Dragonballs: Modded Original Skyrim Saves Won’t Work In Skyrim Special Edition

Bad news, old chum, ol’ pal, ol’ mate of mine. You know that Skyrim savegame you invested hundreds of hours into? All those dead dragons, all those crafted weapons, all those mysteriously naked townsfolk? Gone, all gone. It’s the end of the world as you knew it circa 2011-2013. Unless, of course, you stick with the original version of Skyrim instead of the freshly-released The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition [official site], or somehow never, ever added a mod to it.

This isn’t much of a problem in consoleland, where modding wasn’t really a thing, but over on a PC a great many of us chucked two, three or several dozen mods into our Skyrim installations. Blame the ease of Steam Workshop integration, blame the bugs, console-focused limitations and interface problems in the PC version – whichever, modding was both easy and appealing. And if you ever modded your original Skyrim install, none of your saves from it will work.

The Special Edition does boast the option to load saves from the original game – achieved via manually copying files from your My Documents/My Games/Skyrim folder to My Documents/My Games/Skyrim Special Edition – but try to load one that ever had a mod attached and the game will crash.

Unfortunately, this remains the case even if you strip all mods from your original Skyrim installation, load a savegame (ignoring its content-not-AVAILABLE messages) then re-save as, essentially, a ‘clean’ copy. The clean save will still prompt a “relies on content that is no longer available” message, and if you see that, you’re in for a crash.

There will likely be some exceptions I’m sure, when a mod was minor or did not affect ‘content’, as the game puts it, but I’ve tried and failed with dozens of different saves across three different characters with no luck.

What that means, for now at least, is that you either need to have resolutely bellowed Get The Behind Me, SKSE at mods for the last five years, or that you will have to start a new game in the Special Edition. It’s back to tattered rags and poking crabs with rusty short swords for you, chum.

However, it’s not impossible that a fix might be found. There are two ways this could happen: 1) Bethesda manage to patch Skyrim SE so that it will have a good go at loading a modded save, in the way that Skyrim original often can even if the mods aren’t present. 2) Every mod you used gets updated and ported over to Skyrim SE, and the game then magically treats ’em as being the exact same content as the save requires.

Frankly, I don’t fancy your chances either way. I suspect there will be third-party savegame editing tools that will allow some data to be carried across before too long, but that will probably be all we get.

This is all very unfortunate, though in my case it’s not entirely a bad thing. I loaded up my last savegame, from February 2013, in Skyrim original, and had absolutely no idea where I was, what I was doing and, most of all, whatever it was I had cared about. My best bet of enjoying Skyrim again is to start afresh, not to try and commune with my past self. I’d love to have the choice at least, mind you – let’s hope something impossible does happen.

Oh, while I’m here, I’ll note that Skyrim SE does not offer an option for non-standard resolutions. If you’ve got a 21:9 or 5:4 monitor or anything that isn’t 4:3, 16:9 or 16:10, you won’t be able to select its native res. This is easily fixed by popping over to My Documents/My Games/Skyrim Special Edition, then opening SkyrimPrefs.ini in Notepad or similar. Search for these lines:

bFull Screen=
iSize H=
iSize W=

Then change to the following

bFull Screen=1
iSize H=yourresolutionheight
iSize W=yourresolutionwidth

Changing ourresolutionheight/width as approprioate to your screen. Then save the file, back out to Windows Explorer, right click on the same file, hit Properties and select Read Only under Attributes at the bottom. Note that you won’t be able to change any other graphics settings in-game after Read Onlying, so make sure you’re happy with everything else before you do this.

I’ll be writing separately about how Skyrim SE stacks up against the original later on, FYI, but in short: there’s really not much in it, given we could already pump the game much higher thanks to a) having a PC rather than a last-gen console and b) mods.


  1. harcalion says:

    Skyrim SE is as full of bugs as a brand new Bethesda game. I waited 18 months for the Legendary Edition to not have them, then I had no gaming life for several years and waited for this remaster to start playing and boom, ugly bugs again.

