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Caution ME3Explorer is a fan-created toolset. You use it at your own risk. It's not unusual for users to encounter bugs and other problems that will require time and effort to troubleshoot. If you are unwilling to deal with this possibility, we recommend that you don't use the toolset.
Tip We recommend that before you install the toolset you take the time to read An Intro to Mass Effect Mods. Many players find that using mods with the ME trilogy is more difficult than other games.
Refresh icon This article has been updated for ME3Explorer v3.0.

The purpose of this article is to provide step-by-step guidance on how to set up ME3Explorer for the first time. It explains important terminology, information vital to toolset functionality, and should be read by every user.

Requirements

Prior to downloading ME3Explorer, your system should meet two requirements.

.NET Framework

Beginning with v3.0, ME3Explorer is supported on Windows 7 SP1 and above, and requires .NET Framework 4.6.1. It's been our experience that keeping NET Framework updated via Windows Update will prevent strange and hard-to-troubleshoot problems with the toolset.

Using ME3Explorer is also dependent on at least one game in the trilogy being installed. The toolset can be opened without any games present and some dev tools will function, but the bulk of mod installation tools will not be operable.

Antivirus Software

Older versions of the toolset can have problems with false-positive AV reports due to the inclusion of Texmod.exe. This file has been removed in v3.0+, so the problem should no longer occur.

Download Toolset

There are two releases of ME3Explorer available at any given time: Stable and Beta. Either build can be used to create or install mods, but they are geared toward different audiences. Occasionally, installing a mod will require a specific version specified in the mod's Readme.txt. With the release of ME3Explorer v2.0+, this should be a very rare occurrence.

Stable Release

The Stable Release of ME3Explorer is hosted on Nexusmods. This is the preferred version of the toolset for most mod users. Beginning with ME3Explorer v2.0, we no longer advocate everyone "updating to the latest rev". Instead, we recommend that most users stick to the stable.

To update the stable, simply return to the Nexus page and download a different release. There's a link in the toolset's main window to make this easy.

Beta Release

Beta Releases of the toolset are hosted on GitHub and aimed at mod developers. They contain the most recent changes but may have more bugs. If you encounter a bug in the most recent Beta, please consult the Reporting Bugs article before reporting it as an Issue on GitHub. We no longer accept bug reports on the forums.

With the move to GitHub, the Beta now must be updated manually. Use the link in the toolset to take you directly to the GitHub Releases page.

Tip If you're a developer and want to contribute code to the project, please see the Contribute section on the Home page.

Initial Setup

ME3Explorer does not need to be "installed." Just unpack the compressed folder (preferably not onto the desktop or C: drive) and place a shortcut to the ME3Explorer.exe in a convenient location (taskbar, desktop, etc).

Beginning with revision 738, the toolset will immediately check the status of ME3 DLC when opened. If any DLC are still packed in SFARs, an "unpack" dialog will be triggered. Neither ME1 nor ME2 have SFARs.

Allowing this procedure is HIGHLY recommended. If you want to use textures or MOD files with the toolset, then it is mandatory. There are consequences to unpacking, however, so it's important to understand these before granting permission:

  • Initial Setup in v3.0
  • Proper paths detected; step 1 complete
  • Unpacking DLC in v3.0
  • Completed setup
  • The SFARs will be emptied. Files are fully unpacked; they no longer exist in the SFAR.
  • SFARs cannot be "repacked". If you ever need to revert back to a vanilla SFAR, you must have a manual backup. If not, you'll be required to re-install the game or re-download it through Origin.
  • The unpacked files will be the only copies on your computer. This means that you should backup your SFARs both before and after unpacking.

DLC unpacking is much faster than it used to be and is actually very convenient. It allows each ME3 DLC to have a file structure similar to the base game, making them easier to browse and manipulate.

ME3Explorer versions 3.0+ contain a much clearer, guided Initial Setup Wizard. Just follow the directions in the window.

If unpacking happens to be inconvenient at that moment or if you absolutely don't want to unpack, click the red "x" to abort the process. The dialog will close and you'll be able to use the toolset. Next time ME3Explorer is opened, it will re-appear.

Caution Do NOT delete the Default.sfar after the unpacking process. This file is necessary for the game to recognize and properly load DLC.

