Grumpys' Mod Installation Tutorial

From the Bethesda Morrowind Mods Forum
Needed: Mod installation tutorial!
#1834696 - 10/04/03 04:14 PM




Mythic Mods   | Grumpy's Mods  |     |   Mod Forum

Grumpy R.I.P. March 18, 1950 - June 17, 2005

(This is an extract including most of the substantive portions of the pinned thread.)

We can make 'em all day long, and they ain't gonna' be worth a hoot if people can't use 'em.

Have seen several posts recently on various boards concerning mod installation ("Big yellow boxes!" (I love it- )). Reading the titles of these posts might be cute for those of us who "know the way", but I doubt it's very amusing to those who download our mods with high hopes and then wind up with a world full of "Big yellow boxes!".

(excuse me for a second... (still snickering))...

Just PMed kathode to try and get the old thread re-pinned, but that may not be possible, as it came down after the forum upgrade, and may be gone.

Just PMed Sirkandi, requesting that a (hopefully) short tutorial could be made that (hopefully) will be pinned, and also suggested that if Sirkandi does take this on, that a text version be created for inclusion in all mods.

In the interim, I'm going to try my hand at it, and I hope others will add to/modify/flame this thread:

To prospective mod downloadees (er.. downloaders (whatever)):

There are three typical formats that a mod will come in: .zip, .rar, .ace. You WILL need a suitable decompressor program to decompress the mod (winzip's the only one that comes to mind, but there are others).

Very first thing! Read the readme in it's entirety! We spend, literally seconds creating these readme files, so please take the time to go through them! As a general rule...

Let me talk about general rules for a second: They don't exist. Sorry. I don't know how many times I've downloaded a mod and read the readme which tells you to "unzip" the file to the C:\Program Files\Bethesda Sotworks\Morrowind\Data Files folder, and have the thing create a second Data Files folder under the existing one (Big yellow boxes!) (could be my .zip program, too)

(excuse me for another second... (more snickering)).

So, lets go at this another way, and define the contents of a mod:

Typical files included with a mod-


This is the file that gets created when one saves a mod in the editor. This is the one that has all of the information (changes) that the game engine looks for when initializing the mod upon start-up of the game. It will contain dialog entries, new characters, changes and additions to exteriors, new interiors, etc..

This file goes in the C:\Program Files\Bethesda Softworks\Morrowind\Data Files folder.

Some mods have ONLY this file (and hopefully a readme). These types of mods use only resources (models/textures/etc.) that are included with the original game (and/or add-ons).

In these types of mods, this is the only file you will have to insure is placed in the correct folder.

Again: .esp goes in C:\Program Files\Bethesda Softworks\Morrowind\Data Files

There are also .esm files, that are roughly equivalent to .esp, and go in the same folder, but I'll let somebody else explain that (I got enough problems here already).

icons (.tga or .dds)

Now it gets a little more complicated. Some mods have new items, (weapons/armor/etc.) that will require new icons. People who have created these types of mods will have added new meshes/textures to those already existing in the MW/Trib/BM game world. Many of these will require new icons. Icons are what will display in the inventory menu (icon representation of a sword for example.

Icon files go in the C:\Program Files\Bethesda Softworks\Morrowind\Data Files\Icons folder.

But... (you knew there was going to be a "but" didn't you)

Most icons (but not all) will go into a sub-folder of the Icons folder. For example: Armor icons MAY go in C:\Program Files\Bethesda Softworks\Morrowind\Data Files\Icons\a folder, or weapon icons MIGHT go in C:\Program Files\Bethesda Softworks\Morrowind\Data Files\w folder.

Some have user created folders (new). Some use those already used in the game; a or w as noted above (a note here: If you check the icons folder in a new (un-modded) game, there will be NO other subfolders (a,w,etc.). These only need to be created if new content is introduced. In this case, new icons. You can take a look at these (original) sub-folders on the CS disk if you want to.)... However, there are some modders who just use the Icons folder itself to store the new icons in (have taken to this myself).

Again, icon files go in C:\Program Files\Bethesda Softworks\Morrowind\Data Files\Icons folder (or sub folders).