    Starting the game: no sound. Exiting the game: black overlay over the desktop that requires logoff or reboot. Nicely done!

    • pepperfez says:

      Wait, I thought we could trust Bethesda games to be good from release day and not bother with reviews. You must be mistaken.

    • Regicider 12.4% says:

      v0.5 is the new industry standard v1.0.

    • Michael Anson says:

      One of the first mods to make the transition to the Special Edition was the unofficial patch mod. Frankly, if you started the game without it, I’m not sure what you were thinking.

      • bouchacha says:

        Amazingly that’s because Arthmoor (the unofficial patch’s author) got special access to the SE edition alongside many other prominent modders. Why Bethesda didn’t just include the bug fixes themselves I have no idea.

        • Regicider 12.4% says:

          Then they must spend resources to QA them and that’s unlikely. Even the bug fix mods introduce bugs, it’s more likely the larger and more complex the mod is.

          One of the larger bug-fix compilations for New Vegas made Mr House vibrate around like crazy because of an error they made, completely ruined that moment for me.
          I know it was the mod too since I tracked down the issue in the records and fixed it myself.

  2. Kemuel says:

    I went back to my original character the other day and rather enjoyed the sense of amnesia. Sorting through my pockets for clues as to who I might be, working out how to fight with all my skills again, wondering why I’m carrying so many stolen potatoes..

    • dangermouse76 says:

      That moment you look in a trunk in your house in Whiterun and it has about 150 weapons in it.

      Or go into my house in Oblivion and there are 2 dead orcs half naked upside down behind an archery target.

  3. John Richardson says:

    It’s weird because I’ve got the same save file as when I first started the game upon release. It has lasted through about 4 different versions of the S.T.E.P mod guide which is constantly changing recommended mods, and it’s never once failed to load due to incompatibility.

    I’ve seen that ‘relies on content that is no longer available’ more times than not, but it’s always been fine.
    I’ll have to investigate with a backup of my save later on.

  4. Ghostwise says:

    It is odds how many studios have managed their recent PC remasters by tripping on their di… uh, their sandals. Leather sandals. Roman-style mid-calf lacing, very comfortable. Sandals.

    (Seriously, no 21:9 support ?)

  5. Ieolus says:

    Just as bad as not being able to use that 100+ hour save, is how the audio in the Special Edition has been compressed to hell.

    link to reddit.com

    • Jay Load says:

      Siiigh, Bethesda.

      Looks like PS4 owners get super-crisp audio while XBone and PC get shafted with mega-compressed xwm format, so sound effects are now worse than in the original.

      • Solidstate89 says:

        I can actually understand the high compression for consoles (why Xbone and not PS4 though? They have the same amount of RAM…weird) but for PC? What the fuck is the point? We have storage and memory capacities for exceeding anything you’d ever need to store and load that audio.

        It’s so pointless.

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      Even the original Skyrim was pretty bad in spots (Azura’s speech was what I noticed most — heavily processed (which is fine) but also swimming with compression artifacts), but yeah, looks like they had a chronically-untipped pizza guy come in and click the buttons for audio and texture export. Audio’s apparently default (terrible) Microsoft compression, and many textures were allegedly upscaled and slightly noisified for “detail”.

      Fortunately, someone who’s supposedly from Bethesda has curtly responded to at least the audio problem with a claim of an incoming fix. Doubt they’ll give us FLACs or default OGGs or anything, but it should improve over the current state. Worst case, the original game’s files can be extracted and used with some user effort.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Qazinsky says:

    A bit offtopic, but one thing that bothers me in Skyrim is that the races has so unbalanced racials, at least if you use weapons (as opposed to spells). Why would one take anything other than an orc? Their racial does take half damage and do double physical damage for 60 seconds. No other race comes even close to that. If it did one of those things, then sure, I could see going Redguard and take a small hit in efficiency to not have to play yet another orc, but both of those effects are better…

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      There’s really no reason to try to powergame Skyrim. You accumulate packfuls of legendary magical crap just walking to the outhouse, so why worry about a single racial ability? You’ll be pretty much unstoppable by level 10 anyways.

