Once upon a time, there was an abundance of various freeware add-ons available to the flight simming community. During the late 1990’s and very early 2000’s the amount of freeware (as compared to payware) was huge. Actually the amount of payware content was actually pretty scarce. Of course I’m talking about the time period when Flight Simulator 98, Flight Simulator 2000, Flight Simulator 2002 and Flight Simulator 2004 (FS9) were in their hay day.
With the rise of FSX in 2006, third party developers (of whom, many are still in business today) came onto the scene and began producing the most excellent payware products from airport sceneries, ground based textures, weather add-ons and of course some really awesome aircraft. Unfortunately this is the same time period that we began to experience a decline in freeware alternatives. Or should I say “Quality” freeware alternatives.
The freeware decline continued through the life span of the Prepar3D reign. However, for the most part the X-Plane community during this time frame did have a very active modding community which produced some really good freeware add-ons, but for me I just never could enjoy X-Plane the way I had enjoyed FSX or P3D. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I had a fairly sizeable investment in FSX/P3D that I just couldn’t ignore and was most likely the reason I never considered X-Plane a substitute. But I digress…
Fortunately, for those of us who are fans of the Microsoft Flight Simulator family (including P3D) the introduction of the new Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS) platform has brought about a renewed interest in quality freeware add-ons. Almost from day one of the release of MSFS back in August of 2020, fellow flight sim enthusiasts have been releasing quality freeware add-ons for the new platform. Of course one of the absolute best freeware additions has been the Airbus A320 mod from the FlybyWire team. This team took the default Airbus A320 which was included in MSFS and over time have created a freeware version that rivals that of just about any payware, study-level aircraft on the market today. The Microsoft Flight Sim family of platforms (including P3D) has never seen this level of quality in a freeware product and the FBW team won’t just stop at the A320. They are hard at work in creating an Airbus A380 model from the ground up which hopefully will be released sometime in the Q2 or early Q3 2023 timeframe. I honestly can’t count the number of previously announced A380 projects which have been announced over the years for P3D that have never made it beyond the planning stages and the FBW team will have one in our sims very soon.
Of course there are hundreds if not thousands of other freeware add-ons available for MSFS including various utilities, aircraft liveries and airport mods. There are a few airport mods I’m using in my sim today that rival the quality of work we typically see from payware developers. I frequently check the Flightsim.to website which has become the “go-to” place for creators to host their freeware add-ons.
Why is Freeware so important to the community?
First and foremost, not everyone can afford to spend their hard earned money on all the various payware that has and will be released for MSFS. Due to the willingness of these freeware developers to devote their time to creating quality add-on alternatives for the community at zero cost, this allows everyone the opportunity to enjoy the hobby without a huge investment. In addition, I also believe the vast catalog of freeware options is helping to keep the prices of payware at a more affordable price level. I believe we’ve already experienced the impact of this with the Fenix A320. The Fenix A320 is available for an incredibly low price of just £49.99.
The Quality of Freeware Alternatives
As I’ve already mentioned, we’re already witnessing examples of freeware being on-par with payware options. In addition to the FBW A320 I’ve already mentioned, another example is the recent release of the Doha Hamad International Airport (OTHH) which released in early December at the price tag of €19.99 by MXI Design. An absolutely stunning freeware version has been available on Flightsim.to since May 2021 which not only includes the OTHH airport but also various enhancements covering much of the city of Doha is included.
However, it must also be said that not all freeware is created equal. But of course the same must also be said about payware options (but I’ll save those comments for another article). One of the major challenges with some of the freeware airports that I’ve run into has been centered around issues when MSFS has been updated through the various Sim Update versions and the time it takes for the freeware developers to make the various adjustments needed. Of course, this is not an issue isolated to the flight sim community. We see the same issues with other games which allow mods to be used like ATS, ETS2 and Farming Simulator.
In closing, as someone who has been been enjoying the flight simulation hobby for over four decades and has witnessed freeware come, go and come back again…I’m extremely excited for the future of MSFS with successful freeware efforts at the very heart of the platform. I hope you are as well.
Until next time….
