Farewell Prepar3d v4

In preparation for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 (MSFS2020), it is time to bid farewell to P3Dv4.5 and all the associated add-ons.  While my P3Dv5 instance is still awaiting the availability of the PMDG Boeing 777, I have enough add-ons in v5 to keep me fully entertained until such time as the Triple Seven can be installed.

P3Dv4.5 Was Amazing

I joined the P3D bandwagon when P3Dv2 arrived on the scene and in my opinion, while v5 is finally proving to be stable….P3Dv4.5 was just simply rock solid.  Almost from day one, the much anticipated 64 bit release showed us exactly what a flight simulator should be and remained almost trouble free for just over three years.  However, between the P3Dv4.5 install and all the associated add-ons adding up to over 275GB of SSD space, I need to remove it to make room for the new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 which is planned to release in just a few days from now (18 August). 

A Bit of a Three Ring Circus

My current gaming machine was designed and built with the future in mind.  At just over two years old now, at the time of the build I installed a 1 TB M.2 SSD as the main drive.  I moved over a few older 500GB SSD drives along with a 500 GB SATA drive for video work.  To maximize the performance of P3Dv4, it was installed on the 1 TB M.2 SSD along side the Windows OS.  I have one 500 GB SSD dedicated to Steam content such as Farming Simulator, Truck Simulators etc. and use the remaining SSD’s for backup and non-gaming content. 

When I installed P3Dv5, I installed it onto one of the SSD drives and it’s performing just fine.  But I believe I’ll want MSFS2020 to go onto the 1 TB M.2 SSD for maximum performance.  So to make this happen, unfortunately I must sunset P3Dv4.5. 

It really isn’t that big of a deal as I’ve been using P3Dv5 exclusively now for over a month.  Now that I have P3Dv5 dialed in, the performance is better than what I had been experiencing with 4.5 so now is just a good time to say goodbye.

MSFS2020 Requirements

According to the published minimum requirements of MSFS2020 as it relates to available disk space, I will need a minimum of 150GB.  Clearing out P3Dv4.5 and all its associated add-ons along with doing some additional cleanup, I will easily have over 500GB of free space on my main 1 TB M.2 drive.  Certainly more than enough.  At least for now. 

Looking Forward, Never Backward

While a lot of flight simmers may plan to ditch Prepar3D and X-Plane on day one of the MSFS2020 release, as I’ve stated before…Prepar3D v5 will remain my main simulator for simulating jetliner flights.  However, between home DIY projects and other responsibilities I do anticipate flying in MSFS2020 with any of the default GA aircraft as I explore the world flying low and slow.  My first flights most likely will be as follows.  Depart KAPA and fly over my house and the greater Denver area.  Flight number two will probably have me depart EBAW (Antwerp, Belgium) and fly over the area where my in-laws lived along with the Antwerp area.  Then who knows?  Most likely I’ll hop around between Alaska, perhaps fly around Innsbruk Austria…really the complete world is my option. 

Until next time…

Happy Uninstalling and Flying!

Jerry

P3Dv4 Panic and Learning Something New

As I’ve stated a few times, my Prepar3D v4.5 setup is pretty stable.  In the past several weeks, I’ve logged an estimated 200 hours of flight time without a single hiccup.  This all changed a few days ago.  Let me explain.

I had been running P3Dv4.5 with hotfix 2.  When Lockheed Martin released their hotfix 3 back in mid April I made the decision to hold off on updating.  I really had no reason to update as I wasn’t experiencing any issues.  This decision even became more apparent after I began the process of setting up P3Dv5.  However, when I began using the new beta version of ActiveSky (for P3Dv5 functionality) I had been using it for both v4 and v5.  After the latest beta update was released it was expecting my P3Dv4 instance to include the hotfix 3 updates.  So I decided to go ahead and update P3Dv4.5 to the hotfix 3 update. 

