I am a huge fan of "The Elder Scrolls" series as well as all of the other great Bethesda titles.
In this article, we will look at how to check your The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim mod load order and ensure that all your mods load in the optimum order. An incorrect mod load order can cause performance issues, mod conflicts or even cause Skyrim to either not load at all or to crash to desktop (CTD) randomly.
Mods add so much to Skyrim; they improve the vanilla game including its graphics, add wonderful new content to it, fix bugs, create entirely new landmasses and quests and much more. For many (myself included), playing an Elder Scrolls game without mods is unthinkable.
Unfortunately, because all mods are written by different authors, you need to use tools to make sure that:
- Mods do not conflict.
- The number of crashes is reduced as much as possible.
- Game performance is improved.
- All necessary patches are installed (authors will often make patches so that their mods will work well with other popular mods).
- Any errors in mods are cleaned.
- Mods that make similar changes to the same object or objects do not overwrite each other and if they do, you have control over what gets overwritten.
BOSS and TES5Edit
We will look at using two tools, BOSS and TES5Edit, to optimise your load order. First, let’s look at the load order itself.
- Simply put, Skyrim loads all mods (including the actual game itself) in order, starting at mod number 1 by using the load order.
- Mods that are lower down the list will potentially overwrite mods higher up (this is where conflicts can occur).
- If you have more than one mod that changes the same thing, the mod lower in the order will have its changes added to the game.
You can see my initial load order in Mod Organizer below:
Using Mod Management Software
Alongside BOSS and TES5Edit, I would thoroughly recommend using an installation manager to install, update, uninstall, categorise and tidy your mods.
You can, of course, install mods manually, which I cover in my extensive guide which can be found here.
Advantages of Installing Mods Manually
The advantage of installing mods manually is that you have far more control over exactly what is installed.
- You can install the parts of mods you like (you might only like bits and pieces of a mod, for example, an armour replacer mod).
- When installing, you have far greater control when overwriting files.
Should you choose to install your mods using installation management software, there are two main choices, Mod Organiser and Nexus Mod Manager.
Nexus Mod Manager
- Has an excellent interface with pre-built categories.
- Offers single click installation, un-installation and updating of mods.
- Is simple to use.
My article introducing Nexus Mod Manager can be found here.
- Has advanced features such as profiles that allow you to have different mods and INI files set-up for different profiles.
- Installs mods into separate folders to reduce conflicts.
- Checks with Skyrim Nexus for available mod updates.
My article introducing Mod Organiser can be found here.
How to Use BOSS to Optimise Your Load Order
The load order for your installed mods in Skyrim is vitally important to ensure that your game is as stable and error-free as possible. An incorrect load order can cause crashes, or even result in the game failing to load at all.
First, you need to download the latest version of BOSS from their website.
- Install it and launch it by clicking on its icon.
When you first launch it, you may get the below error. If you see this error, launch Skyrim until you see the menu inviting you to start a new game, then quit.
If you are using Mod Organizer, you need to add BOSS to it so that it can sort your load order (otherwise BOSS will not see any mods installed using Mod Organiser):
- Click the Add Executable button.
- Select Edit.
- Add a Title.
- Specify the Binary as BOSS by navigating to the folder on your computer that you installed BOSS into that contains BOSS.EXE.
- Click Add.
You will now have BOSS added to your drop-down list of executable files.
- If you are using Nexus Mod Manager or installing your mods manually, simply run BOSS from the Start Menu.
BOSS now automatically updates itself, performs self-checks, re-orders your mods and then opens up the results. It will present you with three tabs:
- A summary, listing whether your plugins (mods) are recognized or unrecognized by BOSS, if there are any warnings, notes or errors about your plugins or any known patches missing.
- It will scan Skyrim Script Extender (SKSE) if you use it to check it is up to date.
- Finally, it will have a tab for your Recognised Plugins (there may also be a tab for Unrecognised Plugins if any exist), which is the tab that we are really interested in.
Here is what we are looking for in this tab:
- Mods that need cleaning (an example is Update.esm above).
- Mods that have dependencies missing (Ars Metallica – Dawnguard is an example).
- Mods that have missing patches (to allow them to work well with other specific mods).
- Mods that have warnings (for example, “Use only one Height Adjusted Races*.esp”).