Unlike other simulation based genres such as agricultural sims, trucking sims (just to name two) these have very little choice and are ruled by two different developers with GIANTS controlling the ag sim with Farming Simulator and SCS ruling the trucking space with American and Euro Truck Simulator. This lack of competition, while good for the developers is of course bad for us consumers. But the same can’t be said for the choices available in the flight simulation space.
In recent weeks, Laminar Research released X-Plane 12 in early access. Of course Microsoft Flight Simulator surprised everyone in 2019 and released MSFS 2020 during the summer of 2020 and Lockheed Martin of course has their Prepar3D version 5 (unclear if there will be a v6), so the flight simulation community has choices when it comes to selecting a platform to build around. But which is best and which platform is the right one for you?
In the year 2022, it’s really difficult to specifically state which flight simulation platform is the absolute best. It’s much like Coke versus Pepsi. Each have their loyal, dedicated fan base and each produce a quality product. But of course we all know that Coke is the best and certainly the one I prefer.
For many of us who have been in the hobby of flight simulation for many, many years we grew up with the various offerings from Microsoft. When Microsoft abandoned their popular Flight Simulator way back in 2009, the only two choices were either to make the move to Prepar3D or move to X-Plane. For me, and I’m sure many like me who had made a sizeable investment in FSX add-ons, the clear choice was to go the way of P3D as most add-ons for FSX would work. Developers made their products available for P3D as quickly as they could and some didn’t charge for the update. Of course others made the jump to X-Plane and never looked back.
Certainly before Microsoft re-entered the scene with Flight Simulator 2020, both Prepar3D and X-Plane were very similar in what each offered and many 3rd party developers were supporting both platforms. But this has certainly changed in recent years and from what I’m seeing the vast majority of 3rd party developers have completely shifted their focus to MSFS and have slowly decreased their development efforts away from P3D and in some cases X-Plane as well.
Now it must certainly be said that prior to MSFS, X-Plane had a much more active community driven focus towards the freeware development of add-ons than the P3D community. With P3D everything pretty much shifted to payware as the only option for enhancing the simulator. Of course in the past two years since MSFS has been around the community focus has returned and we’ve seen some really awesome add-ons released for the new platform as freeware with lots more to come.
With all that said, what advice can I give to those trying to choose a flight simulation platform? In all honesty, I believe of the three platforms I’ve mentioned (MSFS, P3D and X-Plane) really it boils down to just two choices with the first being Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 and X-Plane. But allow me to explain why I’ve removed Prepar3D from the list.
Prepar3D has never been intended to be used in the home/personal entertainment category. From the very beginning, Lockheed Martin was unable to market/distribute the P3D flight simulation platform for anything other than commercial and flight training purposes. While this never stopped anyone from purchasing the sim (I’m proof of that), the very simple fact is P3D has always been intended as a training sim. Regardless if Lockheed Martin introduce a version 6 of the sim, I don’t feel P3D will ever be enhanced to the point of what we’re seeing with Microsoft Flight Simulator and since the debut of MSFS along with the quality of add-on, study level aircraft from Fenix and PMDG (more will come) Lockheed Martin is losing a lot of their customer base which used P3D as an off-ramp when FSX was no longer a viable option. As already mentioned, many 3rd party developers have fully embraced MSFS and are moving full steam ahead in developing quality add-ons for that platform. Of course, many users will stay with P3D and I’m sure Lockheed Martin will continue to support the platform regardless if there is a v6.
As I mentioned at the top of the writing, X-Plane 12 has just released. From what I’ve seen, read and heard….this latest version isn’t going down as I’m sure Laminar Research had hoped. As I’m not an X-Plane fan, I have no intention of purchasing the sim. But from some of the videos I’ve watched, those who are showcasing the new sim have mostly been disappointed in what they are seeing. Of course, it must be said that this is a early release version and most likely things will change.
Now I know there are a lot of unbelievers when it comes to Microsoft Flight Simulator. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog postings, even I had my doubts regarding the new platform. But over time, I believe the sim has matured into a quality flight simulator that I believe to be the “Gold Standard” of the available flight simulation platforms available today. Both Microsoft and Asobo are committed to the project and I believe what we’re seeing from MSFS today is only the beginning. In addition, from a cost perspective, MSFS requires a lot less investment to make the ground textures mirror that of the real world.
