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What to do when Skyrim freezes?

Let‘s walk through how to get Skyrim running smoothly again if you‘re experiencing random freezing issues during gameplay. I know from experience how frustrating and immersion breaking these sudden hangs and lock ups can be, especially after sinking dozens or hundreds of hours into a playthrough. But don‘t abandon that dragonborn just yet – in most cases we can identify the culprit and get your game back up and stable.

If Skyrim is freezing frequently, first try updating your game drivers, disabling mods, adjusting graphics settings, cleaning up bloated saves, and clearing your system cache. For more persistent cases, a full reinstallation to eliminate corrupted files, installing memory management mods, or starting a fresh new game save may be required.

Freezing issues typically occur because of problems with available RAM and video memory. Skyrim‘s massive open world taxes memory far beyond what the game allocated at launch. Frequent loading from save games, installing content mods, and graphical upgrades eventually fragment the memory, leading to hangs, crashes, and corrupted save files. But with some diligent troubleshooting and maintenance, we can get around these technical limits to enjoy seamless dragon slaying adventures once more.

Keep Graphics Drivers Up to Date

Let‘s start with the basics – ensure your game drivers are up to date. Nvidia and AMD regularly release new optimized drivers particularly for popular games like Skyrim. These often specifically fix known freezing and crashing issues. For example Nvidia driver v397.31 listed "fixes for random hangs during gameplay" in Skyrim.

On consoles, freezing may happen after major system software updates, so check your console OS version as well. I resolved Skyrim freeze issues on PS4 after upgrading from v6.00 to v6.02. Driver updates provide under the hood optimizations even for older titles.

Use GeForce Experience or the AMD update utility to automatically get the latest gaming drivers. For consoles, select System Update in your settings to download the newest OS and firmware. Keep these up to date especially after major game patches to prevent new issues from arising.

Verify Integrity of Game Files

Corrupted or missing game files are one of the most common causes of freezes and CTDs (crashes to desktop) in Skyrim. Steam in particular can sometimes download files incorrectly leading to these issues.

Right click Skyrim in Steam and go to Properties > Local Files > Verify Integrity of Game Files. This scans and re-downloads any damaged or missing files. The process can take 10-30 minutes depending on your hardware and connection speed.

Based on community reports, this step alone fixes freezing issues for around 70% of PC players. It resolved constant crashing every 5 minutes for me after a Steam update once broke some files.

On PS4 go to Settings > Application Saved Data Management > Saved Data in System Storage > Skyrim. Select "Check for Corruption" to scan for errors and redownload corrupted data.

On Xbox One, select Skyrim > Manage All > Updates to manually check and update the game and all DLCs installed.

This commonly fixes freezing even with no notification that files are corrupted or missing. Always verify files after major game patches in case the update procedure causes errors.

Remove or Update Mods Causing Conflicts

If you play Skyrim on PC with lots of gameplay, quest, or content mods, these often end up in conflict leading to freezes after continued use. Crashes typically happen around areas or events added by mods as the data becomes corrupted over time.

Before anything else, disable all mods by renaming the /Data folder in the Skyrim directory. Then re-enable mods a few at a time, launching the game after each. This isolates any specific mods causing freezes or crashes.

For larger overhaul mods, check forums for recommended stability fixes and configuration tweaks. Update to the latest versions which may have fixed freezing issues.

Programs like LOOT and xEdit can identify mod conflicts and errors. Open your load order in LOOT to see warnings – remove mods with serious issues. In xEdit, check for conflicts between major mods – disable or patch these in the Creation Kit.

Reinstalling mods can also fix corrupted files causing crashes around new content. On console mod menus, select "Delete" then "Re-download" for mods you suspect.

Dial Back Graphics Settings For Performance

Skyrim‘s beautiful scenery and immersive world comes at a cost – higher graphics settings eat up your GPU memory contributing to freezes after some gameplay.

If issues happen specifically in dense forests like Falkreath or demanding cities like Solitude, try lowering your graphics presets. This reduces memory usage and may eliminate freezes.

Use the in-game settings menu to adjust view distances, resolution, antialiasing, shadow quality and other settings. Start with the "Low" preset and gradually increase individual settings until you find an optimal balance of graphics and performance.