Meshes (.nif)

Meshes are the 3D wireframe models that are used for all 3D objects in the game. These are used for things like walls,rugs,swords,armor,books,cups... any object that is tangible in the game.

The same format for icons holds true here. There is a Meshes folder under the Data Files folder right under the icons folder, and it can also make use of subfolders ("a" for armor, "w" for weapons, etc.), and again, a modder may choose to use the Meshes folder itself to store these .nif files instead of the subfolders.

Meshes (.nif) files go in C:\Program Files\Bethesda Softworks\Morrowind\Data Files\Meshes folder (or sub folders).

Confused yet?

Textures (.tga, .bmp, .dds)

Last but not least are textures. Textures are the "skins" that cover the wireframe meshes (above). Textures can be .bmp, .dds, or .tga files.

They are a little simpler. All textures go in the C:\Program Files\Bethesda Softworks\Morrowind\Data Files\Textures folder. There are typically no sub-folders used here (although if I remember right, somebody's mod I once downloaded did use a sub-folder).

There is a little bit of a rub though: Texture files can be the same as icon files (no .bmp files though (.dds and .tga)), so don't make the mistake of putting icon file textures into the textures folder and expect mod nirvana. Usually if you misplace an Icon texture, you'll see a "default" icon in you're inventory menu (all white box with crossed red circle). This is not a "game threatening" situation, so if you see this just go on about your business and move the texture to the right folder at your leisure.

One other note: Some .nif files have their associated textures imbedded, meaning that you will see no other textures included with the mod (could be a "mix", though). You will know these because their files size will be quite a bit larger than typical .nif files.

There are other types of files that I'm not going to cover here. There aren't many uses of them. These include mostly sound files. Maybe you'll get the general idea from the above.

What this is all leading up to:

First thing: Open the file with your decompression program and take a look at the contents. Make a mental note of the number and types of files. I don't know about other .zip programs, but mine does not show directory structure, just the files. However, directory structure is usually in there (coded??). Having some idea of what files are in the mod (compressed file) will help you determine if the extraction went as planned.

Generally, if you've got your extraction program (winzip, etc.) set up to extract the contents of the compressed file (mod) to the correct target folder, all will go as planned. If the readme says to extract to the Data Files folder, then aim your extraction program there and extract. Now... Open explorer, and check to see if the thing looks like it extracted correctly. Again, generally, if you see the .esp in the appropriate folder (C:\Program Files\Bethesda Softworks\Morrowind\Data Files), then the thing probably extracted correctly.

The following is important!

The next thing to check is to see if you've got another Data Files folder under the real Data Files folder. If you see this, then the mod (.zip, .rar, .ace) file did not extract correctly. Delete the new Data Files folder (NOT THE ORIGINAL), and point your extraction program to C:\Program Files\Bethesda Softworks\Morrowind (one folder higher) instead, and extract again... and again, at least check to see if the .esp file is in the C:\Program Files\Bethesda Softworks\Morrowind\Data Files folder.

At this point, you should be seeing a pattern here. Yes, Binky, not all is as it should be...

That's the reason that many of us extract the mod to a temporary folder, and then hand place the files into the appropriate folders under the Morrowind folder. Done this way, you'll be able to see the directory structure, too.

I typically copy them instead of moving them, and keep the temporary folder that I originally extracted the mod to. That way, if you want to remove the mod at a later date, you have a permanent record of what files were included with the mod.

I quit!

My fingers are tired.

Somebody else finish it...

We (at least me) do not make these mods intentionally difficult to install. It's just that not all things go as planned, and it's a shame when a modder spends a bunch of time to make an excellent mod, and then sees questioning posts because installation didn't go right for someone.

Please bear with us.

And best of luck to you prospective modees out there. There are some truly wonderous mods floating around, and if you enjoy the game as much as I do, then installation isn't as much of a chore. Even done manually. A few times and you'll get it...

Either that, or we'll see more posts about....

"Big yellow boxes!" (yep... you guessed it... )

(PS - My apologies to the individual who coined the term "Big yellow boxes". You were one of the reasons I've sat here since Tuesday typing this post (4.5wpm not counting errors). Hope you understand it was all in good fun.)

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#1835650 - 10/04/03 11:04 PM

Not really seeing a guilty party here, and that was part of the reason for the post.

