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How to Diagnose and Resolve a "Skyrim" Crash

I am a huge fan of "The Elder Scrolls" series as well as all of the other great Bethesda titles.

Does your game keep crashing? Looking for a solution? Here are some common reasons why your "Skyrim" game is crashing . . . and what you can do about it.

Does your game keep crashing? Looking for a solution? Here are some common reasons why your "Skyrim" game is crashing . . . and what you can do about it.

If you are like me, you love to play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim with loads of wonderful mods installed. Although mods add a ton of extra content and fun to the game, they can also cause your game to crash. This article was inspired by my frustration when my game kept crashing and there were no guides on the internet to help me troubleshoot.

Generally speaking, there are three things that can or will cause Skyrim to crash:

  1. Starting-up the game
  2. After fast traveling
  3. Upon leaving a shop or house

How to Resolve a Skyrim Crash

To determine which mod is causing your game to crash, you need to do some detective work. Here are the four steps necessary to stop your game from crashing:

  1. First, we need to enable Skyrim logging (which is turned off by default).
  2. Next, we use BOSS to check our load order, mod patches, conflicts, or other issues.
  3. Then, we need to read the logs to find out why Skyrim is crashing.
  4. Finally, we need to use a free tool called Windows Grep to look inside the mods themselves to determine exactly which mod is causing the crash.

In this article, I will explain how to execute each step and provide the information necessary for you to download and organize your mods more efficiently.

Playing "Skyrim" with mods makes for a beautiful and fun game to play.

Playing "Skyrim" with mods makes for a beautiful and fun game to play.

Step 1. Enable Error and Crash Logging in Skyrim

The first step in identifying the cause of any crash is to enable logging so that Skyrim will tell you exactly what happened before the game crashed. By looking at what is happening to cause the crash, we can then determine which mod is causing the crash itself. To enable logging, we need to edit your Skyrim.ini file.

Unless you are using Mod Organiser (in which case it can be found by clicking the Tools button and then INI Editor), your Skyrim.ini file can be found in:

C:\Users\<Your User Name>\Documents\my games\skyrim

Important: Always back your ini files up before making changes so you can easily roll back if you have issues.

Change the following section to read:

[Papyrus]

fPostLoadUpdateTimeMS=500.0

bEnableLogging=1

bEnableTrace=1

bLoadDebugInformation=1

Now, the next time your game crashes, you will see that Skyrim has created a new folder called Logs and a folder inside Logs, called Script. The Script folder will contain your crash logs.

Step 2. Use BOSS to Manage Your Mods

BOSS is an excellent tool which will perform a number of crucial checks on your installed mods in Skyrim. I recommend that anyone who installs mods uses this tool to enhance game stability and reduce errors and issues introduced via mods.

  • First and foremost, it checks and configures your load order to ensure mods load correctly and don’t overwrite each other.
  • It will help you avoid potential crashes by telling you which mods may cause a CTD.
  • Then it checks that your installed mods won’t conflict.
  • It makes sure your mods don’t have dirty edits which can cause game instability and make other mods work incorrectly.
  • BOSS will advise you when you must change an .ini file to make a mod work.
  • The application determines if your mods are missing patches or dependencies.

I have an article that goes into greater detail about how to use BOSS to ensure that your game mods are set up properly and behave as expected.

An example of output from BOSS's analysis of my installed "Skyrim" mods.

An example of output from BOSS's analysis of my installed "Skyrim" mods.

However good a tool like BOSS is, and believe me, BOSS is a tool that you simply cannot live without if you use mods in Skyrim—it is not foolproof. You can see from my picture below, BOSS has no warnings, advice or notes regarding any potential issues. The mod that I suspect to be the culprit, Skyrim Unbound, does not show any warnings.

This means that BOSS does not have any information in its database to suggest that anything is wrong with my installation.

BOSS will not always tell you the cause of your "Skyrim" crashes.