The 800 lb Gorilla
To address the 800 lb gorilla in the room, many will argue and say that X-Plane (at least historically) has always featured the best, true to life flight dynamics of any of the available sims. I personally can’t argue either way on this statement. I’m not a real world pilot, I’m not training to be a real world pilot and personally unless the difference gap was huge, I really don’t care. It simply means nothing to me. The aircraft I primarily fly in MSFS (Fenix A320, PMDG 737) compensate for any weakness in the flight dynamics department and I enjoy every single minute of my time in the sim and in those aircraft.
But What About…
Yes, there are two other flight simulator platforms that I have yet to mention in this posting, specifically Aerofly FS4 and DCS World. DCS World, of course is an awesome flight simulator if you enjoy simulating military flight ops and honestly has some of the very best visual simulations of any platform. I personally don’t spend a lot of time in DCS, but I do use it from time to time. If military ops is something you really enjoy, then DCS World will be your best bet.
Unfortunately, I personally don’t have any experience with Aerofly FS4. While the platform does have some 3rd party development support with some add-ons, I don’t consider it broad enough to be considered above P3D, X-Plane or MSFS. In addition, unlike P3D, X-Plane or MSFS, Aerofly FS4 does not include the entire world as part of the base package. Additional regions must be purchased separately.
In closing, if you’ve been in the hobby of flight simulation for some time and are already using and enjoying Prepar3D or X-Plane, then I certainly understand why you may choose to remain on those platforms. But if you are new to the hobby, I highly recommend you do your homework and give consideration towards Microsoft Flight Simulator as I believe this is the very best and certainly will be for many years to come.
Thanks for reading and as always….Happy Flying!!!
My current gaming machine is just a little over 4 years old. Amazingly, it still runs really well. When I built it back in 2018, I used the latest and greatest components I could. Amazingly (once again), the machine performs well with the current simulation based games I enjoy playing. This even includes the new Microsoft Flight Simulator. Anyway, I designed the machine to use a 1 TB NVMe SSD as the main drive along with a few SSD’s. At the time of the initial build, I was running P3Dv4 and it was installed on the NVMe drive.
When P3Dv5 released, I knew it would be several weeks before all the add-ons would catch up, so I installed it on the largest SSD (500 GB). I ran both versions of P3D for several month with this intention of eventually doing a complete OS reset, then locate P3Dv5 to the NVMe drive. Before that happened, MSFS released and I kicked the can down the road and delayed the OS reset and just uninstalled P3Dv4 to free up enough space on the NVMe drive for MSFS.
For the first 18 months of the life of MSFS, I really only used it for GA flying. But all that changed once the Fenix A320 and the PMDG 737-700 released a few months ago. Since that timeframe, I’ve only used P3D a few times. Meanwhile I was adding more 3rd party airport sceneries to MSFS and as a result watching the available space on the NVMe drive get lower and lower.
On Thursday, I purchased and attempted to install the new GSX Pro from FSDreamteam. Like many others, I ran into issues immediately after installing. After reading forum threads and Discord messages, I finally gave up and decided to go to bed and sleep on it. Oddly enough, I woke up fairly early this morning and decided it was time to refresh the OS and essentially make the move to MSFS 100% and for now, give P3D the BIG Heave Ho.
Now, while GSX Pro has some challenges and some of the issues experienced on the first day appear to be related to their download servers….but I believe my own issues were a combination of having remnants of P3Dv4, along with P3Dv5 and MSFS. While it should certainly be possible for everything to live in harmony…something was wrong and I felt just doing a Windows 10 reset was my absolute best option. Like I said, the available space on my main SSD was becoming a serious issue.
It’s been a long day and I’m not 100% done. But I’ve managed to get Windows 10 reset, fully patched with all updated hardware drivers installed. The most time consuming part of the entire process has been reinstalling MSFS. That took the better part of two hours just to download then apply the updates. Next getting the Fenix A320 and PMDG 737-700 installed and finally all the add-on airports reinstalled. I even took time to get the AIG liveries along with VATSIM model matching installed. (That’s also a very time consuming process, but I had these things backed up so I didn’t have to start from scratch). One of the last items I installed was GSX Pro and it installed without issue and works as perfectly has it can at this point in time. I’ll explain more about this in a future blog post.