GUI Overview

ME3Explorer v3.0 ushers in a new GUI that is a significant departure from all previous versions. This section serves as a brief orientation.

Main Window

The toolset now opens to a semi-populated main window that we call the "CIC". This replaces the blank, desktop-like feel of all previous versions. Instead, it's filled with content:

  • Empty CIC
  • CIC with Favorites
  • Infopanel with search results
  • Search Bar — All tools in the toolset have assigned tags at can be searched via this bar. Results sisplay in an infopanel that flies out to the right.
  • Links — All links to toolset sites are found to the right of the Search Bar.
  • Favorites — A new feature with v3.0, the bulk of the CIC is devoted to favorited tools as customized by the user. If more than 14 are favorited, an arrow will appear in the upper right.
  • Install Mods — This section contains any tools necessary to install mods. No need for most users to dive further into the toolset. Scroll over a tool displays the name and triggers an infopanel with description.

Settings

The toolset has a limited number of settings that are self-explanatory.

  • Game Paths — Most users should never need to adjust these, as they are detected (and verified by you) during the Initial Setup process. If you ever re-install your game(s) to a different drive, then these would require adjustment. Altered paths are saved instantly. For reference, here are some default paths for ME3:
   Game/Root -- C:\Program Files (x86)\Origin Games\Mass Effect 3
   DLC -- C:\Program Files (x86)\Origin Games\Mass Effect 3\BIOGame\DLC
  • Advanced Settings — Contains a small number of options to customize toolset usage.
1. ME3Explorer Setup: Checking this disables the Initial Setup Wizard permanently, so DLC unpacking never occurs. If you attempt to use Texplorer, it will only treescan on base game files. If you attempt to run a .mod file, it will only install to base game content. In short, modification and browsing of DLC content requires unpacking.
2. Infopanel Flyouts: Veteran users should find this useful, but new users will likely want to keep tools descriptions on until they familiarize themselves with the necessary tools.
3. Always on Top: Keeps the entire main window (including Sidebar and Infopanels) always on top.

Sidebar

Sidebar functionality is mostly dedicated to mod creators and has several features:

  • Sidebar collapsed
  • Create Mods menu
  • Utilities menu
  • Logo — Click the toolset logo to return to the CIC from any tool menu; click again to collapse the entire toolset to the sidebar.
  • Details — Under the logo is information on versioning, credits, and an icon that opens the Debug window at any time. DebugOutput.txt is located in the same directory as the ME3Explorer executable.
  • Create Mods — A tool menu dedicated to all developer tools that edit game files directly. Tools are organized by various categories; names highlighted in yellow have been favorited as an example.
  • Utilities -- A tool menu dedicated to various utilities that assist in the creation of mods. These are tools that do not edit game files. Tools are organized by various categories; names highlighted in yellow have been favorited as an example.

Task Pane

Also present on the Sidebar is the Task Pane, a new feature implemented with v3.0. The Task Pane was built with mod creators in mind and serves as a window organizer, tool management, and file summary center. A brief overview is below.

Task pane
  • The Task Pane is organized by file. Information is organized into a rectangular block and labeled with an icon to indicate the parent game.
  • All tools using the same file appear on the left under its name. Any changes made in these tools will be displayed immediately in the other tools. In short, tools share files. Clicking on a tool will bring up the window. Scrolling over a tool will trigger the infopanel detail.
  • Data regarding the location of file, the number of tools utilizing it, size, last save date/time, and size is on the left. Clicking the Save button saves all changes all tools have made to the file. Red text indicates unsaved changes.
  • On the far right is the infopanel detail, which is tool-specific. It displays the tool name, a thumbnail of current appearance, file name, and options to View or Close the tool.

Backup Games

As you are installing ME3Explorer for the first time, your game(s) should be in 100% unmodded condition. This is frequently called, "vanilla".

Unlike other games, reverting file changes is a part of modding Mass Effect. Backing up now will prevent you from having to re-download or re-install the game(s) later, when it becomes necessary to roll back changes. Copying and pasting from a manual backup is much faster than having to re-download 10+ GB. Therefore, before proceeding with this guide, take the time to backup all game installs.

