Almost as important as any in-game setting is the way your Windows installation is
configured. A great many problems and performance issues, especially stuttering,
crashes and slowdowns, can be traced directly to sub-optimal settings in Windows and
out-of-date or badly configured drivers. Take a look at our Stable Gaming Guide for
tips on how to get your PC in the best shape. At the very least make sure to update
your graphics drivers to the latest available version.
To successfully conduct any tweaking, you will need some way of objectively measuring
your performance in Frames Per Second (FPS). The easiest way to do this is to use the
free FRAPS utility. Download, install and launch FRAPS before starting up Skyrim. You
will now see a yellow FPS counter displayed in the corner of your screen. Pay
attention to your FPS during the game, particularly during graphically intense
scenes, such as in heavy combat or in large outdoor areas, especially around cities.
If your FPS dips into the low double or single digits for example, this is a good
indication that you need to adjust various settings until your minimum FPS is
consistently above around 25 FPS so as to maintain appropriate responsiveness.
Note that in Skyrim a form of Vertical Synchronization (VSync) is enabled by default,
and cannot be disabled using the in-game settings. This means your framerate will be
capped to your refresh rate (typically 60 FPS), and you may also experience mouse
lag. Several alternatives for dealing with this form of VSync are covered in the
Advanced Tweaking section of the guide.