Deployment Methods

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VortexLogoSmall.png This content applies to Vortex 0.16.8 and above.


A deployment method refers to how Vortex installs your mods so they load when the game is launched. When adding a supported game to Vortex, it will automatically choose the best deployment method for your game and system. It is not recommended that you switch the deployment method.

Hardlink Deployment (Default)

To understand Hardlink deployment you must first know how File Systems work. Files are stored in two parts, the actual file data and an index containing the filename, access rights, creation/modified dates and other information.

Hard Links work by creating a second entry in the index pointing to the new location but still referencing the original file data. This way there is no difference between the original and link files after the link is created.

Vortex adds your mods to the mod install path, then makes a hard link to your mod install location when deployed. Each deployment will check and rebuild all Hard links. On purging your mods these links are removed.

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Fully compatible with all applications
  • No impact on performance
  • Wide Operating System and File System support.
  • Mods are managed from their own folders, rather than the game mods folder.
  • Vortex Mods folder must be on the same partition as the game mods folder.
  • Due to the seamless nature of hard links, some applications may see the link as a copy of the original file and measure disc space as if it was duplicated.

Hardlink requirements

  • Full read/write access to the game's mods folder.
  • Mod Staging folder must be on the same partition (drive) as the game's mods folder.
  • The game must be initialised and the mods folder present (usually starting the game once will do this).
  • Your PC's file system must support hard links.
  • Vortex added as an exception within your Anti-Virus software (Not required in most cases but if Vortex informs you that it failed to clean up the canary file, then you should add the exception),


Hardlink vs Virtual File System (VFS)

A common question users ask is "How is Vortex deployment different to Mod Organizer's VFS?". Both methods achieve a similar result but go about it in different ways. The VFS used by Mod Organizer (originally designed by Tannin, Lead Vortex Developer) has been heavily customised to work with Gamebryo (Bethesda's Elder Scrolls and Fallout series) games and popular tools for that modding scene. Using this approach in Vortex would have the following drawbacks:

  • There is no stable high-quality VFS with a free-to-use licence.
  • VFS methods require extensive customisation to work with different tools, hard links are supported natively as they are no different to access normal system files.
  • Diagnosing errors in VFS deployment is considerably more difficult.
  • USVFS is a Windows-only feature, whereas hard links are supported on all platforms. This means Vortex would be easier to support Linux or Mac operating systems.
  • USVFS can often trigger false positives on anti-virus software.
  • Hard links have no performance impact on the game, whereas USVFS will access files considerably slower.

This is not to say that using VFS is worse or bad, simply that Vortex did not opt for this as a default deployment method.

Symlink Deployment

Symlinks, or symbolic links, are special files containing a reference to another file. They are supported directly by the low-level API of the operating system so any application trying to open a symbolic link will actually open the referenced file unless the application asks specifically not to be redirected.

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Good compatibility and availibility
  • Can link across partitions
  • Applications can recognise symlinks if it needs to.
  • Some games and applications block the use of symbolic links, the reasons for this are unclear.
  • On Windows you need admin rights to create a symbolic link, even when your regular account has write access to the source and destination folders.

Symlink requirements

  • The game must not be a Gamebryo title (Fallout/Elder Scrolls)
  • The game must support symlinks (See Games not compatible with Symlinks).)
  • Full access to the game's mods folder and the ability to elevate to administrator when required.

Games not compatible with Symlinks

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR Fallout 3
Fallout New Vegas Fallout 4 Fallout 4 VR
State of Decay No Mans Sky Factorio

Move Deployment

As of Vortex 0.16.8, this deployment method is still considered experimental so is only used by default where Hardlink deployment cannot be supported. Move deployment is a simpler deployment method which doesn't create links between the files and actually moves the files from the Vortex Mods folder to the game mods folder. For each file moved across it creates a .lnk file in the Vortex folder to allow a clean un-deployment.

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Fully compatible with all games
  • No impact on performance after the move is completed.
  • Wide Operating System and File System support.
  • Vortex Mods folder must be on the same partition as the game mods folder.
  • If Vortex is uninstalled while mods are deployed, you must delete the files manually from the mods folder.
  • Process is more error prone since the game directory contains real files.

Move deployment requirements

  • Mod Staging folder and game mods folder must be on the same parition.
  • Full read/write access to the game's mods folder.
  • The game must be initialised and the mods folder present (usually starting the game once will do this).