Skip to Content

How to Install Skyrim Mods: Step by Step Guide

How to Install Skyrim Mods: Step by Step Guide

Skyrim is reaching its 13 years mark and continues to be a titan in the gaming world.

At the time of writing, Skyrim has an estimated 1 million active players across all consoles and is consistently among the top 100 games in terms of concurrent users on Steam.

One factor contributing to the game’s success and longevity is the amazing modding community, which puts out lots of mods that add new features, fix bugs, or modify the game in other ways.

These modifications can range from adding cosmetic armaments and quality-of-life improvements to complete overhauls of the game’s mechanics and DLC-sized content.

With over 62,000 mods available on the Nexus website, picking which Skyrim mods to install and understanding mod compatibility can be daunting.

Here is an overview of how to find and install mods in Skyrim without Steam. Whether you’re a beginner or have used mods before, we lay it out step by step below.

How to Find and Download Mods in Skyrim

Where Find Skyrim Mods Nexus
Nexus Mods provides lots of mods for not only Skyrim but other games too

The most popular way to get, and download, Skyrim mods is through the website Nexus Mods, and with good reason too.

Anyone can create a free account, upload their own mods, or download another user’s mod. It has a decent download speed of 3 Mbps too.

After creating an account, the next step is to look for mods that you would want in your game. Most users will browse through the popular mods and pick whichever mod catches their eye.

For users who have a specific mod in mind, the advanced search tool has over 50 categories to filter mods from and has tags to include and exclude from their search.

Once you found a mod that you like, the next step is to find your preferred installation method.

Read More: 6 Fun Skyrim Builds That Will Carry You

Method One: Vortex (Nexus)

Vortex, formerly known as Nexus Mod Manager, is the best platform due to its ease of use, consistent updates, and integration with the Nexus website for an overall convenient downloading experience.

Here are the steps to use Nexus Mod Manager (Vortex):

  1. Create a Nexus account and head to the Vortex installation page
  2. Manually download the file and the Net 6.0 prerequisite
  3. Launch the Vortex.exe
  4. After the initial setup, head to the Games section on the left column and find your version of Skyrim on the list. Vortex should automatically find your Skyrim folder
  5. Optional: Head to Vortex settings and configure the folder that Vortex will use for storing mods and downloads (Settings – Mods / Downloads)
  6. Login to Nexus by clicking the profile icon in the top right-hand corner of the Vortex application and authorize Nexus Mods to use Vortex
  7. Once everything is set up, you’re ready to download mods. Head to any mod on the Nexus Mods website and download using Vortex

Method Two: Mod Organizer 2

Mod Organizer 2 (MO2) was created as an alternative to Vortex.

Both applications appear to function similarly but have drastically different ways of organizing and launching mods.

MO2 attracts users who like to experiment with mods and need an easy and reliable way to install and uninstall them.

Compared to other modding platforms, MO2 uses a Virtual File System (VFS) instead of installing your mods into the Data or Mods folder of the game.

Therefore, installing, uninstalling, and configuring mods become easier, and reduce the chances of breaking the game.

Skyrim must be launched from MO2 in order for the mods to work, otherwise launching Skyrim normally will open a vanilla version of the game.

You can read the full list of features on their page here.

Here are the steps to use Mod Organizer 2:

  1. Head to their webpage and download Mod Organizer 2
  2. Open Mod Organizer 2.exe and go through the installation process
  3. Select your version of Skyrim in the instance manager
  4. Head to Nexus Mods and download a mod by clicking the “Vortex” button
  5. In MO2, head to the downloads section on the right side of the application. Double-click the mod to install it
  6. Optional: Head to the top toolbar and click on Help – Help – Tutorials – First Steps for further information

Method Three: Manually

Manually installing mods is the simplest way to add mods to your game, as Skyrim has built-in mod support.

Create a folder labeled “Mods” in their Skyrim folder, then extract the mods’ file contents into the “Mods” folder.

Using this method is simple and straightforward but poses a risk of your game breaking when installing multiple mods if there are mod incompatibilities.

Overall it is great for users who don’t like mod programs and play with a small number of mods.

Here are the steps on how to manually install mods:

  1. Create a folder named “Mods” in your Skyrim folder (where Skyrim.exe or SkyrimSE.exe is located)
  2. Download a mod of your choice. The mod is usually compressed in a zip or 7z format
  3. Extract the contents to the “Mods” folder
Install Skyrim Mods Manually
Manually installing Skyrim mods requires File Explorer

Warning: Certain mods require the user to copy the mods content and paste it to the data folder in Skyrim.

In this case, either create a backup or use an application as there is a high chance that your game may break.

Method Four: In-Game Mod Menu (Only for Skyrim: Special Edition)

Bethesda created their own modding platform in-game and via their website.

However, the platform has a Terms of Service (TOS) that mod authors need to adhere to, meaning that not all mods are available. Here is the modding guidelines webpage.

This method is an easy and straightforward way to mod your game. It is best suited for parents who want their young kids to experience modded Skyrim in a safe environment.

Here are the steps to use the in-game Skyrim mod menu:

  1. Create an account on Bethesda’s website here
  2. Launch Skyrim: Special Edition and open the section named “Mods” in the main menu
  3. Link your Bethesda account
  4. Click a mod to your liking, and a window will appear to download the mod. Alternatively, you can find and download mods on the Bethesda website
Install Mods Skyrim Special Edition
Skyrim Mods directly available from Bethesda

Skyrim Modding Tips

Script Extender

One of the first mods you should install is the Skyrim Script Extender (SKSE). This mod functions as a tool that plenty of other mods use as it expands the scripting capabilities and functionality of Skyrim.

To download it, head to SKSE’s Nexus page here, and follow the instructions.

Number of Mods

Depending on the power of your PC, you will want to be selective of the mods you download.

Each mod installed will slightly reduce your machine’s performance while introducing new code, which may cause incompatibilities.

These incompatibilities include items that do not spawn or have the incorrect texture, overlapping buildings, glitches when performing certain actions and crash to desktop (CTD).

We recommend having under 50 mods for machines that meet the minimum requirements, and a maximum of 400 for more powerful PCs.

There are plenty of guides for good modding practices, and the best one we found is KingdomVelvet’s guide on Nexus.