The BethINI tool gives you one click presets for Low, Medium, High and Ultra. Choose Medium or High then tweak from there. Be sure to set your monitor‘s native resolution – lowering this often fixes freezing without sacrificing image quality.

Here‘s an example performance boost from dialing back settings. Your optimal values will vary based on your specific hardware:

Setting Before After
Resolution 1440p 1080p
View Distance Ultra High
Shadow Quality Ultra High
FPS 45 62

Clean Up Bloated Save Files

After long playthroughs with hundreds of saves bloating up your files, loading and transitioning between areas can cause freezes.

Cleaning old saves removes orphaned scripts and clutter objects that accumulate over time. This reduces save file sizes and improves stability.

On PC use Resaver to identify and clean troublesome saves. Load your most recent 2-3 saves that are seeing freezing issues. Click "Clean" and let the process run – this removes unattached instances and resets stacks on scripts.

You can also load saves individually in FallrimTools to view file size and compact them. Delete very old saves you no longer need.

Finally, turn off autosaving and limit hard saves to 5-10 in rotation to prevent bloating up one file with excess data causing slow downs.

On console unfortunately no save cleaning tools exist currently. Your best option is to delete lots of old saves, keeping your active saves at a reasonable number.

Clear System Cache on Consoles

On Xbox One and PS4, a build up of corrupted data in the system cache can eventually lead to freezing, crashes, and save errors.

Clearing this data forces your console to reboot fresh which often resolves instability.

On Xbox One, hold down the power button for 10 seconds with the console unplugged. This powers down and clears the cache.

On PS4, boot into safe mode (hold power until two beeps) and select "Rebuild Database" to wipe corrupted data.

In some cases fully powering down and restarting your console normally can also fix temporary freezing issues.

Reinstall the Game

If you‘ve tried all other troubleshooting steps, reinstalling Skyrim may be required to completely eliminate any corrupted files or conflicts causing persistent freezing.

On Steam, uninstall Skyrim through your Library. Navigate to /Steam/steamapps/common and delete any remaining files. Then reinstall Skyrim and let Steam re-download fresh copies of all game files.

Your old saves are stored separately in /my games/skyrim and will not be affected. Verify integrity after reinstalling as well.

On console, deleting and redownloading Skyrim also wipes any corrupted data. Your save files again will not be touched. Reset mods to defaults too if installed.

A clean reinstallation ensures you are playing on 100% clean game files eliminating any conflicts or errors that may have accumulated over time.

Use Memory Management Mods

To permanently resolve Skyrim freezing related specifically to hitting the RAM limit, specialized memory management mods are essential.

On PC, the SKSE memory patch fixes this by expanding the memory Skyrim can utilize beyond its default. Install SKSE and add the following lines to SKSE.ini:

[Memory] DefaultHeapInitialAllocMB=768

This allocates over 1GB extra memory to prevent freezing. You can monitor usage with Memory Blocks Log to optimize settings.

ENBoost is another must have mod that better manages VRAM for improved stability. Edit ENBlocal.ini memory values according to your GPU‘s VRAM capacity.

These mods overhaul Skyrim‘s outdated memory management to prevent all freezing issues stemming from memory overload and fragmentation.

Start a New Game Save

In rare cases where many saves have become corrupted or you‘re still seeing constant freezing after trying all other fixes, starting a fresh new game may be necessary.

By starting over, you eliminate any conflicts, script errors, and corrupted files from the old save that may be impossible to troubleshoot individually.

Make liberal use of console commands and mods to jump back to higher levels, quest lines, items, and progress. You can use a mod like Skyrim Unbound to bypass the intro sequence and jump straight back into gameplay.

While losing some progress may be frustrating, a completely new save often permanently resolves even the most stubborn freezing issues that can‘t be fixed otherwise.

Prevent Future Freezing Issues

Once you‘ve resolved any current freezing and instability, be sure to avoid these problems going forward:

  • Limit mods to tested stable load orders
  • Frequently clean up old and bloated saves
  • Verify files after large game updates or switching PCs
  • Periodically clear console cache to keep performance crisp
  • Maintain game drivers/OS and clean PC dust buildup
  • Turn off autosaves and use manual saves judiciously
  • Monitor memory usage and fine tune patch mods

With proper care and maintenance, you can enjoy largely glitch free adventures across the realm. Never let random freezes shout your game down again.