For Mass Effect, navigate to the root directory and either copy the entire ..\Mass Effect folder, or copy these specific subfolders:

  • ..\Binaries
  • ..\BIOGame
  • ..\DLC

For Mass Effect 2/3, navigate to the root directory and either copy the entire folder, or copy these specific subfolders:

  • ..\Binaries
  • ..\BIOGame

Place all files/folder in a location on your hard drive where they are easy to find in the future. Be sure to mark them as vanilla copies.

Origin Settings

Origin

Game updates should be disabled. Origin updates can be enabled at your discretion.

Origin's capacity to monitor trilogy games and install "updates" presents a problem to modded files. There are many reports of Origin spontaneously reverting files to vanilla state, resulting in broken mods, confused users, bogus bug reports, and frustrated mod creators.

Modders expect users to keep this "feature" turned OFF. You may keep Origin online, and you may keep Origin's updates automatic, but you must turn Origin's automatic updates for games off.

If you prefer a 100% foolproof way of preventing Origin from tampering with your games, keep the program in "Offline Mode" and build manual firewall exceptions into Windows Firewall for both it and each game you have installed under Origin. Be aware that doing this will also make it impossible to play multi-player in ME3.

DLC Patcher

Caution Do not proceed with the rest of the steps in this article unless you have backed up your game installs.
Dlc auth

ME3 DLC Authorization Error.

When modding the Mass Effect series, both Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 require "Patchers" if you plan to modify DLC. Non-trilogy edition ME2 installs necessitate this so the game can read new DLC mods (modifying existing BW DLC works fine). ME3, installed under Origin, will throw an "authorization error" at the Main Menu when it detects modified DLC or new DLC. ME1 doesn't have this problem as far as we know.

Each game requires its own patcher. The current patcher for ME2 is a set of DLL files by ErikJS. Just download and follow the supplied instructions.

The original DLC Patcher for ME3 was an EXE file created by Warrantyvoider. This type of patcher should no longer be used and has been supplanted by a DLL patcher via the same author.

To use this patcher:

  • Click here to download the patcher.
  • Unzip the binkw32.rar. If your computer doesn't have the proper program to decompress a RAR file, download 7zip.
  • Copy both DLL files into ME3's ..\Binaries\Win32\.
  • Allow the overwrite when prompted.

There are two alternate versions of the ME3 DLC Patcher to be aware of, both created from Warrantyvoider's original work. One is by ErikJS, housed at the same link provided above. The other is by Heff. Both contain a logging tool which can be invaluable for modders troubleshooting issues. They are installed in the same manner as Warrantyvoider's version.

Tip Most ME3 DLC mods (e.g., ThaneMOD, MEHEM, EGM) include DLC Patch DLLs in their install. It isn't a problem to have more than one mod install these, as one will just overwrite the other.

Installing Mods

Before installing mods, everyone should read An Intro to Mass Effect Mods. It will provide a very brief overview of all file types present in the Mass Effect trilogy, introduce you to valid mod types and formats (including DLC mods), and provide guidance on the proper install order of mods. Yes, install order matters for Mass Effect mods.

If you're setting up ME3Explorer for the first time, there's a good chance you are about to use it to install new textures. Even if you don't plan to use new textures, if you want the option to browse trilogy textures you must go through a special setup procedure with the Texplorer tool. Finish reading this article, then proceed to Texplorer.

Uninstalling Mods

It's important to realize that most mods for Mass Effect cannot be uninstalled with a simple click of the button, like those for Skyrim or DAO. Instead, uninstalling mods is a matter of deleting files/folders and/or "vanillaing". Large content mods may come with automatic installers and uninstallers, but these are the exception to the rule. In many cases, uninstalling a mod means uninstalling all mods. This is another reason why creating a manual backup of your game is so important.

There is a right way and a wrong way to vanilla when Origin is involved. For instructions on how to properly vanilla your game, see Troubleshooting: How to Vanilla.

Help + Bugs

It's very likely that at some point while using the toolset you will have a question or run into a problem. When this happens, this wiki should be your first source of information. Access it quickly via the main window by using the link adjacent to the Search Bar.

Consult the page for the tool you're using and see if it provides any information related to your question. Don't forget the FAQs at the bottom of the article. If this doesn't help, check some of the other User or Developer Resources.

For users running into issues as they try to install mods, posting a help request on the forum should be a last resort, only after following all directions contained in Troubleshooting: General. This article will also explain what to do in the case of a bug.

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