We are, in fact, dealing with something fairly complex here (game and mods), and also have to take into consideration the differences between the "knowledge levels", and information available to those just starting out and those who have been at this for awhile. Afraid that the process is not always "intuitive".

Education is the key. Not culpability.

We want to keep modding (and in turn the game) a viable "sport", we better insure that we have some customer demand for the products. In other words: If they can't use them, we (modders) are out of business.

Kind of a veiled warning to modders.

Make 'em good...

#1837346 - 10/05/03 10:04 AM

Good point about the subfolders.

Something else needs to be included about error messages on game start-up (or during the game) too, but I can't remember which are "OK", and which aren't. Think that some people, because they've been told that the common "Older version" (whatever) errors are OK to bypass, assume that all error messages are OK to bypass. Have seen several people here recently with "pooched" saves because they saved games after recieving "bad" types of errors. Problem with this is that some of these plug-ins are extensive, and a person could be half-way through the thing before the error shows up. Not necessarily blaming modders, cause I've seen the game itself go "goofy" from time to time, too: "missing object in script, bla, bla, bla" for example, and there is actually nothing wrong with the mod.

Given that, then some type of explanation of error messages, and how to, or whether to proceed when one gets them is warranted also.

Maybe something about cleaning saves (disaster recovery).

Have noticed a few people are now "pointing" to specific threads instead of using the ever popular "Read the pinned stuff at the top" reply. That's encouraging.

Problem is that it's tough to make a comprehensive (yet, concise!) guide that will contain every possible solution for the (ready for this?) plethora of problems that can be encountered given the complexity (dynamics) of this situation (thas it!! No more of the big words for now... severe pain in the brain box), and the sad fact is that most people tend to think of their particular problems as "special", so they assume that the "common" solutions that are available (pinned stuff and tuts) will not apply to their particular dilemma. The old "directions are for kids" syndrome. (Me too, here. I remember the first time I tried my hand at skinning and after kind of "glancing" at a tut, couldn't get the stuff to work (Wasn't my fault the game was ill conceived and executed! ). Out of exasperation, I finally went back to the tut and saw several steps that I'd missed (Wasn't my fault that the tut didin't have directions about actually reading the directions.) and finally got the stuff to work. Tut is now a permanent resident on my hard drive (memory ain't so hot anymore, either )).

I've only released a couple of mods, but one of the things I've done is include in the readme a list of the files, and where they should go. Never got any complaints, so it must have worked.

Odd thing about the "never got any complaints" part was that my old zip program would only extract correctly if I pointed the thing to the root (c:\) directory, so that's the way I set it up (different from the normal Data Files target). Directions in the read-me stated this. Either nobody ever used the thing or the people who did use it actually read the read-me! I prefer to think it was the latter of the two.

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#1883538 - 10/21/03 11:00 AM - DinkumThinkum

Adding this, due to frequent posts from people who install mods, change their minds, and don't have a pre-mod backup save game to continue from.

Uninstalling a mod once it's part of your saved games is risky. Sometimes it won't cause any problems, other times it may be impossible to continue playing without the mod installed.


Standard advice on using mods:

1. Before you install a new mod for the first time, make a backup save game.

2. Once you install the mod, spend time just testing the mod. Don't worry about trying to make progress in the game; just spend some time with the mod to decide if it you want to keep it, delete it, modify it, or whatever.

3a. If you decide to keep the mod without any changes, then just go ahead and keep playing and saving normally. Keep the backup saved game, in case you change your mind later on.

3b. If you decide to delete the mod, use the backup save (made before you installed the mod) to continue your game.

3c. If you decide to make changes to the mod, go back to your backup save game first and delete (or at least set aside) any saves made with the mod installed. Do all your testing from that backup save. Don't make any saves with the mod installed until you're done editing and testing, and you're absolutely sure you aren't going to make any more changes to the mod.


Some people have reported success using the Construction Set to remove references to deleted mods from their save game files.

I have never tried this, but what I think you do is change the save game's file extension from .ess to .esp, then load it into the Construction Set and clean it up. I don't know any more about the process than that.

I would very strongly suggest backing up the save game first.