BOOM

I installed the hotfix 3 update to P3Dv4.5 and departed Bermuda for Dallas/Ft. Worth.  All seemed to be working fine, but began noticing some major performance issues.  I began watching my FPS and it would drop from my standard 30ish FPS down to 2, then spike back up and then back down.  I dismissed it and finished the flight. 

The next day, I departed KDFW for Bozeman and realized this issue didn’t want to resolve itself (not that they ever do).  So I began troubleshooting. 

The first decision was to update my graphics drivers and software.  It had been sometime since I had taken an Nvidia update.  I thought…well perhaps this hotfix 3 needed the update.  After performing a clean install, I fired up the sim again and still had the same issues. 

Next I decided Plan B was in order and I deleted my shaders folder and the P3D.cfg file.  This normally chases away all gremlins.  However, this time it didn’t.  I still had an unusable sim. 

Google has ALL the answers

I decided to take to Google and see what I could learn.  Of course I found lots of information discussing the steps I had already taken.  I kept looking and finally discovered something new.  A new tip about deleting the SceneryIndexes_64x folder in conjunction with also deleting the shaders and p3d.cfg file. 

Once I completed those steps, I rebooted my PC and fired up P3D.  All was once again golden.  Actually, I think the sim is performing much better as well.

I’ve documented the details about how to locate the SceneryIndexes_64x folder on my FlightSimHelpers.com website.  You can find that info here

Hopefully my P3Dv4.5 (with hotfix 3) will continue to perform until such time as I move over to P3Dv5. 

Until next time..

Happy Flying!

Jerry

COVID-19 Relief Flight Series #2

While my first installment brought us to Europe, I’m going to spend some time flying and jumping around to a few different payware airports which I haven’t visited in a while.  Much like flight #1, these may not be actual routes served by the carriers I’m going to simulate.  But these are flights my imagination wants to fly. 

Flight Planning

Our second flight will another cargo flight.  We’re picking up where we left off (at Brussels) and headed down to Bilbao Spain (LEBB).  Bilbao is a payware airport I purchased a few years ago.  For this flight we will be in a branded Fedex Boeing 737-800 which has been converted from passenger service to cargo service.  The aircraft is being operated by ASL Airlines Belgium (formerly TNT Airways).  ASL operates a fleet of 30 aircraft including a number of freighter conversions of the B737 variant.  Typically ASL operates from their main cargo hub at Liege, Belgium (EBLG) and we’ll probably visit this airport soon.

The flight from Brussels to Bilbao is a cargo relief flight to transport many of the supplies we ferried over from Miami to the citizens in NE Spain.  Our flight time is 1 hour, 35 minutes and we’re loading on 17,500 lbs of fuel.  Once we arrive in Bilbao about 50% of the cargo will be dropped off and our flight will continue to our next destination.

Route: 

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Let’s Go to Spain

Unlike our flight from Miami which required a crew of three, our shorter flight today only requires two.  My First Officer and I are boarding the aircraft while the ground crew and cargo handlers ready our aircraft for flight. 

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Pushing back from our stand and starting engines. 

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Position and Hold, Runway 01.  Note:  I’m aware the correct terminology is now “Line up and Wait”, however, when I began blogging about my flight simulation adventures well over 10 years ago, the terminology at that time was “Position and Hold” and that is what I called my first blog site.  This was before I rebranded to GrizzlyBearSims.  The old blog site still lives in the cloud (should you want to visit). 

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Gear up!

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Making our right hand turn to join the departure out of Brussels. 

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Quick flight compared to the cross the pond flight from a few days ago.  The northern coast of Spain just off the port side. 

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I really enjoyed the approach into Bilbao.  Lots of beautiful scenery.

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Just about to make our final turn.

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Rolling out, the airport is just ahead.

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Yep, there’s Bilbao just ahead.

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Cleared to land.

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Touchdown!

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After a quick taxi, we were positioned in an area of the airport where local cargo services could assist with removing the cargo. 

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This was another fun and uneventful flight.  We had perfect weather the entire trip and reached Bilbao on schedule.  The PMDG Boeing 737 is still my all time favorite payware aircraft to fly.  It’s just a really well done model and it can go just about anywhere.  Plus as it is one of the most popular aircraft  in the world, there is a wide variety of real world carriers one can simulate flying for. 

