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[LE] [Guide] Skyrim - Manually Cleaning Master Files

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Cleaning the Official Master ESMs

NOTE : This guide is now out of date - I dont have any Bethesda games installed anymore, and xEdit has changed greatly since I last had it installed.
Anyone wishes to re-do this guide on a new page bringing it up to date .. Crack on :D

This guide assumes using TES5Edit on Skyrim Nexus,
Or SSEEdit on Skyrim SE Nexus

Due to this guide being dual purpose ( For Skyrim and Skyrim SE ) for the rest of this guide I will refer to both tools as xEdit.
Screenshots of tools used may be one or the other, or older versions, which does not matter, the images are only to illustrate the method / options used.

Why Clean the Master Files ?

Firstly because the masters have entries that are identical to the same records in Skyrim.esm or other DLC esms'. They exist because Bethesda may have looked at something in the CK and an unneeded entry was auto included in the plugin even though the item was not altered in any way. The Official Creation Kits are notoriously buggy and randomly create dirty / wild edits, often when the author of the plugin is completely unaware. Wherever that plugin is placed in your load order its records overwrite all the conflicting records from plugins loaded before it ( the rule of one ) resetting the settings back to the values contained in the Official Bethesda DLC. It won't cause crashes, it just changes the values of plugins loaded before it. Which can alter mods that you have for Weapon Damage, Armor, Lighting, Food Effects and so on. The masters are very early in your load order but there is potential for a mod to be made as a fake.esm, and placed among them, and so ITMs in a later loading master may cause problems for that mods esm. Chance is remote that a master will affect another master, and this procedure is best used on all of your mods plugins, but cleaning everything of ITMs ( Identical to Master records ) causes no harm, is more optimal giving the game less to process in your load order, and so it is best to get rid of these completely unnecessary dirty edits.

The Second reason is that Bethesda chose to delete some things that are in the Official DLC. Any mods loaded with references to deleted records from the Official Bethesda DLC will cause your game to crash. This problem particularly affects older mods ( especially mods that were made before newer official patches were released, with more deleted references the old mod did not anticipate - It will also become problematic for the Skyrim Special Edition community where old Original Skyrim mods are being converted to SSE, and Bethesda have deleted even more records from the plugins before they released the newer plugins for that version of the game ). xEdit can restore and properly assign values to these records that will disable them and still allow mods to access them. This is done using the "Undelete and Disable References" option.

For further explanations of why it is still recommended to clean the games masters .. Read on from this post,
Zilav and Arthmoor, most valued technical and vastly experienced modding authors, weigh in on the subject.

The following mostly apply to mod authors, but worth knowing about for mod users too :

xEdit will also report when a mod has Deleted NavMeshes as part of the report from Automatic cleaning. Like deleted references, any mod that references a deleted NavMesh will cause Skyrim to Crash. Properly optimizing your mods NavMeshes and checking your mod for Deleted Vanilla NavMeshes ( which can also be caused by a CK wild edit even if you did not do it yourself ) is important. Mods altering the same cell and the same NavMeshes when your mod is not optimized will cause Skyrim to Crash. Poorly optimized NavMeshes with errors reported by the CK will make Skyrim unstable. Instabilities like fast travelling to a location and Skyrim crashes. Note the ones found to be deleted in the games masters, cannot be undeleted. To fix deleted Navmeshes in your mods, Arthmoor has provided a walkthrough in Skyrim - Fixing Navmesh Deletion in TES5Edit

Manually cleaning your mods is also important to remove wild edits. This is mostly down to the experience of Mod Authors to solve such problems, but there are a few noted later in this guide which are in the DLCs which everyone can easily Manually clean. Some mods can have accidental Wild Edits in them caused by the author looking at how Bethesda did something they wish their mod to do as well. These Wild Edits often prevent Skyrim from doing things like advancing quests, spawning NPCs, assigning dialogue to NPCs, preventing NPCs from patrol areas they are assigned to. They can also alter Vanilla Lighting and Triggers that the author wished to use. All of these things affect any plugin with conflicting records loaded before a mod with Wild Edits.

Mod authors - Learn to use xEdit, and ensure the only records in your mod plugins are what you would expect to be in there, its the most important tool the community can make use of when used properly.

Mod Users - Follow this guide...

Before moving on to the Manual cleaning, something everyone should do prior to Manual Cleaning :

Automatic cleaning of Bethesda's ESMs with xEdit

With the games Original esm's installed ( You can use Steam to Verify Integrity of Game Cache of Skyrims files to ensure you have good error free copies of the original master files ), and in accordance with the following wiki article http://www.creationkit.com/index.php?title=Skyrim_Dirty_Plugins_List :

Load up xEdit.