And a little more advice:

Before you install a mod, read the readme file carefull to see if it's really something you're going to want to add to your game. And it's also useful to search the Morrowind Mods forum for the name of the mod or the mod's creator, to see what other people have to say about it. A lot of times that can save you from installing a mod that conflicts with other mods you use or has other problems.

#1890147 - 10/23/03 09:17 AM - DinkumThinkum continued

After you install game patches or expansions, when you load the game you may get a message about changes to master files that some mods depend on. (I don't remember the exact wording .)

About that message:

All that means is that the mods were made with a different version of Morrowind: maybe a patch that is later or earlier than what you have, for example. Or you may have Tribunal and/or Bloodmoon and the mod was made without the expansion.

For most mods that shouldn't be a problem, and you can get rid of the error message easily by re-saving the mod with your version of the game (but read my NOTE below first).


It's always a good idea to make a backup of your .esp file first, especially if you're new at this. Just use Windows Explorer to copy and paste the file into the same directory.


For each mod that's causing the error messages (do one mod at a time):

1. Start the Construction Set (just double-click on the shortcut)

2. On the File menu, choose the Data Files option.

3. On the Data Files screen, put a check mark next to Morrowind.esm; also next to Bloodmoon.esm and/or Tribunal.esm if you have them. (Double-click to put the checkmark.)

4. Put a check mark next to the .esp file you need to resave. Then, with that .esp file highlighted, click the 'Active' button. The .esp file should now be shown as 'active' on the list.

5. Now click the 'OK' button to load the .esp file and the masters into the Construction Set; wait for all the data to be loaded (takes a bit).

6. If you have both Bloodmoon and Tribunal, you'll probably see a lot of Dialogue error messages, followed by one about a 'duplicate reference' (or something similar). This is normal; just click the OK button to get past them.

(If you have 'Yes to all' enabled in the morrowind.ini file, then you can just click the 'Cancel' button to get past all of them at once.)

7. You should see the name of your .esp file in the Construction Set's title bar; this tells you that it's the active file and will be the one saved.

8. Now immediately save the .esp file. You can use the 'Save' option on the File menu, or just click the floppy disk icon in the tool bar.

All done!

Once you've saved the mod with your version of the game, you shouldn't get those 'has changed' error messages.



If a mod requires Tribunal and/or Bloodmoon, resaving the mod will not make the mod work without the required expansions. If a mod requires Tribunal and/or Bloodmoon, then you need the expansion(s) for it to work.

All re-saving the mod will do is get rid of the error message if you have a different patch version of the game from the one the mod was made with.

Before installing mods, always check the readme file to see if they require any expansions you don't have.


If you have a lot of mods installed, not all of the may need to be resaved. Here are two ways to see exactly which ones need resaving, which may save you time.

1. Go to the Data Files screen from the first menu when you start the game (the game, not the editor). Highlight a mod, and look at the information in the boxes to the right. That will tell you if the mod is was made with a different version of any of the master files, which means it needs to be resaved.

2. After loading the game with all the plugins enabled, exit and read the 'warnings.txt' file in your main Morrowind directory. That will list all the error and warning messages, including ones about plugins needing different versions of the master files.


Argent's "TES Dependency Tool Kit" can also be used to update mods to match the versions of the master files you have installed on your system:

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#1891474 - 10/23/03 05:59 PM - Grumpy

Quote: After you install game patches or expansions, when you load the game you may get
a message about changes to master files that some mods depend on. (I don't
remember the exact wording .)
I'm going to add something to this that was alluded to above: You CAN save over these types of error messages without problems, but (AFAIK) these are the ONLY errors that are safe to save over. Error messages about missing textures will probably not hurt, but you should fix them before proceeding.

If you see any error messages on start up, OR ON ENTRANCE TO A NEW CELL WHILE PLAYING (active (scripted) objects do not start processing until you enter the cell in which they reside), that say something like: "missing reference to object in "xxx script"- DO NOT SAVE AND THEN SHUT THE GAME DOWN!.

On some occasions a restart of the game will suffice to fix this (MW being stupid (per Inteligenz)), but it can also be an error in the mod itself, and if you save AFTER seeing this type of message, it can screw your save up big time.