As for the future of P3Dv5. For now it will remain uninstalled. To be honest, and I’ve said this before in other blog postings, I really only have time for short-haul flights. While I do love the PMDG 777, 747 and the QualityWings 787, I really don’t have the time to enjoy them to their full potential. Not to mention, (and I’ve also said this before) that the eye-candy factor is seriously lacking in P3Dv5 compared to MSFS.
Possible Final Thoughts about P3D
My interest in P3D really didn’t start until Lockheed Martin released version 3 in 2015. I had dabbled briefly with version 2, but didn’t officially leave FSX behind until v3. At that time most of the 3rd party developers were getting more seriously involved with Prepar3D and it just seemed like the right time to move over. Of course, when P3Dv4 arrived in 2017 that officially ushered in the 64 bit compatibility we had all been dreaming of. Finally one could get the true potential from the sim without fear of the dreaded OOM errors which were quickly followed by at CTD.
When Prepar3D version 5 was released on April 14, 2020 we were in the early stages of the COVID Pandemic and I was working from home. At this time we knew about the new Microsoft Flight Simulator and I seriously contemplated just staying on v4 knowing/believing MSFS would be the future. But after a few weeks I finally pulled the trigger and purchased P3Dv5. After all, I felt it could be at least a year (if not longer) before MSFS would be at a point where study level aircraft would be available and I wanted to experience the latest and greatest for whatever period of time it might be before making the move to MSFS.
Getting into P3Dv5 from a financial perspective was really only the cost of the sim. Again, to the best of my memory….99% of the add-ons I had been using in P3Dv4 were made available with P3Dv5 installers at no cost and I certainly got my monies worth out of v5. All-in-all, as a hard-core flight simulation enthusiast I’m thankful to Lockheed Martin for making P3D available after Microsoft abandoned us. While I tried XPlane sometime before P3Dv4, but having been such a long-time Microsoft Simmer I just couldn’t get into it. In any event, at the time Prepar3D v5 was “As Real As It Gets”.
I know many simmers discount MSFS. Especially around the flight modeling. But for me, this is a minor issue and is almost a non-issue with the Fenix and PMDG aircraft we have today. I believe these issues will all evolve in time and MSFS WILL BE the very best home flight simulation platform.
Just a little over 24 hours later and the rebuild is done. I completed my first test flight in the Fenix A320 from TPA to CLT. No major issues. I actually learned something today which I was not aware of with MSFS. But all the settings including graphic settings, sim settings and controller settings/bindings are all saved in the cloud. So when you reinstall MSFS, all these settings that often require lots of testing and tweaking to get things the way they were are just the same as before. This saved lots of times and no doubt allowed me to get my first flight in much quicker.
Thankfully I landed just when I did as 5 minutes after I shut down my engines and filed my PIREP, my electricity went out. Thankfully my sim machine is on a UPS and I was able to safely shut down. But my plans for flight #2 will have to wait a bit. Until then….thanks for reading.
Until next time…
Happy Flying!!! (Once power is restored)
It’s been a few weeks since I posted a progress update on my journey to Prepar3D version 5. As I’ve mentioned previously, I was in no rush as my P3D v4.5 was rock solid and was providing me absolutely everything I needed for my flight simulation hobby. But like many others, I purchased P3D v5 in the hopes that it would be everything P3D 4.5 was and more. I’m happy to report that in my experience this is certainly the case.
In the early days of my P3D v5 experience the road was rocky. Or should I say the skies were turbulent. There were a few times that I believed the purchase of v5 was foolish and that most likely I would just discard it and proceed with 4.5. But I held the course and life with P3D v5 did get better with the release of the second hotfix.
Windows 10 2004
For the past several months or so, I’ve been running Windows 10 version 1909. I had heard good things about version 2004, but until recently that version of Windows 10 was not available to update to. The news that Microsoft had specifically made changes to version 2004 with regards to VRAM utilization was something many of us running P3Dv5 had been looking forward to. I recently received the update for 2004 and I’m very pleased to report that P3Dv5 (with hotfix 2) is running and looking as good as my P3Dv4.5 instance.
Thank you PMDG
Of course one of the main reasons I had held off on making the move to P3Dv5 was the wait for the PMDG 737NGXu. The Boeing737 is my most frequently used aircraft in the sim and PDMG had been holding off on its release until Lockheed Martin released the second hotfix.