Until next time, I hope you continue to remain safe and please STAY HOME!  Thank you!

Happy Flying!

Jerry

Credits

Flight Simulator:  Prepar3D v4.5 (hotfix 1)
Aircraft:  PMDG 737 NGX
Airline: Fedex (FDX)
ATC:  VATSIM
Airport Scenery: EBBR (Brussels) Justsim, LEBB (Bilbao) Orbx
Terrain Scenery: Orbx Global Base, Orbx Vector
Sky/Cloud Textures: REX 5 SkyForce and REX 5 Environment Force
Immersion Effects – Parallel 42 737 Immersion
Weather Generation: ActiveSky (ASP4)
Flight Planning: SimBrief, Navigraph, FlightAware, FlightRadar24

Note:  If you are interested in any of the above mentioned add-ons.  Visit my P3D Add-ons directory for links.

COVID-19 Relief Flight Series #1

As I mentioned in my update post from yesterday, I have been spending some of my free time flying.  It helps me destress and gives my mind something to focus on.  The title “COVID-19 Relief Flight Series” has dual meaning.  First, yes…in my imagination I’m flying some form of relief supplies from point A to point B.  But secondarily, these flights are providing me a bit of relief from the stresses of everything that is going on in the real world.  I hope you enjoy this series. 

Flight Details

The first flight in this series (and I have no idea just how long this series will be) is a relief supply flight from Miami, Florida to Brussels, Belgium.  Why Miami?  That just happens to be the last location I flew to.  Why Belgium?  Well…why not?  By the way, I realize Fedex doesn’t routinely fly between Miami and Brussels. 

For our flight today, Fedex is transporting some much needed relief supplies from Miami, Florida to Brussels, Belgium.  We’re flying in the beautiful Boeing 777 Freighter and we’re heavy!  Very heavy today.  Our ZFW (zero fuel weight) is just below the limit at a whopping 550,000 lbs. and with our planned route, including weather along the way, we took on 171,000 lbs of fuel for the 9 hour flight. 

Our route takes us up the east coast of the US/Canada.  We begin our North Atlantic crossing at St. John’s Newfoundland and fly eastbound to Shannon, Ireland then across England and finally enter Belgium airspace. 

Route:

route

Brussels Bound

Again, for you hard core virtual pilots who might read this and blow a gasket because Fedex doesn’t routinely fly between Miami and Brussels, just relax or close your browser.  Nothing in our world right now is routine.  Either way, today…this Fedex Boeing 777 Freighter is virtually flying today between Miami (KMIA) and Brussels (EBBR). 

Our B77F is being loaded with all sorts of relief cargo which is needed throughout Europe.  Our departure time is 19:35 and we’re on schedule. 

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An extremely low ceiling makes the airport directly behind almost unrecognizable.  The condensation and immersion effects compliments of Parallel 42 777 Immersion.

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Love the immersion of the condensation. 

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As the sun sets in the distance, we turn to join our northeast route along the east coast of the US. 

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Here comes the sun.  With less than two hours to go, the sun is beginning to rise. 

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Making great time as we’re down to our last hour of flight and just leaving Ireland behind us.  It’s all business here on the flight deck as we begin to plan our descent and arrival into Brussels. 

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The west coast of Wales.

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Beginning our descent as we’re crossing the North Sea and headed towards the Netherlands. 

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Making our turn over Antwerp.  The airfield just in view over the wing is EBAW (Antwerp International Airport).  I’ve flown into this airport many times in real life. 

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On final approach into Brussels.  Nice green fields.

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Cleared to land runway 25R. 

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Slowing this heavy girl down.

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Time to unload the cargo.

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This was a fun flight.  For those that may not be in the know.  The main PC based flight simulators (Prepar3D and X-Plane) are both based on a real world scale.  Unlike American Truck Simulator or Euro Truck Simulator 2, where the distance and time is compressed, flying a flight in flight sim will take just as long as a real world flight would take.  Everything from the aircraft performance, weather, fuel burn…everything is “As Real As It Gets”. 

