Steam Deck users have been modding Skyrim for a while now but the best method to install Skyrim mods on this handheld was recently discovered. The new method allows you to install any and all mods available on Nexus Mods without facing any restrictions. The trick is to mod the game on PC and then port that copy over to Steam Deck or Steam Deck OLED.
The process consists of multiple steps and we’ll go through all of them one by one to mod Skyrim on Steam Deck. The first step is to install the Vortex Mod Manager on your handheld.
Vortex is a popular mod manager that simplifies the process of installing and managing Skyrim mods.
Before installing any mods, it’s crucial to launch Skyrim normally on your Steam Deck. This initial run allows the game to create necessary folders. Simply start a new game and then exit.
Adjust Graphics Settings for Better Performance:
- Open the original game launcher by running the unmodded version of Skyrim.
- Navigate to ‘Options’ and select ‘Windowed Fullscreen’ and ‘Borderless’.
- Set the aspect ratio to ’16:10 Widescreen’ and resolution to ‘1280×800’.
- Change the Detail setting to ‘High’ (from the default ‘Ultra’). This improves FPS significantly on the Steam Deck. When playing on PC, you can revert to ‘Ultra’ settings for better visuals.
Installing SKSE (Skyrim Script Extender)
Exit the gaming interface of the Steam Deck and switch to Desktop Mode.
Download and Install SKSE:
- Visit skse.silverlock.org using a browser on your Steam Deck.
- Download SKSE, unzip the files, and paste them into the Skyrim game folder, typically located at
./home/deck/.local/share/Steam/steamapps/common/Skyrim Special Edition/.
Check if SKSE is installed by opening Vortex and looking for a notification about SKSE. If it’s not installed, download the correct version of SKSE for your game edition from skse.silverlock.org.
Drag and drop the downloaded SKSE file into Vortex under the mods tab to install it. Launch the SKSE executable to ensure it’s working correctly.
Install Vortex Mod Manager On Steam Deck
Go to Pikdum’s Github page and under the ‘Install’ section, right-click on the provided link and select ‘Save as’. Name the file ‘install.desktop’ and save it (the Download folder is a suitable location).
Open the ‘install.desktop’ file and execute it. This process will take a few minutes and will install Vortex along with necessary configurations. A shortcut named ‘Skyrim Post-Deploy’ will appear on your desktop. It’s important to run this shortcut every time you change or install mods in Vortex before playing Skyrim.
Open Vortex from the icon on your Desktop. Manually set the location of the Skyrim game in Vortex, using either the J: or K: drives (J: for internal storage, K: for SD card games). Address any warnings about the staging location and deployment method that Vortex might present. The staging folder should be on the same drive as the game. The recommended deployment method is hardlinks.
When you download a mod from Nexus Mods, Vortex will ask to associate with mod files. Agree to this. There might be an additional pop-up for association; make sure to select Vortex in this prompt too.
In Vortex, go to the Dashboard and enable the Toolbar for additional tools. Run FNIS and Bodyslide as necessary, particularly after making changes to actors or characters.
After installing your desired mods, run the ‘Skyrim Post-Deploy’ shortcut on the desktop before playing the game. This step is crucial for the mods to function correctly. Switch back to Gaming Mode on your Steam Deck to enjoy Skyrim with your new mods (Read the Installing Skyrim Mods section for more details).
Troubleshooting Common Issues
- Vortex Not Opening: Navigate to
install-vortex.desktopto reinstall Vortex without losing your mods.
- Install.desktop Not Executing: Ensure you have execution rights. You might need to enable execution confirmations in the Dolphin file manager settings.
- Mod Download Issues: If a mod or FNIS doesn’t download correctly, try continuing anyway or redownload the mod from NexusMods.
- Game Crashes with Alternate Start: Disable mods like Faster HDT-SMP, HDT-SMP, or skeleton mods, as they can cause crashes.
There’s a known issue where clicking ‘Open on Nexus Mods’ doesn’t open a browser. You’ll need to search for the mod manually due to this glitch in Pikdum’s tools.
Installing Skyrim Mods On Steam Deck And Steam Deck OLED
To install Skyrim mods on the Steam Deck using Nexus Mods and Vortex, follow these steps after having Vortex installed on your PC:
Open Steam on your PC, right-click on Skyrim, select ‘Manage’, then ‘Browse Local Files’. From there rename the “SkyrimSE.exe” to something else, for example you can rename it “OldSkyrimSE.exe”. But the choice is yours. The next step is to rename the “skse64_loader.exe” to “SkyrimSE.exe”to launch with SKSE directly on the Steam Deck and Steam Deck OLED.
Choose and download the mods you want from NexusMods.com and use Vortex to install and enable these mods.
Insert a flash drive into your PC and browse the local files of The Elder Scrolls Skyrim but this time copy all game files to the flash drive. Skyrim is around 12GB on Steam so make sure the drive and your handheld have enough storage. Copy two specific txt files (as shown in the image below) from the path Local Drive C > Users > (username) > AppData > Local > Skyrim Special Edition.
Once that’s done, run your Steam Deck in Desktop mode and insert the flash drive into the Steam Deck. Open your Steam Library on Steam Deck and once again go to Skyrim’s ‘Browse Local Files’ option under ‘Manage.’ Copy and paste the files from the flash drive to the Skyrim directory on the Steam Deck but don’t copy the two txt files at this location.
Note: If you get any notification regarding duplicate files, Overwrite them all.
Now open the File Explorer on Steam Deck and make sure all Skyrim Special Edition hidden files are visible. Go to local/share/steam/steamapps/compat data/489830/pfx/drive_c/users/steamuser/appdata/local/skyrim special edition. This is where you paste the two txt files.