With P3Dv5 HF2 and Windows 1909 my available VRAM with the 1080Ti was capped at 9.1GB. Since updating to the 2004 Windows 10 update, this cap has been increased to 10.1 GB. This is great news as I can finally inch those P3D graphics sliders further to the right without having to worry about running out of VRAM.
Since updating to Windows 10 2004, I’ve conducted several test flights in the PMDG 737NGXu, Aerosoft Airbus A319, A320 and A321 along with a few test flights in the FSLabs Airbus A319/A320. With comparable settings which I had been running in P3Dv4.5 and the same add-ons in P3Dv5, I’m truly happy to report that P3Dv5 is out performing 4.5 which is what we had all hoped would be the case.
Proof in the Pudding
Here are just a few screenshots produced in P3Dv5 with the settings I’ve documented below.
My P3Dv5 Settings
While I’m always a bit reluctant to post/share settings simply because what works for me may not work for you. I still do it in the effort of sharing knowledge. I caution anyone to only use my settings as a guide. I would highly suggest you make small adjustments and test before going full bore. Even if you have the same hardware, no two systems will perform exactly the same. With all that said…here are the settings I’m currently using in Prepar3d v5 with hotfix 2 and Windows 10 update 2004 as of 23 July 2020.
Regarding FPS with these settings, if you’ve read some of my other writings you will know that I’m not concerned with the actual FPS number. I tune my P3D instance to produce a smooth, stable and visually appealing experience. Once everything is set, I really could care less about how many FPS I’m getting. Having said this, I will tell you that with the above settings I’m generally getting +30 FPS on the ground at most payware airports and 50+ at cruise (in the PMDG 737NGXu). Of course, your mileage will vary.
Oh and now that VRAM utilization is a key element in P3Dv5, my VRAM with these settings on the ground at a payware airport will range from 3.5 – 6.0 and at cruise ~2.5 – 3.0 GB. Not all payware airports and aircraft are created equal and as a result your results will vary.
While we’re still awaiting PMDG to release the B777 for P3Dv5, I have enough aircraft available in v5 to keep my busy and enjoying the hobby. I think it is safe to say that from now own I’ll be flying in P3Dv5 exclusively. Most likely P3Dv4.5 will be uninstalled to make way for MSFS2020 sometime in the future.
Thanks for reading and I hope this helps you establish a baseline to get the most out of Prepar3D version 5. It truly is a leap forward from earlier versions. Of course, MSFS2020 will most likely blow this away. But that’s another subject for another writing.
Until next time…
While I’ll be the absolute first to tell you that Prepar3D, Flight Simulator X (FSX) and X-Plane are NOT video games…they are computer based flight simulators! It certainly didn’t start out this way. As I often show my age when I speak about the fact that I’ve been flying computer based simulations since the early 1980’s…really and truly at that time, the ancestors of P3D, FSX and X-Plane were just simply games. At that time, I really don’t think anyone (perhaps other than the developers) could imagine what these games would become and the industry which would rise up to support it.
A Picture is Worth…
They say “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words”. The top image is what things looked like back around 1984 on the Commodore 64. I spent hours upon hours and a few hours more sitting at my desk flying around Chicago Meig’s Field.
Advance the calendar some 35 years and this is what the above evolved into. The image below is from my own Prepar3d version 4 setup and the PMDG 747-400. I believe I captured this screenshot on a flight from Denver to London late last summer (2018).
The stark contrast between those two images is truly amazing. From a very basic 2D cockpit with very limited controls to the flight deck of the Queen herself where just about every button, every switch and every dial does something is again just simply amazing. While I often envy the younger generation who have basically grown up with only knowing the more modern of things, I do consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to witness this first hand.
There’s an interesting backstory with the above image. I have this image on my work laptop and Windows 10 automagically changes out my desktop image every 15 minutes. I have two very large external monitors in my office and they are situated where if someone stops by to visit, they can see the desktop image if I have my applications minimized. One of my co-workers stopped by one day, saw the image and asked me where I found it. I explained that I captured the image (that’s all I said), he looked at me and said “how the hell did you manage to convince the pilots to A. let you onto the flight deck, and B. convince them to step out so this picture could be taken. LOL I explained this was a screenshot from my home flight simulator setup. I think we spent the next hour discussing the hobby.