      • Premium User Badge

        Qazinsky says:

        I like to play on highest difficulty and not sit down to immediately max out enchanting, alchemy and blacksmithing, things hit hard, man!

        • Yontevnknow says:

          Then i would recommend the original at this point. Mods like Perkus Maximus, or Requiem, fix the vanilla game’s weak balancing and combat, among an avalanche of other things. If you avoid piling on a ton of other mods, it’s also fairly easy to setup if you follow instructions.

  7. uh20 says:

    Did they fix the mouse input by chance? I am going to assume no.

    • SecondSince says:

      Nah, standard it’s still floaty and unrespronsive. To fix it open SkyrimPrefs.ini in your Documents and under [CONTROLS] add bMouseAcceleration=0
      That should fix it, or at least make it a lot more playable.

      • fish99 says:

        Weird, I’ve just tested and I have zero mouse acceleration, and I haven’t had to edit any ini files.

  8. Zekiel says:

    Don’t worry, most people don’t use mods in Skyrim.


  9. Deadlock989 says:

    No idea what this article is going on about. Just copied over a medium-modded save from original to special and it worked first time.

    • Deptfordx says:

      Me too for what that’s worth.

      Didn’t even bother trying to strip stuff out and get a ‘clean’ save.

      Copied my most recent file form Skyrim to the remaster.

      Got the message ‘Some files can’t be loaded’ that others have mentioned. But still loaded fine into Whiterun and I was defintitely running an upgrade for that place in my save.

      Maybe it depends how much you’ve modded it.

      I was basically running a vanilla game with a few extra weapons and armour, plus some quality of life stuff such as Invested Magic.

      • Deptfordx says:

        Ok, so I turned off the 20 odd mods in Skyrim. Saved a clean version of a game I was a fair way into in that. Copied it to Skyrim Remastered, and it loads perfectly without even a ‘Missing Data Files’ warning.

        So unless you went completely to town on mods and there’s an old game you want to port over, I’d at least give it a try.

  10. Gilnaure says:

    Seems there is a way to make saves work – via one reddit user:
    You just have to clean your savegame using Skyrim Savegame Scalpel or some similar tool.

  11. Yontevnknow says:

    Old mods that require SKSE or the mod menue of SKYUI to work, will currently not be compatible until these two mods are patched.

    Mods that don’t require the above and don’t contain a .bsa file will likely work without an update.

    Mods that do not require skse and skyui, but have a .bsa file, can work i hear, but you need to unpack the .bsa file with a program like wryebash.

  12. PancakeWizard says:

    Is there a good reason for PC original Skyrim owners to get this special edition?

    • Nauallis says:

      It’s free. Owners of the original Skyrim get it anyway. Playing it is up to you.

      • Jason Lefkowitz says:

        Owners of the original Skyrim and all its DLC get the special edition free. If all you bought is the base game, or you bought some of the DLC but not all, you have to pay.

        • Nauallis says:

          Oh fair enough. I tend to assume that because Skyrim Legendary and Civ V: Complete have become so ubiquitous through Steam sales, humble bundles, Amazon sales, and whatnot for the past few years, that anyone who doesn’t have one or both is a weirdo. So hello, all you weirdos.

    • vorador says:

      Nah. It is better, if only for the new shaders and atmospheric effects, and the 64 bit executable allowing for bigger mods. But there’s nothing that makes it worth buying it again if you have the original already.

      Worst part, several mods will need to be updated, and since several creators have left the modding scene behind, that might be a problem.

  13. geldonyetich says:

    I plan to play Special Edition from a brand new game, unmodded, without any of the gloriously well done labors of love SWILL generated by the unwashed masses that befouled Bethesda’s honestly rather strangely unfinished in several places peerless RPG masterpiece, thereby enjoying it minus all the cool frills added by the community such as much-needed GUI overhaul and breast physics as the true Dovahkiin experience as imagined by its original creators.

