How to play TES 5: Skyrim on a weak PC or laptop

Which edition to choose, how to fine-tune the graphics and what mods to install to get 60 FPS

For more than 10 years now, the fifth part of The Elder Scrolls has been one of the most popular role-playing games in a fantasy setting. This is a record not only for the franchise, but for the entire genre as a whole. And it would seem, who today “will not pull” the game of 2011? But do not forget that, firstly, this is an open-world RPG, and secondly, the 2011 edition is no longer completely relevant – two more have been released since then. And thirdly, with mods, Skyrim turns into quite a modern role-playing game, both in terms of gameplay and graphics.

We have already released material about setting up Skyrim with graphic modifications . And in this we will figure out how to run different editions of the game on office laptops, integrated graphics, outdated hardware and other weak PCs.

Which is better for a weak PC: Skyrim LE or SE / AE

The question is not as simple as it seems. The main difference between the original edition of 2011 (with or without additions – it doesn’t matter) and the remaster of 2016 is the bitness of the engine:

  • The original, due to the 32-bit architecture, works worse with memory and modern hardware, but it loads outdated systems less.
  • The Special Editionis already running on 64-bit architecture. On older hardware, for this reason, freezes, FPS drops and other performance problems may occur more often. But on the other hand, on relatively modern processors and video cards, the game works stably and smoothly.
  • The 2021 Anniversary Edition isnot much different from the Special Edition.

That is, when choosing a publication, you must first of all proceed from the relevance of your hardware and only secondarily from its power. Here are some examples:

  • Your PC has a weak processor and one of the latest generations of graphics cards(i3-10100 + GT 1030 / Ryzen 5 3200G + RX 550). Although technically they don’t do well with large 3D games, it’s better to go with the Special Edition (or Anniversary Edition) so that relatively modern hardware doesn’t have to struggle with calculations in an outdated 32-bit architecture.
  • The opposite example – your computer has pre-top or even top-end components from about 10 years ago(i7-4790K + GTX 770 / AMD FX-8300 + R9 280X). Here, the classic Legendary Edition is better suited, which is more designed to work with older processors and video cards.
  • And if you have not only weak, but also outdated hardware, then the same Legendary Edition will do. For such a PC, you will not only have to lower most of the graphic settings to a minimum, but also make additional edits to the ini files, as well as install special modifications with optimizations.

Next, we will first deal with the standard graphics settings available through the launcher, then we will determine what changes to make to the SkyrimPrefs.ini file , and in the last chapter we will select the best mods for additional optimizations.

TES 5 graphics settings: Skyrim for a weak PC

Next, we analyze all the graphic settings from the Legendary Edition, supplemented by those that appeared in the Special Edition (there were no new settings in the Anniversary Edition).