Note: the Bash Tag suggestions are for another application that can be used to create levelled lists known as Wyre Bash and can be safely ignored.
Now that we have a list of problems with our mods, first:
- Disable any mods that are missing dependencies you don’t have or intend to install (so I would go to my game folder and delete Ars Metallica – Dawnguard as I don’t have Dawnguard installed).
- Heed any warnings and take action if required (in many cases you may not need to take any action as the warnings are triggered by BOSS automatically).
- Install any patches BOSS recommends and active the mods.
Note: If you have an Unrecognised Plugins tab in BOSS, those mods will have to be placed in your load order manually. Use the mods readme files as a guide as to where in your order they should go.
When you launch Mod Organiser, Nexus Mod Manager or the Skyrim game launcher, you will notice that the load order has been updated by BOSS. You can see below that the first 18 mods in my original load order on the left in Mod Organiser (I have currently 200+ in my mod list this is just a subset) is massively different from the load order on the right after BOSS has corrected it.
How to Use TES5Edit to Clean Dirty Mods
The final step in ensuring that your mods are working together and are not contributing to game crashes or poor performance is to clean the mods identified as “dirty” by BOSS. A mod that makes changes to the game by accident or makes unnecessary changes is called a “dirty” mod. Having only “clean” mods will reduce the number of potential conflicts between mods. To clean mods, we will use a tool called Tes5Edit.
Note: As with BOSS, if you are using Mod Organiser, you will have to add the Tes5Edit executable so that it runs from within Mod Organiser; otherwise it will not pick up the mods correctly.
With this tool, we are going to clean the “dirty” edits from Update.esm.
- Launch TES5Edit.
- On the Master / Plugin Selection dialogue box, right-click and choose Select None.
- Choose Update.esm and click OK.
Note: For best results, start at the top of your load order and work down, working on one mod at a time.
Tes5Edit will process the mod and add the mods master files; once it is finished:
- Right-click the mod you are cleaning and select Apply Filter for Cleaning.
- Once Tes5Edit has completed right click again and choose Remove “Identical to Master” records.
- Click Yes I’m absolutely sure about the big warning box.
- It will remove any identical records.
- Finally, right click on last time and pick Undelete and Disable References.
The mod name will be highlighted green to show that it has been cleaned.
Now simply close TES5Edit and click OK to save the changed mod (it creates a back up automatically).
Finally, re-run BOSS to ensure that the mod is shown as being clean.
Enjoy Your Mods!
Today, we looked at two tools to help ensure that not only are your mods ordered correctly, but that they are clean.
First, we looked at BOSS. This tool:
- Optimises your load order.
- Checks that all your mods are clean and have all the mods they depend on loaded.
- Ensures that you have all the necessary mod patches installed.
- Checks the readme files of all your mods for any warnings.
Next, we used TES5Edit to clean dirty references from the mods identified as “dirty” by BOSS.
By using these two tools together, your game should run much better and be trouble-free. I hope that you have enjoyed reading this article and have found it useful and informative. Please feel free to leave a comment below and enjoy playing Skyrim with mods!
For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.
- Which of the "Skyrim" tools introduced today did you know before reading my article?
- Both of them
- Assuming these "Skyrim" tools are new to you, which will you use as a result of reading this article?
- Both of them
- None of them
© 2015 Robbie C Wilson
Rod on April 16, 2018:
I have installed BOSS Version 2.3.2, and get the critical error mentioned above, but when I run and quit Skyrim this makes no difference, the same error appears.
Do you have any idea what might be causing this?
Would my "My Documents" and hence the "My Games" folder being on E: be an issue?
Lorkhan on November 10, 2016:
Thank you for these great and comprehensive guides to modding in Skyrim! Could you perhaps update this (or create a new topic or sub-topic to this one, whatever may work better) to reflect the fact that the BOSS tool has been kind of left aside by the more updated program called LOOT? Works practically the same way as BOSS, but is perhaps a bit more complete, and it's what modders are using, mostly. Again, thanks for the great tutorials!
Ammy on August 12, 2016:
Yeah, the Boss masterlist is broken for me and after searching for an answer for four hours I think I'm just going to go play the witcher after all this shit.
saris on January 23, 2016:
Do not use BOSS with Skyrim, use LOOT.