  14. satan says:

    I was going to do a mostly magic, mostly lawful playthrough this time… but it’s so hard walking past all that shiny, shiny cutlery…

    • vorador says:

      Learn from me. In the first hour i was offered by an NPC to “take whatever you need” from their inventory and i only took the potions.



  15. Hyena Grin says:

    Things that also won’t work:

    SKSE (the script extender a lot of mods rely on), & Sky UI (primarily its mod configuration interface). Two things which many mods won’t work without.

    SKSE is at least expected to port to the special edition, given some time. Sky UI, from the sounds of it, is dead in the water. Which is bad news for everyone, sadly.

    Hopefully some kind soul will port Sky UI for the otherwise inactive dev team. But from the sounds of it, it will require a lot of work on SKSE before that’s even remotely possible, and then a lot of work besides.

    If this were two years ago, I’d be pretty confident, but Skyrim is getting on now, and we’re probably not far from the next Elder Scrolls game to be announced, which will no doubt trim some of the enthusiasm from the Skyrim mod community.

    I’m crossing my fingers, but we’ll have to see.

    • Jason Lefkowitz says:

      Uggggh. Bethesda’s UIs are uniformly awful, and Skyrim was no exception; SkyUI at least made it tolerable. Wondering how painful it will be to go back to playing without it…

      • geldonyetich says:

        There’s no way to sort your inventory, which makes it tricky to pack yourself up with optimal Gold/Wt loot, but aside from that I am making do.

    • IsatiX says:

      There is no new Bethesda’s game in those next 5 years. Read the actuality bro !

      • Hyena Grin says:

        Maybe you have some information I don’t, but looking at Bethesda’s release schedule (of specifically ES & Fallout), they (together) run between 2 and 4 years apart, with an average of about 12 months between initial announcement and release.

        The time between ES titles is as follows:
        Morrowind to Oblivion: 4 years.
        Oblivion to Skyrim: 5 years.

        Now, it’s obviously speculation and there’s only so much you can assume about scheduling (and there’s plenty of variation in Bethesda’s release schedules), but given that Skyrim came out in 2011, and that it’s about 5 years between ES releases in general, and that it’s been a year since Fallout 4 came out, and that they usually give about 12 months between announcement and release…

        Well, if they announced a new ES game tomorrow and released it in exactly one year, they’d be right on par with their release schedule up to this point.

        There’s two complicating factors, though. One is that ES:O may have sucked up some of their resources, which may result in a longer development time (it was actually developed by ZeniMax, but it’s easy to imagine that some blood was shared).

        The other complication is that Bethesda has been trending toward shorter announcement cycles (their last announce-release cycle was only 6 months), so if that’s indicative of their approach for all titles, we may have a longer wait on announcement. But I still put decent likelihood of a new ES game in the next 2-3 years being decently high.

  16. cjone2 says:

    Got my initially crash inducing modded save working by following link to nexisonline.net and using link to nexusmods.com

    I only had a small number of what I thought were fairly minor mods but seems like it was still enough to cause issues.

  17. Wcparry says:

    That is strange. I had about two dozen books loaded on my original Skyrim. I have been playing Skyrim special edition for about 2 hours without any crashes at all. So. That’s interesting. It sucks some people are having trouble or that it won’t work. But my level 40 loaded up without an issue. I just moved my saves from the old save directory to the new save directory. All is well.

    • Wcparry says:

      A dozen mods ***

      • Wcparry says:

        I also did not have to do anything special. I literally just moved the content from one folder to another after installation of the special edition. I started special edition, I exited out of it, restarted Skyrim SE and clicked continue.

  18. freddydeady says:

    I never got around to picking up Dawnguard or Heathfire. Take it that the free upgrade doesnt apply anymore even if I pick these up today then?