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Finding Problem Custom Content
You're playing the game and something strange is happening. Maybe it's crashing, or perhaps it's not working quite as it should. You've read and tried the steps in Game Problem guide and you've removed your package files or mods folder, and you know the problem is a mod/package. But the trouble is, you have hundreds or thousands of files in the mods folder, how can you find out which one(s) are the problem?
Whether you have downloaded all your package files/mods into one folder or have separated and categorized them into subfolders, it can be tricky to figure out which file(s) is causing the problem when your game is acting strangely. There are many tools you can use for scanning your files, such as S3PE, Dashboard or Process Monitor, which is explained in the Package File Lag Guide which you should use before continuing this guide, if you haven't already done so.
- It is advisable to back up your game files before you begin doing this. There is a full guide on backing up your game at: TS3 Back Ups.
Important Note About Saving
Once you have removed your custom content, everything that was using custom content will look wrong - any sims with custom skins or hair will have default skins and hair. Any objects in your sims' homes will disappear or revert to defaults - so where you might have had some plastic plants, you might suddenly have a cluster of statues, etc. Walls and floors using custom wallpapers and floor coverings will go bare, and any areas of ground that were using custom ground covers will flash blue. If you save your game with your custom content removed, anything that has reverted will then stay that way.
That's why you backed up your stuff before you start - if you do have to save while testing for whatever reason, then you can restore your User Files folder and your sims and houses will be fine.
First Things to Try
If you're having a problem, try the below methods first. This will generally find about 85% of problem files without having to sort through by halves.
Remove Recently Added Files
Use your common sense. If you have recently added files and began getting problems right after that, the problem is most likely to be with those new files. You can identify those most recently added files and try removing them first.
Sort By Date
If all of your files are just in the Mods/Packages folder, not in subfolders, the easiest method is to sort your Downloads folder by date.
Open your C:\Program Files\Electronic Arts\The Sims 3\Mods\Packages folder and sort by date as shown in the picture to the right.
Search By Date
If you separated your package files and keep multiple subfolders and you're not sure which ones have your newest files, search your Mods/Packages folder for the most recently added files.
You can narrow things down if you know the approximate dates you might have installed something.
Remove Most Likely Culprits
Certain items are more likely to cause problems than others. Often, the following sorts of files can cause problems in peoples' games:
- Core Mods
- Tuning Mods
- Script Mods
- Object Mods
If you are having issues with downloads, try sorting out your files of these type first to see if they are the problem.
Remove Unlikely Files
Before you begin the steps below for the 50% method, you may want to sort out files that you can be reasonably sure are safe and will not be causing major problems with your game. These files include:
- Ground Cover
- Recolours of Maxis clothing, hair, and accessories
By taking out these almost-always-completely-fine downloads, you can save yourself some time as you'll have less potentially-borked files to sort through.
Test Unlikely Files
Once you get them sorted out, you should go ahead and remove everything else from your Mods/Packages folder, and just test those files. While they are normally safe, there can be a problem if one of them gets corrupted, so you should rule them out before you continue. Take out everything but those unlikely files and test them on their own.
The 50% Method
If you have done all of the above and the problem still persists, even after removing recently-added files, tuning mods, core mods, script and object mods, and taking out the unlikely files to make sure they're not the problem, then you need to follow the below instructions to find where your problem file(s) may be located and remove it/them to fix your problem.
This is a bit tedious, yes, and it does take quite a bit of time, but it's a lot better than deleting your whole Mods/Packages folder or worse, going through your mods 1 at a time.
The 50% method works like this:
- Split your mods into 2 equal batches
- test one batch, then the other
- if one batch has the issue, split it into 2 batches and repeat
The nice thing about this method is after 3 tests, you have cleared 75% of your mods, much better than 1 at a time.
Read through the flow chart a few times before you begin - there is a very specific logic to the way you do this, and if you can wrap your mind around it and understand why it's done this way before you start, you'll find it a lot easier.
- Create temporary folders on your Desktop to hold files while you are moving them around according to the guide above. When you name them, call them something other than A, B, C or 1, 2, 3, etc. - we suggest silly names like Mongoose, Antelope, Badger, etc., as this makes it easier to remember which folder has which files.
- Make sure you follow the above chart exactly - if you skip a step or do it differently you may not catch all problem files or all conflicting files.
- When you're done, do the Final Tests listed below to ensure you have identified the correct files as problems.
Once you have divided and divided and tested and tested, you should have one or more files which you suspect are bad.
You should put ONLY those files you suspect into your Mods/Packages folder to ensure that they are indeed the problem. If they are, the problem will persist even with no other package files present.
Then, put back everything ELSE and test again, to make sure you didn't perhaps miss something. If all is well, then you know you have found the problem file(s).
Those Problem Files
Once you know you have the problem file(s) identified, you can delete it/them to remove the problem from your game and continue playing without issue.
- If it's a file you can identify, you could Private Message (PM) or or e-mail the creator and tell them about it.
- Please note that files which don't work in your game may work just fine in other people’s games - you may have another file which conflicts with it, the file got corrupted when you downloaded it, or it may not be compatible with the Expansion Packs you have.
- Don't post or send accusing messages, such as "This file broke my game! Don't use it, everyone!!!" as that's just inflammatory and doesn't help the creator identify what the problem might be.
- Give the creator as much information as you can: which expansion packs you have, what other hacks, mods and downloads, and what the problem was. Most creators are grateful for bug reports, and you may be highlighting a problem they were unaware of.
If You Saved
If, at any point, you had to save while sorting through your downloads, you should now restore the User Files folder that you backed up before you began this process, so all of the sims/lot contents that have reverted to defaults will go back to using your custom content... You did back up like we told you to, didn't you?
Sort Your Downloads
Also, you can sort out your Mods/Packages folder, so that you'll never have to do this again! You'll want to keep any Hacks, Hacked Objects, Core Mods, Custom Careers, Tuning Mods, Script Mods, and Sliders separate from your main downloads. You may also want to keep any Default Replacements separate, so you can easily switch those out if you decide you'd like to use a different one. Also see Game Help:TS3 Organizing Custom Content
If you find you keep getting problems, you may want to keep a separate folder in your Mods/Packages folder for new downloads - call it something like "Quarantine" or "Test"- then when you install new files, if you begin experiencing problems after installing new content, you can be reasonably sure the problem files are in the Quarantine or Test folder.
Big thanks go to Simsample for the original Amazing Patented 50% Method which has been somewhat redone for this FAQ.
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