If you’re looking for a true “simulator”, look no further than either Prepar3D or X-Plane to give you the absolutely best simulation experience you can get on a PC.   Remember, this is not a game…this is a simulator!

Thank you for reading! 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Credits

Flight Simulator:  Prepar3D v4.5 (hotfix 1)
Aircraft:  PMDG 777
Airline: Fedex (FDX)
ATC:  VATSIM
Airport Scenery: KMIA LatinVFR, EBBR Justsim
Terrain Scenery: Orbx Global Base, Orbx Vector, Orbx openLC North America
Sky/Cloud Textures: REX 5 SkyForce and REX 5 Environment Force
Immersion Effects – Parallel 42 777 Immersion
Weather Generation: ActiveSky (ASP4)
Flight Planning: SimBrief, Navigraph, FlightAware, FlightRadar24

Note:  If you are interested in any of the above mentioned add-ons.  Visit my P3D Add-ons directory for links.

Prepar3D – To Update or Not To Update

As the title line reads, Prepar3D – To Update or Not To Update….Yes, Ladies, Gentlemen and Children of all ages…That is the question and the subject of this blog posting.  For the record, I recently updated to the latest and greatest version of Prepar3d version 4.5.  I’ve also taken the time to prepare an updated “How to update Prepar3D” tutorial document.  While there really was nothing wrong with the older document which I published in June 2018 (discussing updating from v4.2 to v4.3), I figured…Oh why not!  Anyway…

Not all Games are created equal

Generally speaking, with many of the other simulation based titles I enjoy playing…there’s usually never hesitation to apply a patch or game update.  For the record, and most of my regular readers will know that my gaming collection only consists of a few titles including Farming Simulator 19, American Truck Simulator, Euro Truck Simulator 2 and a few others.  My main gaming interest is in simulation based games.  All the titles I’ve just mentioned (and everything else for that matter) with exception to Prepar3d are Steam based games.  So the update process is automagical.  Being an IT Professional, I’m fairly diligent in keeping backups of the various “game specific” folders where things such as mods and profile game saves are stored.  While I do hear reports of some folks experiencing a game save malfunction during a patch update, I’ve never personally experienced it.  I’ve also successfully moved my original game saves from one machine to another as I did last summer when I built the GBS Beast Mark V.  Which by the way is still purring along just fine.  (knock on wood)

Back on Subject

I’ll be honest, while the Prepar3d (P3D) update process isn’t rocket science…I won’t lie to you and say that it doesn’t make me nervous.

In and of itself, the process to update P3D from version 4.4 to 4.5 is easy.  Actually it’s very easy as I’ve documented.  Follow these steps and the process is quick and easy.  However, transporting dynamite is also a straightforward process as well.  After all, just load it in a truck and drive down the highway.  What could possibly go wrong?  Exactly!!!!

So Many Moving Parts

Unlike all the other simulation games I mentioned before, 3rd party add-ons or mods for Prepar3d are as cantankerous as that load of dynamite.  Bad things…really, really bad things can go wrong anytime you start messing about with the foundation of the sim.  Especially when you are like me and have over 175 different add-ons which are installed to make my P3D experience “As Real As It Gets”.  If something goes horribly wrong with the update process, the side effects can mean I’m spending the next many, many, many hours rebuilding my PC and my Sim from scratch.  This fact would almost make any sane person steer so far clear of an update or change.  But who said we’re sane???

Of course, all these bad things can also occur each time we’re alerted to an upcoming Windows 10 update.  As President Ronald Reagan once said, the nine most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”.  Well…not sure how that stacks up against that dreaded message that states “Windows 10 has downloaded updates”.  These are the things nightmares are made of.  But here I go again….digressing.