BOSS will not always tell you the cause of your "Skyrim" crashes.

Step 3. Read the Skyrim Papyrus or Crash Log

As you can see below, I have three crash logs:

Example of crash or "Skyrim" Papyrus logs.

Example of crash or "Skyrim" Papyrus logs.

Open the log file which has a time that matches when your game most recently crashed (in my case it is Papyrus.0).

Now, scroll to the bottom of the file and you will see what happened immediately before the crash.

Example of a "Skyrim" Papyrus or crash log showing the cause of a crash.

Example of a "Skyrim" Papyrus or crash log showing the cause of a crash.

It is not too readable in its current format. To make it more readable, I found the most recent timestamps in the file (for example, [02/04/2014 - 07:09:14 PM]) and put them on different lines.

Tidied up Skyrim Papyrus or crash logs to make them more readable.

Tidied up Skyrim Papyrus or crash logs to make them more readable.

Now it is far more readable. The section we are interested in reads:

[02/04/2014 - 07:09:14PM] Error: File "Dragonborn.esp" does not exist or is not currently loaded.

Stack:

<unknown self>.Game.GetFormFromFile() - "<native>" Line ?

[SkyrimUnboundMCM (470012C6)].SkyrimUnboundMCMScript.CheckBools() - "SkyrimUnboundMCMScript.psc" Line 115

[SkyrimUnboundMCM (470012C6)].SkyrimUnboundMCMScript.OnOptionSelect() - "SkyrimUnboundMCMScript.psc" Line 651

[SkyrimUnboundMCM (470012C6)].SkyrimUnboundMCMScript.SelectOption() - "SKI_ConfigBase.psc" Line 1069

[SKI_ConfigManagerInstance (1A000802)].SKI_ConfigManager.OnOptionSelect() - "SKI_ConfigManager.psc" Line 157

Looking at that last section, I can instantly spot a problem!

Problem:

[02/04/2014 - 07:09:14PM] Error: File "Dragonborn.esp" does not exist or is not currently loaded

I have over 100 mods installed, but I do not have Dragonborn installed. So a mod is looking for another mod that I don’t have installed. Looks like we are getting somewhere! Now we have to find out what mod that is.

If we keep reading:

SkyrimUnboundMCM (470012C6)].SkyrimUnboundMCMScript.CheckBools() - "SkyrimUnboundMCMScript.psc" Line 115

So we now know that Skyrim Unbound is looking for the Dragon Born DLC in a script called SkyrimUnboundMCMScript.psc on Line 115 and that this is causing my game to crash. I have highlighted the lines from the Papyrus log in green below.

Section of a "Skyrim" crash or Papyrus log with the parts that show the cause of the crashes highlighted.

Section of a "Skyrim" crash or Papyrus log with the parts that show the cause of the crashes highlighted.

Step 4. Use Windows Grep to Confirm Cause

We also need to use a free tool called Windows Grep to confirm which file is causing the crash. This excellent utility looks inside of files for a specific string of characters. It is particularly useful if you don’t know which mod is causing the crash, or if the Papyrus crash logs don’t give you a meaningful mod name.

In this case, we are going to use Windows Grep to find out which mods reference dragonborn.esp. As I don’t have it installed and have avoided downloading mods that require it to run, I would expect it to not find it mentioned in any mods at all.

First, download Windows Grep from http://www.windowsgrep.com/download.html and install it.

Now, we tell Windows Grep what to look for (in this case, dragonborn.esp)

First, tell Windows Grep what we are going to ask it to find inside the files of our "Skyrim" install folder.

First, tell Windows Grep what we are going to ask it to find inside the files of our "Skyrim" install folder.

Windows Grep needs to know where to look, so browse to your Skyrim install folder and click the > to load it to the right-hand panel.

Next, we tell Windows Grep where to look.

Next, we tell Windows Grep where to look.