  • “Resolution” (Resolution). It is often recommended to reduce the resolution, but in our opinion it is better to sacrifice other options than to degrade the clarity of the entire image at once. So the best option here is your screen’s native resolution (eg 1366×768 or 1920×1080).
  • “Smoothing” (Antialiasing). Choose no more than two times, or disable. Unfortunately, only resource-intensive MSAA or FXAA anti-aliasing is available in the classic version of Skyrim, which is discussed below.
  • “Anisotropic filtering” (Anisotropic Filtering). Fixes the blurring of slanted surfaces that occurs due to 3D graphics rendering. Set the filtering to quadruple (4x). This is sufficient for most low resolutions.
  • “Texture Quality” (Texture Quality). For maximum texture quality, 1 gigabyte of video memory is enough. If you have less, or if your graphics card is a CPU “plug-in”, then set it to medium. You should not set it low – the surfaces will be very blurry.
  • “Radial blur quality” (Radial Blur Quality). Blurs the image around the enemy during particularly dynamic moments, concentrating the player’s gaze. Doesn’t affect performance, but you can reduce the effect if the blur seems too strong.
  • “Shadow Detail” (Shadow Detail). Shadows are one of the most “gluttonous” parameters in the games of those years. In the classic version, the shadow detail option is also responsible for the rendering distance. Set the value to no higher than average. Low looks really bad, but you can do with them, in a pinch.
  • Shadow Render Distance (SE/AE only). The rendering distance can be set to medium (or low). Above the average distance, the shadows are still not very noticeable.
  • Sunlight Detail (SE/AE only). Rays that make their way through the foliage or cracks in the walls. You can set the quality to low so that the effect remains at least in some form. A complete shutdown will still add almost no FPS (compared to low quality).
  • “Reflections” (only SE / AE). In the remaster and re-release of 2021, reflections cannot be configured in detail – only to be turned on or off completely. In addition, in all publications, only water reflections are understood as reflections. In any case, this is a rather resource-intensive parameter. Therefore, it is better to turn it off.
  • Surround Light (SE/AE only). This is not quite volumetric lighting, but only additional dimming of various joints and recesses. In the original, the option is called Ambient Occlusion, which can be translated as “obstruction of ambient light”, but in reality it is diffuse shading. A rather resource-intensive parameter for games from the early 2010s and for hardware of the same era. Disable.
  • Volumetric Rain (SE/AE only). Incorrect translation of the Precipitation Occlusionparameter . This is an additional volume for fog and haze. If you disable the parameter, the effects will remain but will become flat, but performance will increase noticeably. You can completely turn off fog and haze through the ini file setting .
  • Visual Interference (SE/AE only). And here, for some reason, they translated Snow Shader– an updated snow shader. Thanks to him, the snowdrifts look voluminous and illuminated, and not just like the earth painted white. On a weak video card, it is better to turn off any volumetric effects.
  • Flare (SE/AE only). The effect of lens flare from bright light sources. Doesn’t affect performance. You can leave it on (or turn it off if you don’t like the effect).
  • “64-bit Single Buffer Rendering” (SE/AE only). Improved processing of distant objects, eliminating their flicker. It should be included, performance should not be affected.
  • “Decalation of additional textures” (Decal Quantity). The number of decals – traces of military operations that remain on walls and other surfaces. It is worth reducing the quality only on very weak processors.
  • The Anti-Aliasing option next to Resolution in Classic Skyrim LE only controls the resource-intensive MSAA method. If you turned it off completely, then you should at least turn on the good old FXAA. It consumes almost no resources and smoothes the edges of objects quite well, but blurs the image a little.
  • “Reflect the earth in the water” (Reflect Land). In the classic version of Skyrim LE, reflections are configured in detail. However, for a weak PC, it is better to always disable all such effects.
  • “Reflect trees in the water” (Reflect Trees). The second reflection effect from the classic version – disable.
  • “Reflect objects in water” (Reflect Objects). Turn it off too.
  • “Reflect the sky in the water” (Reflect Sky). And the last reflection effect that needs to be turned off.
  • “Object rendering distance” (Object Fade). Objects are understood asbuildings, people, trees, and similar large elements of the environment. For these settings, just set the slider to 5 (or about one-third in the SE/AE edition) so that objects don’t spawn out of thin air while traveling around the world. However, on a very weak PC, you may have to reduce it to a minimum.
  • “Character rendering distance” (Actor Fade). Similar to the previous parameter, but is responsible for drawing at a distance of various NPCs.
  • “Grass rendering distance” (Grass Fade). Even if you set the value of the rest of the rendering distance options to medium or slightly lower, then you should completely disable it here, since the grass is a rather resource-intensive parameter.
  • Reflection rendering distance (Specularity Fade). Reflections are also best turned off completely.
  • “Light rendering distance” (Light Fade). Doesn’t affect performance very much. Put it roughly in the middle.
  • “Distance rendering of objects” (Item Fade). Items are various utensils, weapons, equipment, books and other things that can be picked up and put into inventory You can also put it in the middle, or lower it to a minimum on a very weak PC.
  • “Degree of detail of remote objects” (Distant Object Detail). Number of trees and stones in the distance. Also set the quality to no higher than average.
  • Object Detail Fade. This parameter, and not the previous one, is responsible for detailing distant objects. In the classic version, turn it off, and in SE / AE you can set the quality to low or medium.

Tweaking configuration ini files

Next, we will analyze only those parameters of the SkyrimPrefs.ini file , the setting of which can give at least some tangible increase in FPS and does not entail technical problems with the game. The file itself is located at C: \ Users (“Users”) \ Documents (“Documents”) \ My Games (“My Games”) \ Skyrim (Special Edition) . You can edit it in the standard Windows Notepad. You can quickly find the desired parameter using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + F.