It’s All Part of the Experience

For me, and since I do enjoy helping others…staying on the cutting (and sometimes bleeding) edge is all what it’s about.  Prepar3D version 4.5 was released on 9 April 2019, between work, the sudden death of my mom and many other factors…I opted to delay the process by about two weeks.  This delay did work to my advantage as it allowed me to spend some time updating many of the add-ons which required updates to even work with 4.5.  With all that done, I set aside some time to perform the update just as I described in the updated tutorial and I was back flying in no time.

Final Thoughts

I’ll begin my final thoughts with a question which perhaps you’ve been pondering.  Why do some people have so many terrible things go wrong when they update P3D?  If you drop into some of the Flight Sim Facebook groups or forums, you can spend the next (how ever many hours you want) reading sob story after sob story about how everything went sideways with the update and now they are left to having to do a full install again.  Why is this?

Again, being an IT Guy I have a just a little bit of experience with this question and unfortunately there’s not just one single answer.  The answer…most likely could be any number of reasons.  But let me further bang on and I’ll let you get back to your day.

If even before you make the decision to update P3D and you’re encountering the occasional crash to desktop (CTD), experiencing errors or have a really difficult time with overall performance…then these factors will play a really BIG role in whether or not your upgrade experience will be a positive one.

Just as important to the overall health of your current installation of Prepar3D, how’s Windows running?  Are you experiencing the dreaded BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) events?  Do you experience issues running other Windows based applications?  When is the last time you physically cleaned out your PC?  See where I’m going with this?  If you’re having issues today, these issues should really be addressed before you pile on even more variables that can further cause problems.

My gaming machine is used for one purpose and one purpose only…to play games.  I don’t use it for anything else and while I built it just last summer, I’m fully aware that most likely sometime later this year or sometime in early 2020…I’ll need to do a complete rebuild of Windows and everything else just to keep it performing at 100%.  This process will have me out of commission for at a minimum of several days and most likely a full week.  But it’s a necessary process to having a stable gaming machine.

Well…that’s all I really wanted to say at this time.  Bottom line, I think the benefits of Prepar3d version 4.5 make it worth the effort and outweigh the risks.

Until next time…

Good luck with the update.

Jerry

How to update Prepar3D–v4.5

Just less than a year ago, I wrote a similar tutorial when version 4.3 was released.  I began that article with the words “There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding how to update Prepar3D”.  While ten months may have passed, the confusion hasn’t.  So as I stated before, I’m going to do my best to provide you a step-by-step guide for how to update Prepar3D.  Or at the very least, how I update my own instance of Prepar3D.

About This Guide

This step-by-step guide was written specifically for the Prepar3D version 4.4 to 4.5 update and written/published in mid April of 2019.  Lockheed Martin released P3D v4.5 on 9 April 2019.  If you are referring to this guide anytime after version 4.5 (v4.6, v4.7 etc.) then this method should also work as well.  Unfortunately my crystal ball isn’t working for peering into the future, so who knows how the update process will work for P3D v5 (if there is such a thing).  What I’m trying to say here, is content on the Internet tends to live forever and you might be stumbling on this writing a year, two or more from the time I wrote it.  Just keep that in mind.

The Update Process

Just a little background for those that may not be aware.  I believe, starting with P3D v3.x, Lockheed Martin developed P3D to be somewhat modular in the way one can update and maintain the simulator.  This modular setup consists of three main files with the first being the Client, the second being the Content and the third being the Scenery.  When Lockheed Martin develops, tests and deploys an updated version to us, we no longer need to completely uninstall the entire P3D application just to take advantages of the updates.  In many cases, only the “Client” portion of the update needs to be applied.  But you should do your homework to best determine exactly what you need to update to take advantage of all the new bells and whistles available.

Prepar3D version 4.5 Change Log

To aid you in understanding all the changes included in the P3D v4.5 update, please follow this link.  Use this information to determine what you want to update.

My Update Process

As I do each and every time a new P3D update is released by Lockheed Martin, I study the change log to determine my action plan.  As was the case with the version 4.4 update, I personally am not interested in the updates which have been made to the Content and the Scenery.  So this update will be super simple for me, as I’ll only be updating the Client portion.  If you desire to update either the Content and/or the Scenery…then go ahead and do so.

