Changing Display Settings
Make Flight Simulator look the way you want it to
The Display Settings dialog box includes four tabs: Scenery, Aircraft,
Hardware, and Weather.
When you installed Flight Simulator, the setup program automatically chose
the best overall display settings for your computer's hardware. The Display
Settings dialog box lets you customize Flight Simulator to look and perform
the way you want it to. You may want to display higher detail in airports and
cities, or you may want greater definition in mountains and valleys. You can
also choose whether to display special effects and shadows.
Depending on your computer, display settings may affect the performance of
Flight Simulator. Experiment with the settings to find the combination of
performance and appearance that you like best.
Global Scenery Quality
Use the Global Scenery Quality to adjust the overall quality of the
scenery in Flight Simulator. Higher settings offer better-looking graphics, but
may affect performance.
Terrain Mesh Complexity
The hills, valleys, mountains, and canyons in the Flight Simulator world are
drawn using real-world digital elevation data. The mesh includes a map of points
at different elevations. The more points that get drawn at any time, the more
detail in the terrain, and the more computing power required.
Higher settings include more points; lower settings drop less-significant
points. In the two pictures above, note the difference between the Terrain
Mesh Complexity settings of 80 (left) and zero (right). Regardless of your
computer's power, Terrain Mesh Complexity settings above 80 may impact
Terrain Texture Size
Textures on the ground include roads, rivers, farm fields, shorelines, and
the textures underlying cities. Fly at high altitudes and the difference between
high and low Terrain Texture Size settings becomes unnoticeable. High
settings will make flights at low altitude more interesting.
Notice how sharp and detailed the roads, fields, and shorelines are in the
picture on the left, using a high Terrain Texture Size setting. Even on a
modestly powered computer, high settings will have little effect on performance.
This slider increases or decreases the level of terrain object detail. You
must have this slider above the None setting to see water reflection
The water effects detail creates animated textures that simulate the
appearance of breaking waves, reflections, and a rolling wave visual effect.
Higher settings may affect simulator performance on some computers.
Note: You must have the Terrain detail slider set above None
in order to see any water reflection effects.
Note: Not all video cards support water effects. If your video card
does not support these effects, you will not see water effects in the simulator
even when this slider is moved to the right.
This setting smoothes the transition between textures at dawn and dusk.
Selecting extended terrain textures creates more detail in distant.
In the two pictures above, note that the mountain in the picture on the left
includes more detail than the mountain in the picture on the right. Selecting
this setting may affect simulator performance on some computers.
Special Effects Detail
Special Effects Detail manages special effects in Flight Simulator
like smoke, fountains, and fireworks that are created using units called
sprites. The more sprites displayed, the better the effect looks. Higher
settings may affect simulator performance on some computers.
Scenery complexity affects the density of "non-autogen" buildings
and scenery objects; that is, monuments, custom buildings in cities and
airports, or any object that requires nongeneric models or nongeneric textures.
Higher settings may affect simulator performance on some computers.
The picture above at left shows a city with extremely dense scenery
complexity. Notice the difference in the picture on the right, which has very
sparse scenery complexity. Higher settings may affect simulator performance on
Autogen creates generic scenery objects, such as trees and buildings. The
objects appear in the distance as you approach them.
The picture above on the left shows the maximum autogen setting; the picture
on the right displays the normal autogen setting. Note the greater number of
trees and buildings in the picture on the left. Higher settings may affect
simulator performance on some computers.
Add-On Dynamic Scenery
Flight Simulator has replaced its older dynamic scenery objects with objects
that use artificial intelligence, although some compatible third-party scenery
packages still use dynamic scenery. Dynamic scenery includes moving aircraft,
boats, and ground vehicles. The Dynamic Scenery slider controls the objects
included in third-party scenery software; this control is unavailable if no
dynamic scenery has been added to Flight Simulator.
Ground Scenery Casts
Buildings and other ground objects can cast shadows. Selecting this setting
may affect simulator performance on some computers.
When the sun comes into direct view, the glare causes an effect of washing
out other objects in view.
When the sun comes into direct view, the glare causes streaks of light like
those seen when shooting a camera into bright light.
Aircraft Display Options
- Global Aircraft Quality
- Virtual Cockpit Gauge Quality
- Aircraft Cast Shadows
- Landing Lights
Global Aircraft Quality
This setting adjusts the overall quality of the appearance of aircraft and
aircraft effects. A higher setting will provide better-looking graphics, but may
affect performance on some computers.
Virtual Cockpit Gauge Quality
This setting affects the sharpness of the cockpit instruments in virtual
cockpit view. To learn more about virtual cockpits, see Using
When you select this setting, sunlight and ground features will reflect on
the skin of the aircraft.
Aircraft Cast Shadows
When you select this setting, the aircraft cast shadows onto ground objects
When you select this setting, aircraft landing lights will illuminate ground
Weather Display Options
- Global Weather Quality
- Sight Distance
- Cloud Draw Distance
- 3-D Cloud Percentage
- Cloud Detail
Global Weather Quality
Use the Global Weather Quality option to adjust the overall appearance
of weather features in Flight Simulator. Higher settings result in
better-looking graphics but may affect performance.
Note: Rendering solid overcast conditions in Flight Simulator requires
a lot of video processing power. If your computer does not have sufficient
power, Flight Simulator will automatically create less-than-solid overcast
layers. You can adjust weather visuals on the Weather tab of the Display
Settings dialog box; higher settings may result in decreased simulator
performance. If you're practicing IFR approaches and the clouds do not form a
solid overcast layer, try setting a low visibility layer at ground level.