The Struggle is Real
While I can’t speak for all who are involved in the hobby of flight simulation, I would wager to guess that most (at least some) struggle with the balance between ultimate realism and beautiful/stunning eye-candy. Which is more important and does it really matter?
As Microsoft Flight Simulator evolved over the years, there was still a time where third party add-ons were somewhat rare. Especially what I would refer to as complex versions like we have today from the likes of PMDG, FSLabs and A2A. So I would say (for me), as the complex aircraft were slowly starting to come onto the scene, I was still stuck in the “I care more about eye candy” mode. What I wanted was simple. I wanted an aircraft which closely resembled what ever I wanted to fly (Boeing 727, 737, 757 etc.), I wanted it to have decent flight characteristics (meaning perform better than a brick) and I wanted a livery for which ever real world airline I was simulating at the time. Again, at that time….all the rest wasn’t a concern. I also wasn’t all that bothered if the aircraft didn’t have a virtual cockpit. I would guess this was the time frame of about 25 years ago.
The turning point for me was sometime after the dawn of the SATCO/VATSIM age (circa 2000-01). Of course, this is also around the same timeframe when internet based virtual airlines began popping up and the interwebz made the world a much smaller place.
Immersion is Key
I think with any simulation based title, the immersive experience is due part from the software itself and also from ones own imagination. While I’m not suggesting any of us sim gamers go around thinking (or certainly not pretending) we’re farmers, truckers or pilots…but I believe, our own imagination certainly makes up a small (perhaps larger) part of our overall experience.
For example, I have my own rules for how I enjoy flight simulation. First, I almost always begin a flight from the last airport I previously landed at. There are a few times in my mind I will just say “jump seat” and start off from an airport I hadn’t just flown into…but that’s rare. Second, I’m also not the type of virtual aviator who fires up a flight and then either goes to bed, goes to work or goes shopping. While I’m not going to lie and tell you that my rear keister is always firmly planted in my chair for every minute, every hour of a flight….I’m generally not far away. After all, pilots in the real world will get up and stretch their legs and go to the toilet. Finally, when I was single…I would often heat up a “TV Dinner” which I would eat on longer flights. But hey…I was eating a lot of these types of dinners when I was single.
The Trade Off
Unfortunately, it wasn’t that long ago most of us had to make a decision. Did we want the experience which the complex, advanced simulation add-on aircraft would deliver…OR…did we want the breathtaking visuals? Because it wasn’t always money that determined the path.
Before P3Dv4 was finally capable of taking advantage of a 64 bit architecture and move beyond the 4 GB virtual memory limitations, we all found it hard to mix both together. You’ll find older writings of mine on this blog site where I attempted to marry the complex and the stunning visuals….yes it was doable, but it required significant compromise.
It’s All a Balancing Act
Today, I enjoy a perfect balance between the more advanced simulation add-on aircraft and the stunning visuals. With the advancement of hardware, software and the financial ability to marry both together…I can finally shove those graphic sliders to the right and enjoy the challenge of learning and flying some of the greatest machines ever invented and experience the visuals as if it was really happening. My friends…that’s how you define the tagline “As Real As It Gets”.
Until next time…
Enjoy the experience however you define it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When prompted “Would you like to deactivate your P3D installation?”, Click NO!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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…
Much of these early “How To” blog articles are dedicated to understanding some of the basic knowledge required, as we progress I’ll include some additional and more advanced “How To” information. At this time I’m assuming you are still very much new to the hobby of flight simulation. If you have been following my “How To” articles, you may recall I’ve suggested on more than one occasion to start with the default Cessna (or some other single engine, light aircraft) and work your way up. In my opinion, this is important and shouldn’t be overlooked. As in the real world, an individual just doesn’t walk off the street and learns to fly a Boeing 747. They start off in a much, much smaller aircraft.
The principle of flight is the same regardless of aircraft type. Regardless if you are flying a Cessna 172 or a Boeing 747, you must taxi, takeoff, climb, cruise, descend and land the aircraft. Again, the process is much the same….but one major difference is in the speed at which you accomplish these tasks. It’s easier to learn the basics in a slower and more forgiving aircraft like the default Cessna 172. But certainly as you master these tasks in the Cessna it really is just a matter of applying the same principles as you progress to larger and more complex aircraft.
