The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Tweak Guide

General Optimization

Note that this is an archived copy of the original article. Please see here for a more detailed explanation.


Skyrim Tweak Guide - Bethesda Recommended


Published: December 6th, 2011. Updated: February 7th, 2012. Game Version Used: 1.4.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the fifth title in the epic The Elder Scrolls role playing game series. Skyrim presents a vast, detailed fantasy world that you can explore at your leisure. As with the other games in the series, Skyrim allows you to choose how you approach the game. Be a warrior, a mage, a thief - or a mix of all three; be good, evil, or something in between; ignore the main quest and just head off in a random direction looking for treasure. All of these possibilities and many more are available to you, because Skyrim is about as open-ended as a PC game can be.

When the game's developer, Bethesda Game Studios, says that there are literally hundreds of hours of content, it's no exaggeration. The length of gameplay all depends on just how inquisitive and adventurous you're feeling. In terms of graphics, the world and its citizens look more alive and more realistic than ever before. The whole package is capped off with a beautiful soundtrack, by the same composer of the music in Morrowind and Oblivion, which only adds to the richness of an outstanding game.

The aim of this guide is to allow you to better understand and utilize all of the configuration options available in Skyrim, as well as a selection of advanced tweaks to enhance the game.

Before proceeding further, make sure you meet the game's minimum requirements as provided below, with the recommended requirements in brackets:


  • Processor: 2 GHz dual core CPU (Quad Core CPU)
  • Memory: 2GB (4GB) RAM
  • Hard Drive: At least 6GB of free space
  • Video Card: DirectX 9 compatible (GeForce GTX 550 Ti or GeForce GTX 260, or above)
  • Sound Card: DirectX compatible
  • Internet Access required for Steam
  • OS: Windows XP, Vista or 7


What follows are full descriptions for all of the settings available in Skyrim's options menus. Screenshot comparisons are provided where relevant to highlight the impact on image quality of each setting. Performance information is also provided for every setting, although bear in mind that the precise impact on your particular system depends on your specific hardware combination and your other game and system-wide settings. The aim here is to give you enough information so that you can make an informed choice as to the settings you enable or disable to obtain a balance of visual quality and performance acceptable to you.


General System Optimization

Almost as important as any in-game setting is the way your Windows installation is configured. A great many problems and performance issues, especially stuttering, crashes and slowdowns, can be traced directly to sub-optimal settings in Windows and out-of-date or badly configured drivers. Take a look at our Stable Gaming Guide for tips on how to get your PC in the best shape. At the very least make sure to update your graphics drivers to the latest available version.


Performance Measurement

To successfully conduct any tweaking, you will need some way of objectively measuring your performance in Frames Per Second (FPS). The easiest way to do this is to use the free FRAPS utility. Download, install and launch FRAPS before starting up Skyrim. You will now see a yellow FPS counter displayed in the corner of your screen. Pay attention to your FPS during the game, particularly during graphically intense scenes, such as in heavy combat or in large outdoor areas, especially around cities. If your FPS dips into the low double or single digits for example, this is a good indication that you need to adjust various settings until your minimum FPS is consistently above around 25 FPS so as to maintain appropriate responsiveness.

Note that in Skyrim a form of Vertical Synchronization (VSync) is enabled by default, and cannot be disabled using the in-game settings. This means your framerate will be capped to your refresh rate (typically 60 FPS), and you may also experience mouse lag. Several alternatives for dealing with this form of VSync are covered in the Advanced Tweaking section of the guide.


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