(Re)installing Morrowind, Pt. 1

So here I am, reinstalling Morrowind for the hundredth time. Hard drive failure and the recent death of my Xbox’s disc reading capabilities got together and convinced me to do it. This is an epic path which I have trod before, and I decided this time I’ll be intelligent about it and actually write down what I’m doing so as to ease the process for myself when, inevitably, I have to reinstall on the next computer. I have decided to bring you along for this journey. Yay!

The first thing you need, obviously, is a copy of Morrowind and its expansions Tribunal and Bloodmoon, preferably the Game of the Year edition which includes both. Retail CD copies can still be found on Amazon, as well as a download on Steam which will be the GOTY edition with all official patches. If you are a Steam user, be aware that Morrowind’s CDs do not come with license keys or any other way of activating them on Steam, so your best bet is probably to purchase through the Steam store if it matters to you to have your game time tracked. Be aware as well that we’ll be modding Morrowind’s graphics with external programs that don’t cooperate with the Steam Overlay, so you’ll need to have that feature turned off for Morrowind and won’t be able to use it for screenshots and video. It’s totally worth it to sacrifice the Steam Overlay for what we’re going to do with Morrowind, but I’m mentioning this so that you’ll know that the ONLY Steam feature active in fully-modded Morrowind will be tracking of your play time. You won’t be able to capture screenshots or video without turning off a large portion of the game’s graphical updates, and there are no integrated achievements, as Morrowind predates these. Use this information to help you decide whether you’d prefer to purchase the game on Steam, or if the lack of Steam features will make it worthwhile for you to hunt down some discs.

Morrowind GOTY has also recently become available on GOG.com, and by all accounts looks to be fully moddable. It also comes with free copies of Elder Scrolls I and II, Arena and Daggerfall!

Unfortunately if you purchase the game as a download from Gamefly, Impulse, or anyone other than Steam or GOG, you won’t be able to apply some of the most important gameplay fixes, as you will need to alter the .exe and their DRM prevents this. The Steam and GOG versions are the only downloadable Morrowind versions that are completely moddable, but as I mentioned, regarding Steam, you will need to disable the in-game overlay. Either way, get yourself a mod-compatible version of Morrowind (discs, Steam, GOG or another DRM-free edition of which I may be unaware). You will be glad you did. As for me, I own both non-Steam AND Steam versions of Morrowind, so everything I’m doing in this blog will be tested on both.


First things first: If you have the Steam version, you can ignore most of the instructions below. Just install it normally to ~\Steam\SteamApps\common or whatever Steam does. Granted, you should still read all this, as some of it may pertain to you, but don’t worry about installing expansions or official patches; those are automatically included in the Steam version. If this is your very first Steam game and you still have a chance to decide where your Steam directory will go, don’t put it in Program Files; mine is under C:\Games\Steam. Likewise, if you install a non-Steam version, don’t do it in the default C:\Program Files directory, as that can cause problems with some versions of Windows— well, Vista, technically, and who uses that on purpose anymore? But still, be aware that Morrowind and the extenders we’ll be installing need administrator rights and write privileges, and the default Program Files directory doesn’t always like that. From now on, here are some assumptions you should make:

1. It’s Windows
2. It’s Morrowind
3. They are both buggy beyond all possible good sense

Keeping those things in mind, it’s better to just go out of our way to make sure problems do not occur, even if your version of Windows SUPPOSEDLY does not have that problem. Morrowind is a game that will crash for unheard-of reasons at any given time, and we can never be sure if your particular issues are caused because you installed the game on the second Thursday of November under a gibbous moon, so let’s just focus on things we know: installing outside the default C:\Program Files directory seems to be a good idea for most people.

Also, I can’t stress this enough: run everything as administrator. This includes Morrowind.exe and all programs I tell you to use in this guide. Here’s how to do this on Windows 7; use “OPTION FIVE” for best results. And remember, if something in this guide doesn’t work, the very first thing you should do is make sure that “Run as Administrator” is checked! It’s also a good idea to exclude your Morrowind folder from all antivirus shields and scans— this is REQUIRED if you use Avast 2014, otherwise one of the patches we add later will cause the game to not even open (IT TOOK ME 3 HOURS OF FRUSTRATION TO FIND THIS OUT. BE GRATEFUL).

Anyway, if you have the Game of the Year edition, you won’t need the official patches, but either way the installation instructions are going to be the same up to that point. Install Morrowind first (allow it to also install the construction set), and then Tribunal, and then Bloodmoon (you will be asked each time if you want to “Register online now;” it’s unnecessary). Now, if you’re not sure as to whether you actually have GOTY and may need the official patch, start the game. When you get to the main menu, check the lower left corner of the screen for the version information. If it doesn’t say 1.6.1820, you need the official Bloodmoon patch which can be found here. There are both US and EU versions available, so make sure you download the right one. It will be an .exe; just run it to update your game. If your copy of Morrowind is already at 1.6.1820, the patch is not needed and might actually cause problems.

Morrowind GOTY 1.6.1820

The Morrowind version number to look for.

In case you have reached this point, and are wondering: Yes, you really do need both expansions. They both add some core functionality to the game that you will seriously miss out on unless you have them. If you have Morrowind on Steam, you will have both expansions as well as the correct patch already. Yay!

Once Morrowind is installed, re-insert your Morrowind disc (it’s the only one you’ll actually need for playing), run the game and set your screen resolution. If you have a widescreen display (as most do) and you set the game to fullscreen, your aspect ratio is going to be messed up since Morrowind predates widescreen monitors and will stretch to fit. We will fix this later, but for now just play in a window or something for a few minutes to make sure everything is working, and because some of the things we are going to upgrade require the game to have been opened at least once.

NOTE: Resist the temptation to make a character you intend on keeping for the entire game. We are in a testing stage, and some later addons may recommend starting a new game for best results. There is a strong possibility that later in the addon stage, your first character may need to be taken out back and shot. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

So, here I am going through character generation with the completely unmodified game.

All right, everything seems to be in order! The NPCs are, by turns, condescending, rude, bored, and annoying. Looks like a functioning Morrowind to me! Maybe this is strange, but later in the game I actually miss the beginning when most people barely tolerate you and you have nothing but a set of smelly-looking clothes and a stolen dagger.

Continue to Part 2, in which we tweak the game for widescreen monitors.

1 comment

  1. Donna M. Kazo

    Thanks for bringing us along on this epic (and funny) journey.

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