Step One

Make note of P3D Settings.  Before I perform an update, I typically will start up P3D and take screen captures of all the settings screens.  This way, if anything gets changed during the update process…I’ll be able to quickly reset everything back to the way it was before.  I like to run P3D with the updated version with the same settings I ran on the previous version first, before tweaking anything.  This way I have a better determination on just what improvements were made and how these improvements impact my setup.

Step Two

Download the update files required.  As I previously mentioned, I’m only planning to update the Client for v4.5.  You’ll need to login to the downloads section of the Prepar3D website with your license or account credentials.  Once there, click to expand the individual component downloads section and download the following file:  Install_Client.msi.   Once downloaded, I typically place all the files into a new folder I create on the Windows desktop for ease of access.

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As a side note, if you were interested in updating the Content, you would also need to download the Install_Content.msi along with BOTH the cont1.cab and cont2.cab files. Same would apply for Scenery.  You would need to download the Install_Scenery.msi along with all seven of the sceneX.cab files.

If you are planning to update Content and/or Scenery, then just place the .cab files in the same location as you’ve downloaded the Install_Content.msi and/or Install_Scenery.msi files.  When you go to run the install on the content/scenery the .msi files will automatically access the .cab files during the process.

Step Three

This is a really important step to focus on.  Regardless of your overall plan, you want to uninstall one component at a time.  I’ve found this to be the least error prone way of performing an update.  On your Windows gaming PC, go to Control Panel > Programs and Features.   From here we’re going to uninstall the P3D CLIENT ONLY.

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When prompted “Would you like to deactivate your P3D installation?”, Click NO!

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Step Four

Next, we’re going to install the updated P3D Client which we downloaded in step two.  As previously mentioned, after I download all the appropriate files, I create a folder on my Windows desktop and place all the downloaded files in that folder.  Right-click on the Install_Client file and select Install.

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Pay very special attention during the install to make sure the updated client is being installed in your specified P3D install directory.  In my example, everything defaulted in just as it should have.

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If you are planning to update the Content and/or the Scenery parts of Prepar3d, then return to step three and repeat the process but this time uninstall Content, then install Content and finally uninstall Scenery and then install Scenery.

Step Five

Pending everything installed successfully, reboot your PC.  While the P3D update/install files will not prompt you or even require you to reboot, it is ALWAYS in your best interest to reboot after installing software and we’re wanting a trouble-free upgrade…so just reboot!  Trust me, I’m an IT Guy!

Step Six

Once your Windows gaming PC has successfully restarted, launch P3D.  Don’t be alarmed if P3D takes a little longer than normal to launch the first time.  P3D is doing a lot of work behind the scenes and in my experience it took perhaps an additional 1-2 minutes than normal.

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Step Seven

Hopefully your update was successful.  Congratulations!  Pat yourself on the back as you’ve just successfully updated P3D.  At this point, I close out of P3D as I still needed to perform a few other updates to software accessories such as ActiveSky, Envtex, FSLabs Airbus etc.

Note:  If you use Orbx Global Textures, you most likely will need to perform a Force Migration after performing an update.   This is a very simple and quick process to complete.  Just launch the FTX Central application.  Go to Settings then look for Force Migration.

The End Result

Upon completing the client update for P3D version 4.5, I’m experiencing absolutely nothing but positive results.  The P3D load time has slightly improved and I’m not seeing any noticeable performance degradation.   From everything that I’ve seen, P3D v4.5 is absolutely fantastic and the enhanced night lighting actually has me wanting to fly more at night which I rarely would do in the past.

Benefits to Updating?

I’ve recently written and published an article I’ve titled “Prepar3D – To Update or Not To Update” which I discuss the benefits and also some of the concerns to updating P3D.   Only you can decide if the benefits outweigh the risks.  Of course, there’s also nothing wrong with waiting a few weeks until more of the add-ons have been updated for the newest version.  What ever direction you decide to go, best of luck to you.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

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