What you’re seeing now is something really amazing. You are the witness of an entirely vanilla Skyrim Special Edition game. It’s wonderful. Clean, organized and most importantly stable. Think of this as your healthy newborn child–one that you will be able to mold and shape as you please. For comparison, this is my heavily modded game folder. Ugly right? I know. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to preserve the slim nature of this folder entirely but we will do the best we can to keep it as clean and pristine as possible.
One thing that I want you to see though is that, if we open up both data folders (by the way, this is where all the data needed for your game to operate is stored), we see there isn’t too much discrepancy between the two. Ideally, with Mod Organizer, the mod management tool we’ll be using for our game, these folders should look identical. Clean and pristine. I have some other files in here because I play around with the Creation Kit and other mod development tools if you’re wondering. These aren’t important for now.
Why This is Important
I’m showing you this because chances are you’ve probably already installed mods on your game. Be it manually, i.e. putting files in this folder by hand, through steam, or possibly even another mod management tool. Regardless of which of these methods you used, there have still been additional files placed in this folder. And these files can cause problems for us later down the road unless we reset the game back to its a vanilla state. If the game is vanilla before we mod it, we won’t have any issues unaccounted for later down the road.
Alright so now that you understand why we need to reinstall our game cleanly. Now let’s talk about where we want to install our game. Let’s open up file explorer and head to This PC. As you can see, I have four drives on my computer: C, D, E, and F. Yours will most definitely be different from mine. What you will definitely see-through is a C drive. Local Disk C. Let’s open that up. This is the drive where your operating system is installed and also one that we want to try to avoid installing SSE to. Installing SSE here can cause administrator and permission issues with certain mods. Your best bet is to have a separate SSD from your C drive for your modded games. Hard drives can have ridiculously long load times with lots of mods so you want to avoid them.
If for some reason you don’t have any other drives or C is the only SSD you will have to install your game here. When doing this, DO NOT install Skyrim into the Program Files or Program Files (x86) folders. This will most certainly lead to prior issues. The problem is that by default Steam automatically installs games to the Program Files folder. Because of this, we will need to uninstall and reinstall Skyrim Special Edition to a more appropriate location. I honestly suggest moving all games out of there and just install Steam on your C root directory but that’s a little piece of advice outside of this guide.
If you do have a separate drive that you want to dedicate to modded titles, I suggest creating a folder inside it for modding utilities and a library folder for your games as you see here. Though it’s up to you. You will need a place to store your modding utilities though so definitely make a folder for those.
The other important directory to note is your Saves folder located in C, Users, YourUserName, Documents, My Games, Skyrim Special Edition. Also included here are two files called Skyrim and SkyrimPrefs.ini. These are where your Game Settings are stored. If you don’t see .ini at the end it’s because you don’t have filename extensions enabled. To enable those hit view and check File name extensions. Seeing these is very important for modding so I suggest keep them enabled. Basically, they just tell you what kind of file you’re looking at. Anyway, you’ll want to delete everything in here manually like so. If you want to backup your saves you can but there are no guarantees they will work with an entirely different mod load order.
If you’re not using Steam this is probably as much of this guide as you’ll find helpful as I’ll be going into the installation details for that further. Just remember to uninstall SSE using your game DRM and reinstall it to one of the locations specified. After uninstalling, it’s a good idea to go back to the folder it was located and make sure there’s nothing left as usually only the vanilla game files will be uninstalled. Delete what’s left and then reinstall. Run Skyrim and go to the main menu to recreate the ini files previously discussed. After that, quit out and you’ll be all set up with a clean game.
For those of you interested in the Steam details, let’s begin. The first thing we want to do is tell steam the location we want to install our game too. Open up steam and in the top left click steam and open up the settings. Go to downloads and hit Steam Library Folders. If your preferred location is already in this list you can skip this next part. Hit add Library Folder. Select the drive you want to install to–for me that my separate D drive SSD.
Navigate to the location you want to install to here. I’m going to follow my previous advice and just put it in my root directory which is already opened. Once again, remember that if you’re installing to C DO NOT install in either of the Program Files folders. Hit add Library Folder. I like to name mine SteamLibrary but if you’re only using it for modded games you can name it ModdedGames or something to that effect. Just remember its name and location as you will frequently need to visit it. Click Ok. And you’re good to go. I’m going to cancel because I already have it.
Next up we want to uninstall our previously installed game. If you have slow internet connection or just want to save time when reinstalling you can always navigate to your old Skyrim data directory, copy these main asset files and paste them into a newly created data folder in the new Skyrim Special Edition location you plan to install to. This is for more advanced users so I won’t be going into that further. Just know that manually resetting Skyrim to Vanilla is always an option so long as you know which files to keep.
As for the rest of us, we open up Steam. Find Special Edition, right-click and uninstall. Let’s go back into the old install path and delete the Skyrim Special Edition folder if it’s still there. Just to make sure everything is gone. By default, its directory is C, program files, steam, steamapps common. After that, go back into steam and reinstall. You can create shortcuts if you wish but if you’re following my guides you won’t need them so leave them unchecked. Choose the install location we just created or one you had from before. To reiterate, once again, NOT one in Program Files. Hit next, Agree to the EULA, wait for Steam to locate the required space and Finish.
Let’s Run the Game
Once the download is complete, run the game from Steam. Let it detect your hardware. It should detect Ultra if you have any kind of remotely decent hardware. If it messes this up for some reason though and you know your hardware is adequate, open up options and select ultra yourself. Hit ok and play. Once we get to the main menu, the game should have generated the appropriate files and we can quit out.
Awesome! You’re Done!
Congratulations! You now have a Special Edition that’s so fresh and so clean, clean. You’re also ready to start modding. If you want to keep it clean, continue following my guides where we’ll use Mod Organizer.