1. Right click the plugin selection screen and select "none"


2. Tick the relevant esm to edit, and click okay ( If you have not cleaned any of your Master files yet, the first one to tick will be Skyrims "Update.esm" ), then click Okay


After each of the following actions, wait for a message in the message window that the previous operation has finished / Done :

3. Right click the plugin after you get the "Background Loader : Finished" message,and choose "Apply Filter for Cleaning"


Wait until Filtering is finished then ..

4. Right click the plugin and choose Remove Identical to Master Records


Wait until it finishes then ..

5. Right click the plugin and choose Undelete and Disable references


Wait until it finishes then ..

6. Close xEdit, and it should check with you that you wish to save the plugin ( this only happens if you have made any changes to the plugin to save, if it just closes .. Then you have not cleaned anything )

Rinse and repeat the Automatic cleaning ( steps 1 - 6 above ) for each of the master files.

Working from first to load, to last, not including Skyrim.esm or any unofficial patches
( No point doing Skyrim.esm, and the unofficial patches are already done and should not be cleaned )

So clean in this order



Dawnguard.esm ( Yes it needs to be done twice )



Dawnguard.esm needs to be cleaned twice ( as of xEdit 3.1 onwards - After doing the automatic cleaning routine once on Dawnguard.esm, and saving it, load it up again in xEdit and you will be able to clean a further 6 ITMs )


Dawnguard.esm needs manual cleaning aswell as automatic cleaning

After the automated cleaning is done, you can also now manually clean a few more Wild edits xEdit will not have touched ...

Recently Arthmoor has brought to the attention of the community additional information regarding manual cleaning of Dawnguard.esm, which everyone needs to do for their own setup same as automatic cleaning ( because nobody can legally upload official master files anywhere, everyone needs to do their own )

First load up xEdit

When the plugin selection comes up, right click and select None
Then put a tick in the box just for Dawnguard.esm, click Okay
After its finished loading, right click Dawnguard.esm and choose "Filter for Cleaning"

1. For "CELL 00016BCF: Remove XEZN subrecord referring to RiftenRatwayZone [ECZN:0009FBB9]. Otherwise it blocks the official fix in Update.esm." .... Expand the records as in the following screenshot, and right click the indicated sub-record, and choose Remove


2. For "CELL 0001FA4C: Wild edit. Remove this record. It's a testing cell." .... Expand the records as in the following screenshot, and right click the indicated record, and choose Remove


3. For "CELL 0006C3B6: Wild edit. Remove this record. It's a testing cell." .... Expand the records as in the following screenshot, and right click the indicated record, and choose Remove


NOTE : This guide used to include cleaning instructions for "CELL 00039F67: Wild edit. Remove this record. It's a testing cell" ( The WICourier edit ) - But since the new version of TES5Edit 3.1+ now cleans that as part of the automated cleaning ( which you should have done prior to manual cleaning ), you no longer need to clean it manually afterwards.


Now that the Master files are cleaned, you could put them in a zip, and get your mod manager to install them - Maybe at a future date you want to do a refresh of steam cache and it redownloads the masters which are not the same as the originals anymore (because you cleaned them), so then you would need to reclean them again. But beware, Bethesda have started redoing some masters due to Creation Club mods compatability, so make sure any redownloaded masters are not newer than your previously cleaned ones, because in that case you will need to reclean and rezip them again anyway.
You can go through the rest of your Load Order using Automatic cleaning of ITMs and UDRs on all your mods plugins. The sequence of cleaning mods plugins should be after you have your Load Order correct, masters are cleaned, then clean them with the last to load being the last to clean. Mod authors should have done them already, so most will probably not need cleaning. Also look out for any mod specific cleaning instructions in the mods description.
Prime example = The Unofficial Patches will not need any cleaning, they are already done, and any remaining ITMs in those plugins should be left alone because they do have a purpose .. ( its a very rare occasion when this is true ).

The xEdit Work In Progress Development topic is at the following link https://afkmods.iguanadons.net/index.php?/topic/3750-wipz-tes5edit/
Development project is at GitHub https://github.com/TES5Edit/TES5Edit

And newer versions of xEdit (3.2.7 +) have a link to Discord top right of xEdit window.

Edited by Guest
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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 6 months later...
  • 3 weeks later...

Just downloaded and installed Old Skyrim again to check with TES5Edit v3.2


The Results are a little different for the Dawnguard.esm


All the auto cleaned and Manual cleaned stages of that plugin now have new CRC / MD5 checksums because the new TES5Edit corrects something it did not do before.



Edit : And if anyone is wondering - I can confirm the same routine needs to be applied to Skyrim Special Edition plugins, even the manual cleaning, you will get a few different checksum results and amount of ITMs / UDRs cleaned because Bethesda managed to add a few more, but the routine is the same.

