This installment of the long-running series of Horton’s Hints focuses on new installations of FSX and Prepar3D, and explains how to move various files, as well as pilot records to new installations. In view of Microsoft’s new Flight product being a geographically limited game and not the hoped for successor to FSX, we believe that FSX users will recognize that Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D® is becoming the successor flight simulation product to FSX, particularly in view of expanded licensing alternatives and lower prices.
by Doug Horton
As sales of Windows 7 Home Premium are softening in view of the prospective release of Windows 8, we see many advertisements for Window 7 Professional and Ultimate versions as upgrades of Windows 7 Home Premium, and we take a look at those options in relation to operation of FSX and Prepar3D.
Moving Aircraft, Scenery, and Other Files from FSX to New Installations of FSX or Prepar3D
Prepar3D File Structure. The file structure of Prepar3D is completely parallel to FSX. For example, for Windows 7:
- Aircraft files are contained in the (your Prepar3D location)SimObjectsAirplanes, folder.
- Saved flights, and saved configuration files are contained in the “C:Users(Username)DocumentsPrepar3D Files” folder.
- The Prepar3D user-modified Scenery.cfg file is contained in the “C:Documents and SettingsAll UsersLockheed MartinPrepar3D” folder.
- The Prepar3D.CFG file, analogous to the FSX.CFG file, is contained in the “C:Documents and Settings(Username)Application DataLockheed MartinPrepar3D” folder.
Note that Windows 7 keeps up additional copies of some of these files in additional locations for protection.
Moving Aircraft and Scenery to new installations of FSX and Prepar3D. FSX aircraft and scenery products should be fully compatible with Prepar3D:
- Aircraft container folders can be copied from FSX to their parallel locations in Prepar3D, such as SimObjectsAirplanes, SimObjectsRotorcraft, etc. You’ll find a new SimObjectsSubmersible folder in Prepar3D, which by default contains the “UnderwaterResearchLabSubmarine” folder.
- FSX scenery can be moved to any location of your choice for Prepar3D, including remaining in its location for FSX. Generally, the only needed modification is to identify the scenery location in the Prepar3D Scenery Library Editor, which functions the same as in FSX, though the user interface is modified to be larger and more user friendly. In some cases, scenery and other products install other files and programs to protect licensing, and when this is true, product can most easily be installed in Prepar3D when the developer has included Prepar3D as an alternative location.
Significantly, some add-on scenery developers are releasing new installers that install their products to FSX and Prepar3D, separately or simultaneously. These developers are providing what they’re calling “side-by-side-licensing,” which reflects their acceptance of Prepar3D as the virtual successor product to FSX. Examples include FSDreamteam’s scenery products and the FSUIPC utility.
Moving Pilot Records to a new FSX Installation. A subscriber asked how he could copy or move the FSX Pilot Records (Rewards, Logbook, and Photos) from a current FSX installation, to a new FSX Gold Edition installation on a new computer. I hadn’t moved my pilot records to a new FSX installation, so I had to think about it for a few minutes, try it myself, and then confirm that the steps work. The secret is finding relevant FSX files in diverse locations, though after finding and copying the files, it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3, and note that the three file locations mentioned immediately below, are the same as the parallel file locations mentioned above:
- Copy or move the files in the FSXRewards folder of the old installation to the new FSXRewards folder.
- Copy or move the “Logbook.BIN” file from “C:UsersHighflyerDocumentsFlight Simulator X Files” on the installation, to the same folder for the new installation, perhaps copying and renaming the file first, so as not to overwrite it.
- Copy or move the “GrantedRewards.BIN” file from “C:Documents and Settings(username)Application DataMicrosoftFSX” for the old installation, to same folder for the new installation, perhaps copying and renaming first so as to not overwrite it in case of a problem.
The only potential barrier to this procedure occurs in step 3, in which you may need to change folder permissions to see relevant folders displayed. That’s a Windows issue, which is beyond the scope of this article. Search “folder permissions” in Window Help.
In principal, moving your rewards and logbook to Prepar3D should be the same as for FSX, but I’ve not yet been able to get the parallel procedure to work, perhaps because the user interface to the logbook and rewards in Prepar3D is different.
