So you’ve bought Minecraft, spent a bit of time mucking around in a blocky wonderland, and want a little more out of the experience. That’s where mods come in.

Single Player Modding

Installing mods for the single player client is a bit of a convoluted process. The steps will vary from mod to mod so you’ll want to follow the instructions listed on the particular mod you’re looking for, but the general technique is the same. I’ll walk through installing one mod on Windows: Minecraft user jamioflan’s World War 2 Guns. This mod adds MP40s and Bazookas and the like, to exact vengeance on the nefarious hordes of zombies and creepers.

Jamioflan’s forum post will provide links to the mod proper, and a few necessary files: ModLoader, AudioMod, and ModLoaderMP. Those three are tools developed by the Minecraft community to allow mods to function properly. You’re also going to need a compression tool — WinRAR or 7-Zip — so grab one (I use 7-Zip) if you don’t have an app handy already.

Our first step will be to find the minecraft.jar file. Hit the Start button, and type " %appdata% " into the search window (without quotes) to get to Windows’ application data folder. The folder ".minecraft" will be right at the top. Open the folder titled "bin" and look for the file "minecraft.jar" — this is where the magic happens.

Your first step: make a copy of minecraft.jar, and stash it somewhere. If something goes wrong, you’ll want a clean copy to start over with. Right click on the original minecraft.jar, and open the archive with Win-RAR / 7-Zip. You’ll be presented with a great big list of files in a new window. Follow the instructions provided by the mod here: for the WW2 Guns mod, that involves copying all of the ".class" files from ModLoader, ModloaderMP, AudioMod, and the WW2 Guns mod into the open minecraft.jar archive.

The last and most important step: delete the "META-INF" folder inside the minecraft.jar file, or Minecraft will just crash when you start it up. Close the file when you're done.

And we’re set! This particular mod requires collecting materials, so if you want to see if it worked or not, create a New World in "Create" mode, and spawn a few guns to see them in action.

Server-Modding

Fortunately, installing mods on the server client is much easier.

The first step is to will be to get CraftBukkit installed and running on the server. The bukkit wiki offers instructions, as well as a pair of simple applications that will get us started without any code-wrangling. I’ll be walking through those.

The first option, “How to Install Bukkit (Newb Friendly),” is a simple batch file that will look for any server mods, and fire up your server with them enabled. Your first step once you’ve downloaded the file will be to double-click the html shortcut file labelled “Latest CraftBukkit Download” to get the latest version of the CraftBukkit java executable.

Stick that and the CraftBukkit Starter.bat file you’ve already downloaded into your Minecraft server, and double click the batch file. It’ll open up a console window, create a fresh world (or tap into yours), and start your server up.

The second option is a bit more robust: ImminentFate’s CraftBukkit Installer. This one is Windows only, and you’ll need to install the program onto your PC. Once it’s running, the app will list all of the plugins it finds. It’s definitely the more user-friendly of the two options, with a clean interface and neat features, including managing worlds and attempting to automatically update all of the plugins you’re using.

Whichever option you choose, installing mods is simple: download one, and dump it into the "plugins" folder that either app creates.

Finding Mods

Now all that’s left to do is find these mods I keep talking about. The official Minecraft forums’ Mods section is a good place to start, if you’re just looking to browse new, popular additions to your experience. These can range from adding new blocks and tools, to full-fledged conversions, turning Minecraft into an entirely new experience. Many of them are technically cheats — mods that will tell you exactly where rare minerals are, or add macro commands to control your health levels and the like. Use those at your own discretion.

For the server side of things, the Bukkit dev website hosts an exceptionally large number of mods. These are arranged into handy categories, which makes it a bit easier to track an individual item down.

So many options! I’ve already linked to the World War 2 Gun Mod, and that particular forum post offers up a lot more in the same vein.

On the PCWorld Minecraft server, Dynmap is invaluable. It creates a map of the server, complete with real-time updates, which makes it easy to figure out where everyone is and coordinate efforts. Once it’s installed, you can simply point a browser to a URL, and get map of the server, complete with real-time updates and chatting functionality. It makes it really easy to figure out where everyone is, and coordinate efforts: I like to keep it open on my iPad for a birds-eye view of what’s going on while I’m the deep in subterranean crypts.

Found a mod you can’t live without? Let us know! And if you haven’t already, be sure to check out the guide to getting started in Minecraft, and setting up your own server.

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