyrim.ini in My Documents\My Games\Skyrim.
Reload the Skyrim configuration tool.
Close the tool.
Re-tweak Skyrim.ini for all the other changes you had made.
Reload Skyrim and start from your most recent save.
If you find above procedure lengthy and time consuming, check the performance impact of the tweak without saving the game. This way you only have to undo Skyrim.ini changes to revert back to the default uGridsToLoad=5.
Additionally, you can add following ini tweaks at the end of the your SkyrimPrefs.ini file:
The above five ini tweaks improve water rendering – Again, you can keep either lower the value or set them as it is, to make water look gorgeous.
If you want to improve mesh on long distance in Skyrim, add the above three ini tweaks at the end of the configuration file. These tweaks will improve the mesh distance.
If you want a ready made solution, copy the config of your choice from the sample configs below:
Sample Config #1 – Great Graphics and Performance
If you have an average PC and want to squeeze as much performance as you can at the loss of least eye candy, you should use this config – Take note of how the variables are set. Thanks @ gareth_shaggy
sD3DDevice=”NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470″ Ignore!!!
Save the SkyrimPrefs.ini and exit. Start Skyrim and enjoy!
If you find something useful to increase either performance or graphics quality in Skyrim on PC, let me know and I will add those suggestions in this guide. Let’s make this bigger and better!