Optimizing Visuals And Performance
Making Flight Simulator really fly
Unless you have a high-end system that's customized for gaming, optimizing both Flight Simulator's performance and its visuals may be a bit of a tradeoff. Creating better looking game images on screen typically results in decreased performance because displaying complex, richly detailed, three-dimensional graphics puts a heavy load on your system.
|Using Views and Windows|
|Changing Display Settings|
|Changing Sound Settings|
|Changing Weather Settings|
|Changing Realism Settings|
|Changing Traffic Settings|
If you're not seeing the graphics quality and performance you expect, there are some simple choices that you can try in order to improve your Flight Simulator experience.
It's easy to make Flight Simulator look and perform better.
Improving Quality and Performance
To achieve maximum quality and performance, consider the following options.
Shut Down Other Applications
While you're flying, you probably won't need to be using other applications, such as word processors and e-mail programs, so close them to make more of your computer's processing power available for Flight Simulator.
Get a 3-D Graphics Accelerator Card
To display Flight Simulator graphics, your computer converts a three-dimensional world into a two-dimensional image. A 3-D graphics accelerator makes this task easier by taking some of the conversion burden off of the computer's main processor, leaving more resources free to handle the simulation's flight model. The result? Better performance and graphics quality.
To run Flight Simulator, your computer needs to have at least an 8 megabyte (MB) 3-D video card installed.
Once your card is installed, make sure that you:
If you have problems getting your 3-D card to work properly, make sure you've read the Readme file in the Flight Simulator directory on your hard drive, as well as the card manufacturer's documentation.
Install More Memory
Random access memory (RAM) is your computer's short-term memory. Generally, the more RAM there is, the faster your computer's processor can handle data. To run Flight Simulator, your computer needs to have at least:
Upgrade your System to a Faster Processor
To run Flight Simulator, your computer needs to have at least a 450 megahertz (MHz) processor. But the faster, the better!
Making a Tradeoff between Quality and Performance
If you want to spend an evening reading signs and billboards as you fly the Bell 206B JetRanger III helicopter down the glittering streets of Las Vegas, then you're probably willing to sacrifice a little performance for a better view. If, however, you want to test your instrument flying skills by guiding the Boeing 777–300 into Heathrow Airport during a storm, then smooth aircraft and instrument movement takes precedence over scenery details. No matter what kind of hardware you have, you can make some educated tradeoffs between graphics quality and performance.
Explore the following options to find the balance between quality and performance that's right for your needs.
Watch Your Windows
Flight Simulator runs in a window. The simulation's views and instrument panels are also windows. Increasing the size of windows and displaying multiple windows simultaneously decreases performance, so use as few windows as possible, and keep them as small as you can.
Change the Resolution
Depending on the type of video card and monitor you have, you can run Flight Simulator at a variety of screen resolutions. The software is designed to run at a minimum screen resolution of 800 × 600. If your system can handle it, a resolution of 1024 × 768 or higher is optimal. Remember, however, that as you increase resolution to see more detail, you may notice a decrease in performance. Experiment with different resolutions to find the best combination of detail and performance for your needs.
For more information about adjusting the screen resolution on your computer, see the apppropriate Windows Help topic.
Note that in full screen mode, Flight Simulator uses the resolution you set in the Display Settings dialog box, not your Windows desktop resolution.
Use Full Screen Mode
Full Screen mode allows the Flight Simulator window to fill the entire screen (hiding the menu bar and taskbar) and will likely improve performance.
To toggle between Full Screen and Normal modes
To bring up the menu bar while in Full Screen mode
To set the resolution used in Full Screen mode
Changing Display Settings
Changing the display settings in Flight Simulator can also improve performance. Each setting has a different effect, and changes you make apply to all flights. Turning a setting on or off is noticeable only when you're using an effect related to that option. For example, turning the Shadows option off won't have much effect if you're flying in the clouds.
The Display Settings dialog box
To change display settings
To learn more about adjusting display settings, read the article on Changing Display Settings.
Change Sound Preferences
Depending on your computer's specifications, changing sound preferences (or turning the sound off) may improve performance.
The Sound Settings dialog box
To change sound settings
Change Weather Settings
Generally speaking, the less scenery you see out of the window, the better Flight Simulator's performance will be. You can do a few things, weather-wise, to speed up performance:
The Weather dialog box
To change weather settings
If you do choose to increase performance by changing the weather, you might also want to turn down (or turn off) the rate at which weather changes over time. Otherwise, clouds may develop as you fly.
To change the rate at which weather changes over time
Reduce Air Traffic Density
Flight Simulator features a world in which other aircraft are flying and talking to Air Traffic Control. Seeing and hearing these other planes adds to the sense of immersion, but can cause performance problems on low-end computers. Try reducing the air traffic density setting, and see if it helps.
The Traffic Settings dialog box
To change the Air Traffic Density settings
Monitor the Frame Rate
Monitoring the frame rate (the number of times per second that the image on the screen is redrawn) is an easy way to assess Flight Simulator's performance. Press SHIFT+Z twice to display the frame-rate counter. After you try modifying the options as suggested above, check the frame rate to see whether it has improved. Keep in mind, however, that what matters most is how the simulation looks and feels to you.
Don't be Afraid to Experiment
The best way to make Flight Simulator really fly on your computer is to experiment. Change a setting or an option, and then see if your flights look or feel any different. Be sure to check the Readme file in the Flight Simulator directory on your hard drive for additional tips.