Let me start out by saying I am no where near smart enough to figure this stuff out on my own. All of this is lifted off of the official bethesda and steam forums. This is just to put it all in one spot and for people that aren't a part of those forums.
Note: If you get the "Domain Blocked" frog ice cube picture thing when clicking on the pictures then just click and hold on the links and drag it to your address bar. Should load then.
All of these changes are made by altering a file called SkyrimPrefs.ini, which is located at:
Just open it using notepad
Add shadows onto your trees and some terrain objects:
Increase shadow quality drastically but with a catch:
The catch being for some reason the shadow quality is directly linked with the shadow draw distance.
So your choice is between having really blocky shadows that even far away objects have, or have really nice and smooth shadows that only relatively close objects have.
fShadowDistance=8000.0000 (or whatever number is there depending on your graphical settings)
fShadowDistance=????.0000 (this depends on your preference of what I said above)
Here are comparisons of different levels -
I personally have mine set to 2500.0000. I found that to be a great balance between the two. And decreasing this number will GREATLY increase your performance. I went from 20-40 FPS to rarely going under 60 FPS after dropping it down to 2500.
Grass and trees appear further away:
fTreeLoadDistance=xxxx.0000 (Max 300000.0000)
fGrassStartFadeDistance=xxxx.0000 (Max 25000.0000)
This is once again a simple matter of preference as increasing these numbers could/will have a significant negative impact on your FPS.
Trees - http://img638.imageshack.us/img638/3398/defaulttree.jpg
Grass - http://img845.imageshack.us/img845/127/defaultgrass.jpg
After (at max settings):
Trees - http://img689.imageshack.us/img689/16/maxtree.jpg
Grass - http://img849.imageshack.us/img849/5790/maxgrass.jpg
These are the only graphical changes in this file that really make a significant difference, in my opinion, that can't be changed with the skyrim launcher.
Increase your field of view (FOV)
1. Just hit the "~" button and this will open the console
2. Then just type in FOV xx (replace x's with your desired FOV)
3. Hit "~" again to close the console
Increasing your field of view basically just gives you more peripheral vision. Or in other words your vision goes from \/ to \__/, if that makes sense.
For 16:10 monitors I'd recommend 80-85
For 16:9 monitors I'd recommend 90-95
But it all comes down to preference. Just mess with it and see what suits your fancy.
Get rid of your compass (For the extremely hardcore folks):
1. Go to C:\Users\*YourUserName*\Documents\My Games\Skyrim again
2. Open SkyrimPrefs.ini again and search for [Interface] section
3. Change bShowCompass=1 to bShowCompass=0
For people having some audio issues and/or random crashes to the desktop:
This may or may not help.
1.Go to Start -> Control Panel -> Sound
2. In the Playback tab, right click on Speakers (or whatever has a green tick next to it), then click Properties
3. In the advanced tab on this new window, select 24 bit, 44100Hz (Studio Quality) in the drop down menu
Potential random framerate drop fix and performance increase:
Let me preface this by saying this didn't work for me and only caused more problems, but some people say it does wonders for them.
Simply add iPresentInterval=0 to the [Display] section in the SkyrimPrefs.ini AND Skyrim.ini, which is in that same folder.
If it makes things worse, like it did me, just change the value to 1 or remove it entirely.
Let me know if you have any questions or anything to add.