Browsing the Learning Center Outside of FSX or Prepar3D
Use Windows explorer to browse to the file “lc_index_IndexMain.htm” in your (FSX)FSWebLearning Center folder. Clicking this file will open it in your default browser, where you can click any of the index links for the listed topics. Hyperlinks on any page will operate to take you to other sections of the Learning Center. Depending on displays and settings, it may be more convenient or easier on the eyes to read Learning Center page directly, which also allows keeping the Learning Center open while FSX is running. For Prepar3D, browse to the file “LearningCenter.exe” in the main folder for Prepar3D. Inside Prepar3D, you can use the main menu to click on Help, Learning Center, or you can press CTRL+SHIFT+? to open the Learning Center.
FSX Performance and Windows 7 Versions
In the process of making recommendations for computer system specifications for a new project, I encountered suggestions from a few users that Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate editions would likely help with FSX performance, compared to Windows 7 Home Premium. Sounds possible based on the version names, but let’s look at what’s added in these versions, as indicated on Microsoft’s Compare Windows webpage.
The incremental features gained in upgrading Windows 7 from Home Premium to Professional are:
- Run many Windows XP business programs in Windows XP Mode (separate download).
- Connect to company networks easily and more securely with Domain Join.
- In addition to full-system Backup and Restore found in all editions, you can back up to a home or business network.
The incremental features gained in upgrading Windows 7 from Professional to Ultimate:
- Help protect data on your PC and portable storage devices against loss or theft with BitLocker.
- Work in the language of your choice and switch between any of 35 languages.
Perhaps these added features might be helpful to some users, but none will improve FSX or Prepar3D performance. As I’ve written in eight benchmarking articles in previous issues of Computer Pilot, FSX performance is very highly related (nearly linearly) to processor specifications, which are primarily speed and number of cores (but only up to four cores, for now), and for Intel processors, the availability of Hyperthreading, and Turbo Boost, preferably version 2.0, which was released in 2011. Presently, the framerate performance of Prepar3D is similar to that of FSX.
Checking Out New Microsoft Flight
Maybe you’re a gamer and you wish to see how the new Microsoft Flight product works, or perhaps you’re a serious user of FSX or even a new user of Prepar3D, and you’d like to understand why Flight has not been very well received by serious computer flight simulation users. If so, browse to www.Microsoft.com/games/flight, and download the free, starting version of the product. Click the large red button to:
To help users prepare for the new Flight product, Microsoft has posted recommendations on the Flight website. According to Microsoft:
“Performance optimization has been a core focus of our development from an early stage. To achieve this, we constantly monitored game performance metrics across a range of hardware configurations and reacted each time we saw a new feature or code change that caused a dip below the established thresholds. The end result is that Flight looks fantastic on a brand new PC, but because of the emphasis on performance throughout development, it also runs well on older desktops and budget laptops.”
For minimum graphics settings, Microsoft recommends hardware meeting the following specifications:
- Processor: Dual Core 2.0 GHz
- Graphics card: 256 MB memory, capable of shader 3.0 (DX 9.0c compliant)
- Hard drive: 10 GB hard drive space
- Operating system: WinXP SP3
- RAM: 2.0GB
Microsoft indicates, based on their testing of core scenarios, Flight runs smoothly on graphics settings with the following recommended hardware specifications:
- Processor: Dual Core 3.0 GHz or better
- Graphics: 1024 MB ATI Radeon HD 5670 or 1024 MB NVIDIA GEFORCE 9800 GT, or better
- Hard drive: 30 GB hard drive space, or more
- Operating system: Windows 7 SP1 64-bit
- RAM: 6 GB, or more
After installation of the free product, there are two PDF documents, Flight Manual and Basic Controls, which you can download from: https://microsoftflight.com/en-us/handbook, to discover the island of Hawaii in either of two free, furnished aircraft. If you accomplish a few missions, you’ll gain the ability to purchase scenery for all the Hawaiian Islands and to purchase additional aircraft. Note that at the present time, there is no Software Development Kit available, and Flight is closed to add-on developers.