Going crazy with mod installations, as we did in our previous Skyrim Overhaul kit, can lead to constant CTDs, freezing, black screens, glitches, and crashing; despite how fun running through every possible solution in a crash fix guide is, it's not fun at all to potentially wipe your Skyrim installation clean and remove all mods. Having installed well over 100 mods myself (with many, sadly, being removed), I've now tested a variety of methods to troubleshoot mods in Skyrim. Let's run through the troubleshooting techniques so you can find the conflicting mods in your TES installation!
Troubleshooting manually is extremely time-consuming and can be overwhelming enough to opt for just quitting the game. Thankfully, modders are incredibly talented and nice people, so we can always rely on them for diagnosis tools when working with mods. We'll list out some of the best mod managers and troubleshooters below.
Safety First: Backup Your Saved Games
Although your saved games should be safe in the event of a re-install, it's only a minute of work to ensure they're safe forever. Assuming Windows 7, navigate to C:\Documents\My Games\Skyrim, copy the folder's contents (including the .ini files, just in case you've made changes), and paste them to a separate location. Pasting it one level up in a "Skyrim-Bak" folder or on a Flash/External drive are the recommended options.
Start Using a Mod Manager
First off, if you're not already using a mod manager, you should. It'll make everything easier. Seriously -- infinitely easier. In fact, I would recommend you take a few minutes to re-download all of your mods via the Nexus Mod Manager (preferred over Steam's unreliable mod management) to make your future as "Senior VP of Mod Installation" possible. You do want to move up in the corporate Skyrim world, right? Of course you do. As you continue to extend Skyrim, the NMM will help support the community and even notify its users of mod updates as they're rolled out; it installs all the mods to a custom /mods/ directory (you designate this), that way -- in the event of uninstalling Skyrim and re-installing it -- you actually keep all your mods and won't have to re-download individual packages.
It took me 30 minutes to re-setup my (at the time) 70 mods with NMM. I know, I know -- it's not much. I've accumulated many more since then.
BOSS, or "Better Oblivion Sorting Software" (despite the name, it has been adapted to work with Skyrim), is an extremely easy-to-use tool that helps automatically determine the best mod loading order and prioritization in Skyrim. It'll help move mods up or down in the load queue and recommend Wyre Bash settings (below) to minimize the probability of seemingly-random CTDs.
Download BOSS here: http://skyrim.nexusmods.com/downloads/file.php?id=6
Wyre Bash is an extremely powerful Skyrim Mod Management utility. Let's start with a feature list on this one:
- A color-coded listing of mods.
- Load order of mods.
- Modified date for mods (so you know what you installed and when), as well as their total size, mod description, master files, bash tags, and author.
- A plugin icon set of alternative Skyrim starters (like SKSE for SkyUI) that are linked directly into Wyre Bash/Smash.
- A mod checker to determine rule sets and configurations.
- Save game management with full support for 'what mods were installed upon save,' that way you can always figure out which new mods broke your game.
- INI edits.
- Screenshot management.
It's a powerful tool, as I said. The most useful bit is the color coding of conflicting mods, making it easy to determine corrupted files or improper load order; save game management and mod lists per save game files make things fluid to troubleshoot.
Wyre Bash also has BASH tags (which BOSS will auto-recommend for you) to force compatibilities between otherwise incompatible mods, sometimes.
Download Wyre Bash/Smash here: http://skyrim.nexusmods.com/downloads/file.php?id=1840