Now on to the good stuff, this section requires that you already have Steam, Skyrim, and Nexus Mod Manager installed, if not… Do it now, if you don’t know how, Google.
Next copy the following code chunks or download the files I am using and just change them to match your settings) and save them at this location:
C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\SteamApps\common”
make sure each file has a name that means something to you and ends with “.bat”
ren "C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\SteamApps\common\skyrim" "C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\SteamApps\common\skyrim-old"
ren "C:\Users\userid\Documents\My Games\skyrim" "C:\Users\userid\Documents\My Games\skyrim-bak"
ren C:\Games\Skyrim\mods C:\Games\Skyrim\mods-orig
ren C:\Games\Skyrim\install-info C:\Games\Skyrim\install-info-orig
rem copying files to ramdisk
robocopy "C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\SteamApps\common\skyrim-old" r:\skyrim /Z /S /MT:10 /R:512 /W:20 /XD DirectX10 DotNetFX screenshots VCRedist
robocopy "C:\Users\userid\Documents\My Games\skyrim-bak" r:\skyrim-saves /Z /S /MT:10 /R:512 /W:20 /XD backup-ini backup-saves
robocopy C:\Games\Skyrim\mods-orig r:\mods /Z /S /MT:10 /R:512 /W:20
robocopy C:\Games\Skyrim\install-info-bak R:\install-info /Z /S /MT:10 /R:512 /W:20 /XF *.bak1 *.bak2 *.bak3 *.bak4
rem making symlinks back to the proper places
mklink /d "C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\SteamApps\common\skyrim" r:\skyrim
mklink /d "C:\Users\userid\Documents\My Games\skyrim" r:\skyrim-saves
mklink /d C:\Games\Skyrim\mods r:\mods
mklink /d C:\Games\Skyrim\install-info R:\install-info
rem making symlinks for the directories not copied
mklink /d r:\skyrim\DirectX10 "C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\SteamApps\common\skyrim-old\DirectX10"
mklink /d r:\skyrim\DotNetFX "C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\SteamApps\common\skyrim-old\DotNetFX"
mklink /d r:\skyrim\screenshots "C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\SteamApps\common\skyrim-old\screenshots"
mklink /d r:\skyrim\VCRedist "C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\SteamApps\common\skyrim-old\VCRedist"
mklink /d r:\skyrim-saves\backup-ini "C:\Users\userid\Documents\My Games\skyrim-bak\backup-ini"
mklink /d r:\skyrim-saves\backup-saves "C:\Users\userid\Documents\My Games\skyrim-bak\backup-saves"
rem copying over the only txt file necessary
copy "C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\SteamApps\common\skyrim-old\Data\Interface\Translate_ENGLISH.txt" r:\skyrim\Data\Interface\Translate_ENGLISH.txt
rem this "should" replicate any changes made to mods on the RAMDisk back to the HDD backup
robocopy r:\skyrim\data "C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\SteamApps\common\skyrim-old\data" /Z /S /MT:4 /R:512 /W:20 /PURGE
robocopy r:\mods "C:\Games\Skyrim\mods-orig" /Z /S /MT:4 /R:512 /W:20 /PURGE
robocopy r:\install-info "C:\Games\Skyrim\install-info-bak" /Z /S /MT:4 /R:512 /W:20 /PURGE /XJD /XJF
rem removing any pre-existing symlinks
rmdir "C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\SteamApps\common\skyrim"
rmdir "C:\Users\jperry\Documents\My Games\skyrim"
rem this file keeps your save files sync'd so if you lose your ramdisk to a crash,
rem hopefully your saves will be kept.
rem It runs once every 2 minutes and keeps a log of its activities.
robocopy "R:\skyrim-saves" "C:\Users\jperry\Documents\My Games\skyrim-bak" /Z /S /MOT:2 /MT:10 /R:512 /W:20 /XJD /XJF /LOG:"C:\Users\jperry\Documents\My Games\skyrim-bak\skyrim-saves.log"
now on to what those are and an explanation of what they do.
The first bat file simply renames your Skyrim, saves, and Nexus mod directories to something else, so they they don’t get deleted, so you can stop using the RAMDisk at any time by simply undoing the rename commands.
The second bat file copies all of your necessary information to the RAMDisk so that you can use it to play Skyrim, it then creates symbolic links to the original directory locations, so when you or your computer try to access the files, you/it won’t know that it is actually on the RAMDisk (r:\skyrim appears to be located at C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\SteamApps\common\skyrim you can even go to the C drive location and browse the files, even though they are actually on the R drive now). very cool.
Please note, there are some locations that are not copied to the RAMDisk, symbolic links are also created from the newly renamed C drive locations to the RAMDrive, so the RAMDrive thinks they are there, and you can get to them from the C drive location also. These are not needed to actually play the game, but are part of the installation and are required to be on your hard drive, somewhere.
The third bat file copies any changed or newly added mod files back to your skyrim-old location, so if anything happens to your RAMDisk, you can always continue playing from your hard drive or a newly created RAMDisk.
The fourth and final bat file simply removes the symlinks from your computer so that you can restore all your files to where they belong, or create a new RAMDisk using the original bat file without having to modify it.
Believe it or not, that is it. Feel free to ask questions, point out mistakes, or anything else you want to do.
I’ll note now, that a RAMDisk is not a substitute for a good video card, and Skyrim wants you to have a video card with 2GB of VRAM if you don’t use mods that change the default textures or add new ones. Skyrim also wants you to have a video card with 3GB VRAM if you intend to use some texture upgrading mods and the Hi-Res texture pack. If you intend to go all out on texture mods, you better get a 4GB VRAM video card, or you will pay the price. (once the next gen video cards hit the market, I’ll be hunting a new one, even though I just got mine in April 2012. The new gen Radeon cards are insane compared to the current ones, not having enough VRAM will cause Skyrim to crash a LOT. To prevent the inevitable question, I choose Radeon cards for a couple of simple reasons, first and foremost they are 384bit bus video cards, this allows your computer to push more information to the video card in less time, removing the bus as a possible bottleneck for your system. Affordable NVidia cards are only 256bit. The only other reason I have worth mentioning is that my entire system is NVidia free, not one chipset in my computer is not AMD, in hopes that it will work better… it doesn’t, but I still have faith.
As for CPU recommendations, anything with 4 cores will not have any issues with Skyrim. My AMD Phenom II x6 1090T hits a max of 37% CPU usage while playing Skyrim and most of the time sits around 17% CPU.
Last but not least, performance notes
I never check frame rates, so don’t ask. I’ve played most computer games with 25fps or less all my life, and never cared, so I still don’t. What I do care about is choppiness, and loading times. My system has never stuttered while doing anything in Skyrim on high or better settings (I use custom settings that may not be the best, but I spent too many hours learning about them to stop now!), unless disk IO was high at the time due to what ever else might want some action from my C drive. Using the RAMDisk eliminates this completely. I have not been able to intentionally cause stuttering since I started using the RAMDisk. Next load times, everyone’s favorite. My game saves are just over 10MB at this point (275 or so hours of play, mostly with the same character) and they load in ~2 seconds, sometimes I can count to three, but it has the screen up and I can see what is going on before I can finish saying “three” (yes I count, I’m not using a timer). I do have approx 250 mods installed and loaded.
Additional posts in this series
AMD Radeon RAMDisk and Skyrim – part 1
AMD Radeon RAMDisk and Skyrim – update