Skyrim Crashing: The Most Common Reasons This Happens (2024)

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  • Anniversary Edition Is Running Scripts Too Quickly

  • Skyrim Runs Out Of Memory

  • Mod Conflict

  • Load Order

  • Clean Dirty Files

  • PlayStation 3 Save Bloat

  • Corrupt Game Files

  • Skyrim's Using The Wrong GPU

  • Skyrim Updated

  • Loading Autosaves Or Quicksaves

  • Corrupt Saves

Bethesda games are known for their immersive worlds that few games can match. Sadly, they are also known for their instability. No game from Bethesda in recent memory has been without its share of bugs, glitches, and fondness for crashing.

Related: Skyrim: Beginner's Guide To Modding On PC And Console

Thankfully, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has been out long enough to where most issues can be fixed. The Unofficial Patches can fix most glitches and bugs while simply troubleshooting can fix crashing. Whether it's from mod conflicts or the game itself, here are the most common reasons why Skyrim will abruptly crash. Note that this list assumes you have a basic understanding of installing mods and navigating through files on PC.

Updated November 21st, 2021, by Charles Burgar: Bethesda's Anniversary Edition of Skyrim has inadvertently broken thousands of script-related mods for the Special Edition. If you've updated your Skyrim on PC recently, there's a chance you've been dealing with crashes or other issues. We've updated this guide to showcase this issue and how to solve it. We've also expanded our section on low memory to better explain how 2011 Skyrim players can expand Skyrim's ability to use your PC's memory.

Anniversary Edition Is Running Scripts Too Quickly

Skyrim Crashing: The Most Common Reasons This Happens (1)

The Anniversary Edition of Skyrim has updated the Papyrus Engine, Skyrim's scripting engine. If you have modded Skyrim with multiple scripting mods, there's a chance that your game can immediately crash since Payprus scripts run much faster now. While a great step forward for the modding community long-term, it does mean that some mods are unstable as of writing.

The Solution

Reddit user u/SailingRebel has created an update to Skyrim's PapyrusUtil file that should fix most of these issues. Download the file and extract it to your Skyrim directory. Say "yes" to any overrides the file needs to make. Alternatively, you can revert the version of Skyrim you're using to bypass the Anniversary Edition's changes. You can do this with the Unofficial Skyrim Special Edition Downgrade Patcher mod created by halgari.

Note: The Papyrus solution is temporary. Mod authors will need to update their mods to support AE's improved scripting for this issue to truly go away.

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Skyrim Runs Out Of Memory

Skyrim Crashing: The Most Common Reasons This Happens (2)

Note: This only applies to 2011 Skyrim for PC users.

The original release of Skyrim on PC doesn't utilize your memory as well as the Special Edition. If you're still using the original version of Skyrim, the game can only use up to 4GB of RAM at a time. Going over that value will crash your game.

The Solution

You have three options:

  1. Play the Special Edition
  2. Install ENBoost
  3. Activate SKSE's Memory Fix

Skyrim: Special Edition has a far higher memory limit that is impossible to reach with current hardware. If you play on the Special Edition, memory-related crashes are not a concern. If you're still concerned about memory, install the SSE Engine Fixes mod from authors aers, Nukem, and Ryan.

ENBoost is an external piece of software intended to be used alongside an ENB, although ENBoost can be used without an ENB active. This app essentially lets Skyrim use your video card's VRAM as additional RAM to bypass the 4GB restriction. An in-depth guide on how to install and use ENBoost can be found on the S.T.E.P. wiki. Special Edition users do not need ENBoost nor benefit from it in any way.

SKSE's Memory Fix is a line you can add to your Skyrim Script Extender's .ini file to improve Skyrim's memory allocation to prevent certain crashes from occurring. You'll need Skyrim Script Extender, an external executable file, for this to work. Special Edition users do not need to enable a memory fix. Once installed, head to "SKSE.ini" and replace the contents of that file with the following:








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Mod Conflict

Skyrim Crashing: The Most Common Reasons This Happens (3)

With Skyrim: Special Edition allowing console players to mod their game, mod compatibility is now a larger issue than ever before. Some mods alter the same files or reimplement files the base game doesn't use, resulting in Skyrim having strange bugs or even crashing.

Fixing Mod Conflicts

The main way to solve this issue is to read the descriptions of mods and make sure the author doesn't mention any incompatibilities. If multiple mods edit the same leveled lists for distributing loot or are patches, you can create a bashed patch to merge them into one mod while saving on plugin space.

Related: Skyrim Special Edition: Mods Everyone Should Try

For troubleshooting which mod or mods are causing this issue, use the following technique:

  • Open your load order.
  • Disable half of your currently active mods, ensuring that no dependencies break upon doing so.
  • Start Skyrim to see if the issue persists.
  • If so, disable half of your currently active mods again and test once again.
  • Repeat until the problem goes away.

Once the problem goes away, if the mod sample size is still too large, you can disable half of those mods and start Skyrim to narrow it down further. This technique allows you to rapidly pinpoint which mod or mods are causing issues.

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Load Order

Skyrim Crashing: The Most Common Reasons This Happens (4)

While this mostly pertains to modded setups, some players suffer from crashing due to load order mishaps despite not modding their game. Since your load order directly ties to how Skyrim reads and loads game data, messing up your load order can lead to constant crashes and instability.