Reason most modders tell you to make a clean (renamed) save of your current game before you run any mod.

#1910922 - 10/29/03 07:00 PM - cooldude55

Thanks for tutorial and I think I have a second Data Files folder because i followed your instructions and it didn't work. If I do have how do I know that i do and how can I fix it? Thank you very much.

#1911089 - 10/29/03 07:52 PM - Grumpy

In windows explorer, expand your "c:\program files\bethesda softworks\morrowind\data files" folder. You will see the following subfolders:

Book Art

There should NOT be another Data Files folder here. If there is, delete it (SUBFOLDER, NOT THE ORIGINAL!!!) If it gets screwed up, go to your trashbin and restore to where you started from.

Expand your mod (.zip, .ace, etc.) again, but instead of pointing your extraction program to the "Data Files" folder like you did the first time, jump one folder higher and point your extraction program to the "Morrowind" folder instead.

One of the files included with the mod will be a .esm or .esp (check first post of this thread for an explanation of what the various file types are). Check in your original "Data Files" folder to insure that this file is in that folder. If it is, you should be able to enable this plug-in on the splash screen.

Difficult (but more accurate method):

(Disclaimer: I'm doing this the best I can, but I ain't perfect, and take no responsibility if it don't work (use of double negatives should fortify this "not perfect" point). At your own peril here!)

The absolute best way to do this is to do it manually. Everybody in the know does it this way.

-Extract the mod to a temporary folder. -Expand this temporary folder. -Refer to the first post in this thread for information about the various files that can be included with a mod (icons/meshes/textures/etc.). -Find the subfolders (under Morrowind\Data Files) that match the ones now listed in your mods temp folder. -Copy... do not move, but copy the files from your temp folder into the corresponding folders under Morrowind\Data Files. -If a particular folder does not exist, you can just copy the entire folder to the appropriate location (..."Data Files\Meshes\a" or "Data Files\Icons\w" for example (there can be many of these new folders in some mods). -Copy ALL files/folders to the appropriate locations. When your done, check and make ABSOLUTELY SURE that all files/folders are in their correct locations by comparing what is in your temp folder against what is in the Data Files folder.

-If you mess this up, it ain't gonna' work!

-Reason that we copy these files/folders instead of moving them is so that if you pooch it, or at a later date, you decide that you want to remove the mod, then you'll have a record (your temp folder) of what files/folders were included with the mod.

NOTE: Removal of any mod can present a whole new new set of problems, but I'm not going to go into that here.

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#1912920 - 10/30/03 12:09 PM - Baphomet

It's simple... Get Zip Genius. It solved 99% of my plug-in install problems. You can see the data paths specified BEFORE unzipping, allowing you to make sure the files wind up where they should the first time.

If you use mods, get Zip Genius. Truly. It's awesome and it's free. Get it here: [Link updated.]

#1970387 - 11/17/03 01:59 PM - Archived User Account

Quote: This thread is godly. I have already discovered the answer to several of my questions and
I'm just reading through this at work. Great job guys. *runs to re-install mannequins mod*
I do have a question for you, when using zipgenious to extract files, if it places files in other
folders, is there any way to tell them apart from the original files? I went through and
(thought I) deleted all my plug ins to I could start from scratch. I didn't occur to me that
there could be stray files running around. In this case, would it behoove me to just copy my
non-mod using save files and delete and re-install the whole game?
As part of the tutorial, I've only downloaded a dozen mods, but I've already run into a
problem. TO THE MODDERS: Make sure you give your Read-me and origanol name. I have
three read-mes called, get this, "readme." Confusing as you can imagine.

If I understand your question correctly, no; there is no easy way to tell what mod put any particular file into a particular folder. I would suggest that you keep the original archive file for your plug-ins in a separate folder. That way if you need to reinstall it, you have it somewhere handy. I also rename the "Read Me" files to something unique and move them all into yet another folder (this one I keep on my desktop) for quick reference.

#2018818 - 12/02/03 02:24 PM - oldie

Well done, Grumpy, Dinkum and others!!

This should be standard bed-time reading for all newcomers to the world of modding
(would have saved me a whole lot of time if it had been around when I started)!

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