Next, we need to tell Windows Grep which files to look in. We will ask it to look inside

*.bsa, .*.bsl, *.esp, and *.psc files. Those file extensions are the main extensions used for Skyrim mods and scripts.

Now we tell Windows Grep which types of files we want it to look inside.

Now we tell Windows Grep which types of files we want it to look inside.

Windows Grep will now search all file types you specified for the string you asked it to look for. After a period of time, it will come back with the results.

Windows Grep will give you a report of every time it finds the text you were looking for inside the "Skyrim" installation files so you can identify the cause of the crash.

Windows Grep will give you a report of every time it finds the text you were looking for inside the "Skyrim" installation files so you can identify the cause of the crash.

You can see above that Windows Grep has found only one instance of dragonborn.esp in any mod or script installed, and it is Skyrim Unbound.bsa. This confirms what we believed after reading the Papyrus crash logs.

You can also look inside the actual file itself and check for instances of the string of characters you are interested in by clicking on the link to the file (illustrated by the red arrow in the figure above) and doing a find.

Now that I have confirmation of the issue causing Skyrim to crash, I have two options. I can either purchase the Dragon Born DLC or remove Skyrim Unbound. (I cannot live without Skyrim Unbound, so I bought Dragon Born.)

Installing Skyrim Mods: Software vs Manual

Now that you know how to solve a crash, it's time to learn how to download and organize your mods to avoid future crashes. If you are new to using mods in Skyrim, there are two ways to install them. The first is by using a Mod Manager. Here are the two methods you can choose from:

  1. Software: Nexus Mod Manager is a simple and very to use a piece of software that is perfect for beginners. It allows you to download and install mods with just one click and takes care of your mod load order and checks mods for updates automatically. Mod Manager is another tool that offers the same features as Nexus Mod Manager but is designed for more advanced users. Each mod is installed in its own folder to allow for easy removal and to reduce mod conflicts. You can have separate profiles with save games and different mod lists. It helps you to fix issues with mods and also allows you to back up your .ini files easily. If you need more help, here's an article about how to use the software.
  2. Manual: The second method of installing mods is to install them manually. This is more time consuming than using a Mod Management tool but gives you more control over what you are installing. I would recommend using this method if:
    • You want to cleanly install just a part of a mod. (For example, you may want only one armor set out of a mod containing multiple armor sets.) Similarly, if you need more help, here's a guide on how to use Mod Organizer.
    • You would like to gain a better understanding of how mods work.

Both methods are not mutually exclusive. You can install the majority of your mods using a Mod Manager and install a few manually when needed.

This is Mod Organizer, a Mod Management tool for "Skyrim" mods. It is designed for an advanced user.

This is Mod Organizer, a Mod Management tool for "Skyrim" mods. It is designed for an advanced user.

Use Nexus Mod Manager to manage your "Skyrim" mods if you are new to mods.

Use Nexus Mod Manager to manage your "Skyrim" mods if you are new to mods.

Enjoying Your Mods and Your Playthrough

Game crashes are an extremely annoying, but sadly frequent downside to playing Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series . . . especially if you install large numbers of mods like I do. Skyrim, although a stable game overall, is no exception to this rule. There is no default logging as there is in Morrowind, for example (it used a Warnings file to notify you of mod related issues), while the game is loading.

In this article, we learned:

  • First, we enabled Papyrus or crash logging.
  • Then, we used BOSS to search for known issues with the mods I had already installed.
  • Next, we looked at how to make sense of the logs and find out what caused the crash and which mod was responsible.
  • Finally, we used Windows Grep to confirm which mod is causing the crash by searching inside the mod and script files themselves.

Using this method of crash investigation, I was able to determine why my installation of Skyrim was crashing, and which mod was causing it. Should you experience a crash that you couldn't prevent, I hope that my article will help you find a solution. By following the proper procedure, you can spend a great deal of time happily exploring the wonderful world that is Skyrim.