Fixing Your Load Order

The "Skyrim.esm" file should always come first, followed by "Update.esm," "Dawnguard.esm," "HearthFires.esm," and finally "Dragonborn.esm." If your load order does not follow this sequence, your game has a chance of misreading data and, subsequently, crashing. LOOT is a fantastic tool that will auto-manage your load order for you and works with modded playthroughs.

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Clean Dirty Files

Skyrim Crashing: The Most Common Reasons This Happens (5)

Only PC players will have to deal with this issue, but there is a chance that mods and even Bethesda's DLC files are causing your game to crash. In essence, Bethesda's files have references to objects no longer used by Skyrim and can result in crashes. These are known as "dirty" files.

Cleaning Dirty Files

Fortunately, there are tools available to fix this. xEdit for vanilla Skyrim users and SSEEdit for Special Edition users can "clean" these files for you, removing these extraneous references and keeping your game stable. It's a good idea to clean your "Update.esm" and all DLC .esms.

Related: Hidden Secrets You Still Haven't Found In Skyrim

Never clean your "Skyrim.esm" file or you risk bricking your game. Some mods also have the same issue and need their .esp files cleaned through the same process, but always read the mod page before deciding to clean a mod's .esp file.

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PlayStation 3 Save Bloat

Skyrim Crashing: The Most Common Reasons This Happens (6)

PlayStation 3 users need to be extra careful of the file size of their saved games as Bethesda completely botched the PS3 port of Skyrim. After your save reaches around 6 megabytes of space, Skyrim will begin to slow down after around an hour of play. The PlayStation is not properly clearing its memory cache, resulting in Skyrim rendering hundreds of things that are irrelevant. This can lead to crashing if you continue to play.

Fixing PS3 Save Bloat

Unfortunately, there aren't many things you can do to fix this issue. The most straightforward approach is to load to a previous save or start a new playthrough altogether.

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Corrupt Game Files

Skyrim Crashing: The Most Common Reasons This Happens (7)

Sometimes the issue can simply be the game itself. Whether it was a strange mod that has since been uninstalled or a simple bug, Skyrim can get its files corrupted.

What To Do When Your Game Files Are Corrupt

Pinpointing how this occurred is typically difficult and changes on a case-by-case basis. However, even those who have never modded their game might suffer from a corrupt version of Skyrim out of the blue. Unfortunately, your best bet to fix this type of error is to reinstall the game entirely or validate the integrity of your game files.

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Skyrim's Using The Wrong GPU

Skyrim Crashing: The Most Common Reasons This Happens (8)

This next entry only applies to PC players. Bethesda's titles can sometimes select the wrong GPU upon the game starting, Skyrim being no exception. If your PC has multiple GPUs, there's a good chance Skyrim will pick integrated graphics or the weaker GPU.

Selecting The Right GPU

To solve this, head to your GPU's control panel and manage your Skyrim executable. Force it to use your strongest GPU. From there, head to your Skyrim.ini and SkyrimPrefs.ini files and find your GPU. If it's incorrect, type in your new GPU. The game should use your new settings and no longer run out of memory.

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Skyrim Updated

Skyrim Crashing: The Most Common Reasons This Happens (9)

If you play the Special Edition version of Skyrim, the most common reason your game is crashing is likely the fact Bethesda recently updated it.

Related: Skyrim: Must Have Mods For Better Gameplay

It's true. When Bethesda adds Creation Club content to the game, Skyrim needs to be updated. Mods that rely on that version of the game fail to work, resulting in the game crashing due to version incompatibilities. The Anniversary Edition update is a great example of this, breaking just about every mod that relies on the Skyrim Script Extender (SKSE).

The Solution

The best thing you can do is disable all of your mods when a new version comes out or, if you're on PC, roll back your game version until the mods get updated. A unique SKSE mod has the ability to automatically back up your Skyrim.exe file in case an update happens to brick your playthrough.

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Loading Autosaves Or Quicksaves

Skyrim Crashing: The Most Common Reasons This Happens (10)

Autosaves and quicksaves in Bethesda games are notoriously unstable. These saves store information in a less stable way than proper saves do, resulting in crashing if the quicksave or autosave in question is large.

Fixing Save Crashes

To remedy this, you can either force autosaves to apply less frequently or disable them altogether. If you choose the latter, install an autosave mod to make saves for you. It seems redundant, but autosave systems from mods are almost always more stable than Bethesda's autosaves.

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Corrupt Saves

Skyrim Crashing: The Most Common Reasons This Happens (11)

Nothing can cause Skyrim to crash more reliable than a corrupt save file. This can happen for a multitude of reasons, but know that no platform is exempt from this issue. Uninstalling mods mid-playthrough and continuing with the same save is the most common reason why this happens. It can also occur if your game save is large and has hundreds of hours on it.

Fixing Corrupted Saves

PC users can fix one of the most common corrupt save occurrences by installing the SSE Engine Fixes mod. Past that, there isn't much you can do besides relying on an older save that doesn't rely on the content that was either removed or corrupted. Starting a new Skyrim playthrough altogether is the best solution.

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Next: Skyrim: Top Quest Mods, Ranked

Skyrim Crashing: The Most Common Reasons This Happens (2024)
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