How to Make FSX Run Smoother on an Old PC


Microsoft's Flight Simulator X, or FSX, can be demanding even on modern PCs. Even PCs that meet the recommended requirements still may not deliver the flying experience you want. Coupling your PC with some peripherals such as a joystick or additional monitors to get the feeling of flying in an actual cockpit can be hindered by slow and choppy game play. Fortunately, there are ways to squeeze more performance out of an aging PC.

Check for Updates

  • Microsoft releases service packs that fix bugs, improve performance and add features to their operating systems, but they also release services packs for their games. The first place you should start when trying to improve performance in FSX is to go to the Microsoft Download Center (link in Resources) and install the latest service pack, Service Pack 2. Check the "System Requirements" section on the downloads page to confirm that your computer still meets the requirements.

Prepare the OS

  • When playing FSX on an older computer, the computer's resources are precious. Close any other applications that are running before starting FSX. Check the Task Manager and the quick bar to ensure that the application was closed. Background processes like automatic update utilities can consume processor time and random access memory (RAM) and should be closed as well. Again, check the Task Manager to see which processes are running. Do not stop processes that you do not recognize, or your computer could start throwing errors that will prevent you from playing. Check the "Description" field in the "Processes" tab of the Task Manager before closing an application or process.

Optimize Game Settings

  • Once the game is updated and as many system resources as possible are freed up, start FSX and enter the game's settings menu. Start with minimum settings for everything. Begin with setting the resolution to 1024x768, and enable Full Screen Mode if it is not already enabled. Windowed Mode will decrease performance. Change the weather conditions by reducing visibility and cloud coverage, as reducing air traffic density can also improve performance. Turning off effects like light bloom, lens flare, anti-aliasing and advanced animations can improve performance without making much of an impact on graphics quality. Further performance increases can come from lowering global texture resolution, using 2D aircraft cockpits and using lower levels of detail on scenery.

Optimize Hardware Settings

  • Your discrete video card can be fine-tuned to Flight Simulator X. Both nVidia and AMD support game profiles. Use nVidia Inspector or AMD Catalyst Control Center to access the game-specific profiles. Start by limiting the frame rate to 30 feet per second, and set the values in the profile to the same values you set in FSX. For example, if you have disabled anti-aliasing in FSX, you should also disable it in your game-specific profile. One more hardware optimization you can make is to overclock your central processing unit, or CPU, or your graphics processing unit, or GPU. Note that overclocking can shorten the life span of your hardware, but it is the last possible place that you can squeeze more performance out of aging hardware.

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