  • iShadowMapResolution=4096. The resolution of shadow maps, which determines their density and quality. The maximum possible value is 8192. And the minimum is 512. Put it or 1024.
  • iBlurDeferredShadowMask=3. Blurring the shadows around the edges, making them softer. You can leave the standard value of 3 or lower it to 1. On very weak video cards, it can slightly increase FPS.
  • iShadowMaskQuarter=4. You can lower it a little, which will slightly worsen the clarity of the shadows, but can significantly increase the FPS. For example, set the value to 2. Below is not recommended.
  • fShadowDistance=8000. Shadow rendering distance. You should not set a value below 400 so that the shadows do not disappear completely. The recommended value for weak PCs is 2000.
  • bAllowCreateGrass=1. It is possible to completely disable grass in the game by setting this to 0. This will significantly increase performance outside of cities in open spaces.
  • fTreeLoadDistance=75000.0000. Tree rendering distance. To increase performance, you can set the value to 5000. Trees in the distance will disappear, but nearby they will remain.
  • fTreesMidLODSwitchDist=10000000.0000. The level of detail of nearby trees. You can slightly increase the performance in the forest or on the roads between cities, if you reduce it to 7000000.0000 (seven million and four zeros). It is not recommended to do even lower – the trees will be too “naked”, almost without foliage / needles and branches.
  • bRenderSkinnedTrees=1. If you set this parameter to 0, then the trees will lose a few more branches, but remain relatively beautiful. This will allow you to win some more FPS on weak machines.
  • fSkyCellRefFadeDistance=150000.0000. Can be lowered to 50000.0000 (fifty thousand and four zeros) to reduce haze density around mountains and haze draw distance. This will increase FPS quite noticeably in open spaces.
  • bDoRadialBlur=1. Here you can completely turn off the radial effect, which we talked about at the beginning of the previous chapter. This can greatly improve FPS stability on weaker PCs during battles.
  • bPrecipitation=1. Disables most types of precipitation if set to 0. This can greatly improve performance in bad weather.
  • iMaxDesired=750. Try lowering it to 250. This will reduce the detail on fire and spell effects. Another good way to improve FPS stability during battles.
  • iWaterReflectHeight=512and iWaterReflectWidth=512. Resolution of reflections in water. You can lower the values ​​of both parameters to 256, which will also slightly increase performance.

Mods to improve the performance of TES 5: Skyrim

You can also bring the game to such a schedule (but still not worth it)

And finally, here is a list of proven modifications that disable various aspects of graphics in the game and with other radical optimization methods. This often makes the picture much worse, but it also significantly increases performance:

  • SKSE ini pre-download for lazy users– ready-made settings ini-file with the lowest possible graphics quality.
  • Unofficial Skyrim City Patch– optimization of objects in cities, which improves performance on their streets. There are practically no visual changes for the worse. Therefore, this mod should be installed by everyone.
  • Smoke and Dust Remover– complete removal of smoke, dust and fog.
  • Interior and Dungeon Fog Remover– complete removal of fog in rooms and caves.
  • Platoon Performance Mods– mods to disable grass, trees and some special effects.
  • Darkerrim No Lighting– turns off the light from most sources.
  • Skyrip– Removes music and 3D models from loading screens to speed up subloads.
  • RemoveTrees-RemoverArvores– Removes trees and most vegetation in Skyrim.
  • Remove the Little Rocks– Removes small rocks commonly found in the game. Might free up some memory.
  • Low Res Particles and Flora– Reduces the resolution of particle effects (fire and spells) and vegetation. Visually almost imperceptible, but performance increases slightly.
  • Icefloes BeGone– Removes small pieces of ice and snow from the sea in northern Skyrim. Slightly increases FPS on a weak PC when you are in this location.
  • Tree Mesh Remover– removes most of the trees, they remain only at the very horizon.

We talked about how to properly install mods on Skyrim in a separate article .

Most of the optimizations in this article (especially in the chapter on mods) improve performance a little at a time. But by comparing the effect of all, you can increase the FPS by 2-3 times (and sometimes even more). This way you can play Skyrim even if your PC doesn’t meet the minimum system requirements.

Write in the comments for which games you would like to see more similar guides.


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