so, big surprise today, I was finishing up work and my wife came storming in to the room demanding to know why the H E double hockey sticks the internet wasn’t working… I looked at my computer, as I Was not actively using it and my remote VPN [...]
so, big surprise today, I was finishing up work and my wife came storming in to the room demanding to know why the H E double hockey sticks the internet wasn’t working… I looked at my computer, as I Was not actively using it and my remote VPN connection to work is slower than single line DSL. What do I see? a 1.5GB freaking Skyrim update is downloading! that’s right, 1.5GB in the middle of the afternoon, well late afternoon.
So I looked right at my wife and said “I don’t know honey, let me take a look at it for a few minutes.” And then I spent the next 25 minutes setting a few windows services to delayed start up, uninstalling somethings from our old printer, then updating Java (which I would uninstall, but she needs it for her school work. My wife is finishing up her Master’s degree in Human Nutrition this year). I then returned it to her and said “Try it now.” with a big smile on my face.
So what in world did Bethesda decide they needed to update? and why did it take 1.5GB of data?
So far I don’t know, but the Steam “All News” page was blank, however the DragonBorn DLC is finally available, but it is $20 and unless they gave it to me for free, simply because I was logged on…
If it is the DLC, I’ll be pissed, because my RamDisk did not have the extra space available for the extra 4+GB it took after it was installed and I had to rearrange some things to get it on there. I also won’t be purchasing it until it drops under $10.
ok, I noticed this last night, and Erik posted a comment around the same time I noticed it… Apparently Bethesda posted the High Res texture pack #3. Thanks for the link Erik.
Due to the number and size of the mods I like to use, my Nexus mods folder (r:\mods) has increased beyond 5GB, just a bit too much for my RAMDisk to keep Skyrim going at the 21.5GB that I have it now set at. So I used the information I’ve previously provided to come up with another solution.
What this does is remove the mod from the RAMDisk, freeing up space, then uses the mklink command to redirect to the backup location we created previously. I freed up 3.8GB by doing this on all the larger mods.
The bad news is, that Nexus Mod Manager has to open and scan the contents of every mod file. By placing the mod (through redirection/symlink) back on the HDD, it slows down the disk read time significantly. There is an alternate method to this, that I found online, but I do not think it is much better. It will definitely speed up the load times of NMM however.
To increase your NMM load time, complete the following for all of your larger mod files. How many mods you have and their file sizes, relate directly to how many you will need to do. Previously (before using a RAMDisk) I did this with any mod having a file size of 24,000 KB or larger;however with the RAMDisk I am currently only doing it on mod files of 100MB or larger.
Make sure all of your mods you wish to use are installed and activated.
Backup the mod file from c:\games\skyrim\mods (the default location for NMM).
Something we already did if you have followed parts one and two of this tutorial.
Finally, edit the archive deleting everything but the smallest single file.
Normally that would be either the readme, or a .xml file.
Often located in the fomod folder, if it exists.
Upon closing the archive (make sure to use winrar for any .rar files, and 7zip for any .7z files, else you may have unexpected results), the archive size should change to a number less than 5KB, and if you are lucky, less than 1KB. This will scan VERY fast when NMM loads compared to having multiple Gigs of mods in the folder). Before I switched to the RAMDisk my mod scan could take anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes depending on my current level of disk activity, as best I can tell the process is intentionally throttled by NMM as the defualt mods folder is on the OS drive and the devs didn’t want to cause disk thrashing or system performance issues. This process does not affect your installed mods, unless you try to activate or remove them.
Please note, when NMM launches the next time it will notify you that something has changed (once for each mod you modified this way), asking if you want to update the mod (yes or no). If you select “no” everything will be fine, if you select “yes” it may remove the mod from your game (replacing it with nothing, as your compressed file is empty now) or just error as the archive does not have any files left in it and you will then have to deactivate the mod, close NMM, copy the file back/import the file, and then reactivate the mod.
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”
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.
At this point I think it would be good to discuss what not to do.
Do not uninstall an application, then install it on a RAMDisk.
Especially if you have no experience using said RAMDisk program.
I’ll get into some of the details as we move along.
Do not “move” data on to a RAMDisk.
I don’t care why you want to do this, just don’t.
Nor should you copy and files and then delete the location you poied them from.
Do not setup Auto Save in AMD Radeon RAMDisk software.
Do not setup any kind of RAMDisk for “really close” to the exact amount of available RAM on your system when you are doing what you want to use the RAMDisk for.
Now that we have that covered, lets do a little explaining on how to do what you want to do using what I did as an example. From here on out we will completely ignore the fact that I did everyone of the things listed above as things not to do. We should also pretend that I have not only been using this software for 4 days and have an open ticket with tech support…
Good things to do with an AMD Radeon RAMDisk
rename all of the original locations you will be migrating to the RAMDisk, or none of this will work.
Write a short batch script to setup your RAMDisk, in case you have to do it over and over again.
Utilize Microsoft’s robocopy to copy data/programs to your RAMDisk.
Utilize Microsoft’s mklink to make symbolic links between your RAMDisk and the place on your computer where you already had the data/program.
Write a short batch script to replicate any changes back to your hard drive periodically.
Utilize Microsoft’s robocopy to copy the changed data back to the original location.
Write a short batch script to cleanup any links created with mklink, in case you have to do it over and over again.
Ok, now moving on to what I did and how I did it, please keep in mind the information listed above, it will save you DAYS of your life, trust me. Setting up your RAM Drive using AMD Radeon RAMDisk
Get plenty of RAM.
Purchase AMD Radeon RAMDisk.
Setup AMD Radeon RAMDisk as seen in the screenshots below.
Click Start RAMDisk.
If/When prompted to install a device driver, select yes/install.
If you want to, check the box for “Always trust…” to prevent having to do so in the future, supposedly…
Open Disk Management.
Right click on “My Computer”
On Windows XP, it should be on your desktop, if not, then open file explorer and view your desktop, it should show up there, if not, Google it.
On Windows 7, click Start and it should be listed on there as “Computer” on the right hand column.
When the console finally opens, select Disk Management.
On Windows XP, it should be self explanatory.
On Windows 7, it is hidden under “Storage”.
If it has not already, then wait here until you are prompted to “Initialize Disk”.
After clicking Ok to the “Initialize Disk” popup, you need to find the disk in your drive listing.
Right click on the right hand section for the new RAMDisk (existing drives will show “Healthy” in this area).
Choose “Create Simple Volume”.
Follow the prompts.
I selected drive letter “R” as in “R”AMDisk.
I chose to change the default block size to 8192.
I named the disk “ramdisk”.
In about 3 seconds you should have a formatted RAMDisk.
I will try to get the next part up before the weekend, till then, have fun.
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