Crash Poll

© 2015 Robbie C Wilson

Comments

John on August 22, 2019:

I get a log folder on that first step but no crash log, also I don't think my problem is a mod loader one because I've got no skyrim mods at all apart from the dawnguard, hearthfire, and dragonborn mods that come with the purchase. My game just falls to desktop a few seconds after I click enter to start a new game... I've also placed a save file in the game and loaded it with "Continue" but I get the same problem. The game has never worked on my pc since installation and I can't find any fix.

I have plenty of other games that work fine so I really have no idea what's wrong apart from the hardware but I don't see how that is the problem when I don't experience this with anything else.

Any help is appreciated :)

Cry.skull7 on May 07, 2019:

I'm having very much the same issue, my has recently been going into crash overdrive after every single loading screen,however i have no clue to a solution other than deleting my recent mods as it is on the xbox one! If you have a solution i would be quite grateful.

ali on October 01, 2018:

it says script there are no .esp file error

Kozak on August 11, 2018:

We need a mod that imitate the gopnik squat.

Anonymous on March 13, 2018:

It keeps crashing at the same location every time, in the Dragon Rising quest.

manic on January 28, 2018:

pex files are missed...

mitchell on December 09, 2017:

surprised this guide still works just use loot instead of boss and get astro grep

Mama Mia on November 08, 2017:

So what you're saying is, we need to go to war with Russia?

devil77329 on November 04, 2017:

nothing, but the classical way, is the ONLY way...

this doesn't work 4 sure...

this fiction took already months of explanation...

try to reproduce the error & take one mod after another in/out

Deadwolf on October 12, 2017:

that doesnt tell me how to see the problems Mod Organiser

Asian on September 13, 2017:

Now .... i don't know how to read the script ... how am i suppose to do

Garret on July 02, 2017:

@luke or anybody having an issue where the game crashes when they are playing: it's a memory issue. Look into SSME, it solves the problem.

Outdated on June 25, 2017:

Needless to say, this guide is hopelessly outdated and incorrect even when it was first released. First of all, BOSS is completely outdated and is no longer supported. All of the BOSS devs have either quit or moved over to LOOT development. Use LOOT. Second of all, Papyrus is NOT a crash debugging tool. It was meant to be a SCRIPT debugging tool, so unless you are a modder trying to debug your own scripts, you should not even have Papyrus logging enabled. In fact, enabling Papyrus logging causes more strain on your game and increases the amount of CTDs.

Frist on May 20, 2017:

I can't do this because I'm a console gamer, it's crashes on my Xbox One... Is there another way to find out?

cade on April 17, 2017:

hey, guys, i know this is probably a few months or even years old but I found the solution to not being able to find the logs. go to

C:\Users\[name]\Documents\My Games\Skyrim\Logs\Script

your welcome ;)

Ferralian on March 29, 2017:

Try opening the papyrus log in wordpad. Every timestamp is automatically placed on a new line. Saves a lot of work!

The Seer on March 28, 2017:

Just followed step one of edit Skyrim.ini. Played Skyrim and waited for the inevitable crash and checked out the logs. And no scripts.

Luke on March 22, 2017:

"Broadly speaking, there are three times that Skyrim can or will crash.

When the game starts up

After fast travelling

Upon leaving a shop or a house"

Mine is crashing after a minute (so so) playing. No fast travel, no enter/leaving a shop or a house. Just walking by and then...crash

Anonymous on January 22, 2017:

Thank you.

Eris on December 21, 2016:

BOSS is deprecated and the masterlist hasn't been updated for a few years. It was replaced by LOOT which is much more reliable and updated regularly.

justajok3r on October 31, 2016:

BOSS no longer works with Skyrim could you update this please.

M'aiq the Liar on September 05, 2016:

Isn't BOSS outdated? LOOT is the successor of it.

no one on September 01, 2016:

BOSS is extremely out of date and you shouldn't use the Papyrus log to determine crashes, but the mod 'Crash Fixes'.

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