Edited by Guest
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  • 7 months later...

If anyone is wondering when an update will come to this guide .. When the next official version of xEdit comes out of beta on Nexus

.. But note I can only now support updating the info for Skyrim Special Edition : I no longer have Skyrim LE

Currently I am using the latest development version on afk mods (at the bottom of the first post is a "Download" link).

There are a couple of differences to the results, but I will not be updating the OP until the official release because if I do, then there will be a train of questions why people still using the older but public release are getting different results .. So I need to wait until it goes live .. However I realise like yourselves that the dev version is more than likely the better version to support SSE since the Creation Club update to SSE has already gone live


With that in mind here are my results, which I have carefully checked using the dev version of 3.2.1 - But only for Skyrim Special Edition (as explained above).


[Removing "Identical to Master" records done] Processed Records: 17403, Removed Records: 234, Elapsed Time: 00:00
[undeleting and Disabling References done] Processed Records: 17169, Undeleted Records: 91, Elapsed Time: 00:00


1st clean :
[Removing "Identical to Master" records done] Processed Records: 98676, Removed Records: 621, Elapsed Time: 00:00
[undeleting and Disabling References done] Processed Records: 98055, Undeleted Records: 82, Elapsed Time: 00:02
<Warning: Plugin contains 57 deleted NavMeshes which can not be undeleted>
2nd clean
[Removing "Identical to Master" records done] Processed Records: 98054, Removed Records: 6, Elapsed Time: 00:00
[undeleting and Disabling References done] Processed Records: 98048, Undeleted Records: 0, Elapsed Time: 00:02
<Warning: Plugin contains 57 deleted NavMeshes which can not be undeleted>
3rd clean


[Removing "Identical to Master" records done] Processed Records: 17830, Removed Records: 178, Elapsed Time: 00:00
[undeleting and Disabling References done] Processed Records: 17652, Undeleted Records: 11, Elapsed Time: 00:00
<Warning: Plugin contains 5 deleted NavMeshes which can not be undeleted>


[Removing "Identical to Master" records done] Processed Records: 214498, Removed Records: 69, Elapsed Time: 00:00
[undeleting and Disabling References done] Processed Records: 214429, Undeleted Records: 8, Elapsed Time: 00:02
<Warning: Plugin contains 1 deleted NavMeshes which can not be undeleted>

The highlighted results are the changes from previous results

Edited by Guest
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  • 6 months later...
First post updated : Recently Skyrim SE has been updated a few times, and additionally xEdit has now gone public with a release on Nexus of version 3.2.1, which has refined its record editing.

Skyrim LE results are unaffected when using the new xEdit, so no need to reclean for oldrim

Skyrim SE benefits quite a bit from recleaning, and the results / CRCs/ MD5 checksums are all now up to date in the OP for using xEdit v3.2.1

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  • 5 months later...
I have now simplified this topics first post so it does not need updating every time xEdit has an overhaul, or Bethesda pump out new masters to accommodate even more Creation Club mods compatibility, and make even more dirty edits to the original masters ..

I have dropped listing results and CRCs, and just describe the method. If I were to change results to the development version of xEdit, then people using just the official will be complaining the results are wrong, and if I direct people to use development version instead .. how long before it goes official? and I have to redirect people again?. People still get it wrong sometimes even when they think they have the same version of xEdit (official or beta), and my list of pre-checked results to help .. And then there is the odd pirate with wacky results .. So its probably best left to the capability of the user to follow instructions to the letter, at least if they dont catch everything they will be cleaning out the majority of ITMs and UDRs, and this game is old enough now to have a mature enough community who are mostly well versed in such things. I think this topic and the duplicates elsewhere have done the job.

Will update other guide pages on other sites aswell.

Main reason for the change though is I am not very active with Bethesda modding anymore, and have no interest apart from a veeeery long awaited long term playthrough which I have a set bunch of mods for which is not going to change at all now. I have broken my previous barrier of level 45 in game (previously whenever I got there for one reason or another I would end up restarting a new game), and I am discovering things in game still which I have never seen before because I have not followed all potential quests (the amount of times I have walked past Pinewatch and never realised there was more to that place than meets the eye) .. Its a quest of completing everything I haven't done before :) .. But thats only when I am not playing No Mans Sky, which kind of takes up most of my spare time now. X4 is out in November too, no doubt that will be another huge time sink for me.

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  • 5 months later...

NOTE : This guide is now out of date - I dont have any Bethesda games installed anymore, and xEdit has changed greatly since I last had it installed.

Anyone wishes to re-do this guide on a new page bringing it up to date .. Crack on :D

First post has also been updated with the same message

Edited by Guest
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