Sight distance adjusts the distance away from you at which Flight
Simulator draws objects when visibility is set to maximum. A higher setting
means that Flight Simulator will begin to draw objects when they are farther
away, preventing them from suddenly popping into the scenery. Higher settings
may result in decreased simulator performance.
Cloud Draw Distance
Cloud draw distance adjusts the distance away from you at which Flight
Simulator draws clouds. Drawing clouds into the distance creates a more
realistic look but may result in slow simulator performance.
3-D Cloud Percentage
3-D clouds offer a more realistic appearance, but drawing 3-D clouds requires
more computing power. Experiment with this slider to obtain the cloud effect you
want. Even with a moderate-to-low setting on the 3-D cloud percentage
slider, you may not notice that Flight Simulator actually draws distant clouds
in 2-D. Higher settings may result in decreased simulator performance.
Cloud detail adjusts both the type and density of coverage of cloud
layers. Flight Simulator creates simple clouds in 2-D, which requires less
computing power to create, and detailed clouds in more-realistic 3-D. Because
3-D clouds require more computing power, Flight Simulator will determine how
much of the sky will be covered by an overcast layer based on your computer's
configuration. For example, if your computer is equipped with high-end graphics
hardware, and you set an 8/8 cloud layer in the User-defined Weather
dialog box, you will see a solid overcast layer in the simulator. On a
less-powerful computer, Flight Simulator might draw a 6/8 cloud layer, even if
you set the cloud layer to 8/8. To override these adjustments for slower
computers, you can use the Cloud coverage density slider to force an 8/8
layer to look solid by moving the slider to 100 percent. However, high settings
may result in decreased simulator performance.
Hardware Display Options
- Device Name
- Target Frame rate
- Available Display Resolutions
- Render to Texture
- Transform and Lighting
- MIP Mapping Quality
- Global Texture Size
- Hardware-rendered Lights
Depending on your system, adjusting the hardware settings may provide
better graphics appearance or better system performance when running Flight
To display the hardware display dialog box
- On the main screen, click Settings, and then click Display.
- On the Options menu, point to Settings, and then click Display.
- Click the Hardware tab.
- Make the desired changes to hardware settings.
- Click OK.
Some computer systems are equipped with more than one video graphics card;
Select the card that provides the best performance. You must run Flight
Simulator in full screen mode to take advantage of a 3-D graphics accelerator
Target Frame Rate
In a movie theater, the film generally runs past the projector's lens at a
rate of 24 frames per second. At this speed, the human eye cannot detect the
fact that the film is actually a series of rapidly changing still pictures.
Like a movie, animated graphics are rendered on a computer screen one frame at
a time. This happens at a high frame rate so it seems like a constant picture.
For some computers, it may be advantageous to limit the target frame rate.
By limiting the upper end of the frame rate, the computer doesn't spend any
more resources than it requires to render the selected frame rate. Resources
not used to increase the frame rate beyond that setting can be used for other
tasks like rendering clouds or drawing scenery in the distance. Experiment to
find the frame rate that works best for you.
Available Display Resolutions
A computer screen is made up of tiny dots called pixels. The more pixels
used to draw an image on screen—the higher its display resolution—the more
detail is visible.
The numbers in the Available Display Resolutions list indicate the
number of pixels displayed as well as the depth of color. For example, 800 x
600 x 32 refers to 800 pixels x 600 pixels x 32 million colors. A setting of
1280 x 720 x 32 will show more detail than a setting of 800 x 600 x 32, and
objects on the screen will also appear smaller. These settings only affect the
display when running Flight Simulator in full-screen mode, not in windowed
mode. For more about screen modes, see Using
Views and Windows.
Only the resolutions supported by your video card will be displayed in the
list. Experiment with resolutions to find the one that works best for you.
Render to Texture
Certain effects, such as clouds in the distance, are generated by rendering
them to textures. If you're having display problems, try clearing this check
Transform and Lighting
Flight Simulator offers this advanced hardware option to make better use of
your video card to execute transformations and lighting effects. Performance
may be improved, but your system may become unstable if your video adapter
cannot support this option. If the game stops responding or you experience
other instability, disable this option.
Antialiasing removes jagged edges on terrain and objects. Higher settings
mean smoother edges, but may reduce performance on some computers.
Filtering makes textures appear less blocky. When no filtering is selected,
every pixel in the graphics textures appears as a square, which may improve
performance on some computers. If you're having performance problems, try
selecting None in the Filtering list.
Bilinear filtering samples the textures better than no filtering but
may introduce flickering in the distance or on edges with textures.
Trilinear filtering is the highest level of texture filtering and
reduces flickering considerably (however, not all graphics cards can handle
this option correctly). The difference between bilinear and trilinear
filtering is most noticeable when you're moving in Flight Simulator.
MIP Mapping Quality
MIP Mapping creates the illusion of distance. When you select this,
performance may decrease depending on the capabilities of your 3-D graphics
card. If the frame rate decreases significantly when MIP mapping is enabled,
you'll want to set the slider to None.
Flight Simulator illuminates objects using more than one light source.
Think of it as a movie set where many lights can be set up around a sound
Using the Hardware-Rendered Lights option, you can select how many
lights you want the hardware (that is, your graphics card) to display. One
light is used for the sun, and other lights are used for things like panel
lighting, aircraft lights, and casting light on the surfaces of the aircraft.
Experiment with this setting to find the level that works best for you.
Selecting more lights may affect performance.
Global Texture Size
Global texture size changes texture size for most textures,
including scenery textures and aircraft textures. It does not change texture
sizes for panel textures. This setting will override the setting chosen for
terrain texture size on the scenery tab.
Resetting Default Values
You can easily return to the default display settings at any time.