I know there are some (perhaps many) who have no desire to fly the heavy jets. Likewise, many of you once you get the hang of flying may never fly anything smaller than a Boeing 737. This is of course the beauty of our hobby. There truly is something for everyone.
At some point if you want to try to fly the heavy jet aircraft, I would suggest you start with the default Boeing 737. The Boeing 737 has been a featured default aircraft of Microsoft Flight Simulator since FS95 and is an easy aircraft to learn.
Tip – When starting to learn how to fly the heavies, stick with the default aircraft. While these default aircraft models may lack the sophistication of their real world counterpart, the up side in learning is that they lack the sophistication of their real world counterpart. Said another way, the default aircraft modeled in Flight Simulator are more forgiving and much easier to fly than the study-level, payware models such as PMDG.
Much as I did in the article titled “Your First Flight”, I suggest you load up the default Boeing 737 and head out to KEDW (Edwards Air Force Base). Our goal is to spend time getting to know the flight characteristics and differences of the Boeing 737 (compared to the Cessna). I highly suggest following the same steps of concentrating on taxi, takeoff, climb and cruise at first. As you’ll quickly get the hang of that (since you’ve been practicing and mastering the Cessna), then add the descent and landing phase. Just follow the pattern shown in the image below until you get it right.
Until next time…
Back in the early days, we didn’t have much choice when it came to selecting flight simulator software. When I was a teen back in the early 80’s, I had a Commodore 64 computer. I had a version of flight simulator which ran on the Commodore 64 computer. In those days you only had a small selection of airports to fly to and from and typically only one type of aircraft. I spent many, many hours flying the Cessna around Meig’s Field in Chicago.
As time passed, the sophistication of the various flight simulator software titles evolved from just one aircraft and a few airports to any aircraft one could imagine and an entire globe full of airports with tons of eye candy to look at while flying from point A to point B. Today, flight simulator enthusiasts have many different software platforms to choose from when it comes to setting up their flight simulator.
I’m going to break down the options you have in the various flight simulators available today and provide a brief description and even some opinion regarding each of the available options.
Microsoft Flight Simulator
I’m starting off with Microsoft Flight Simulator since I very much consider this the grandfather of all today’s flight sim applications. While Microsoft discontinued their popular Flight Simulator franchise many years ago, many enthusiasts continue to use their two previous editions of Flight Simulator 2004 (FS9) and Flight Simulator X (FSX). Actually, the first several titles I’m going to list below were all born from much of the original FSX code. As I stated, many still use both FS9 and the original FSX boxed edition today. However, due to their age…I feel for those looking to get started in this exciting hobby entertain other available options.
Dovetail Games – Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition
In July 2014, Dovetail Games announced a licensing agreement with Microsoft to distribute the popular Microsoft FSX via Steam. Dovetail Games made a few minor tweaks to the application to help improve performance and fix many issues which Microsoft had failed to patch before they mothballed the flight simulator projects. The Dovetail Games Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition (FSX SE) is still available to purchase via Steam for $24.99. Since the release of FSX SE, many third party payware add-ons or DLC have been made available.
While FSX SE remains a 32 bit application, with the impressive list of available add-ons (which most have been optimized to function well with FSX SE) this simulator remains an excellent starting platform for the brand new flight sim enthusiast.
Dovetail Games – Flight Sim World
Around the same time Dovetail Games announced their licensing agreement to distribute the above mentioned FSX SE, they also announced they had plans to develop their own flight simulator platform. Just last month, Dovetail Games announced and released Flight Sim World as an early release (beta) product. Flight Sim World currently sells for $24.99 on Steam.
At this point in time, not a whole lot is known about the future of Flight Sim World (FSW). There’s a wide variety of opinions regarding this simulator and how much support it will receive from 3rd party developers. I recently wrote an opinion piece regarding my experience with FSW which you can read here.
In a nutshell, Flight Sim World is not a complete re-write. There’s still a lot of the old FSX baseline code which exists within the sim. However, Dovetail has developed it into a 64 bit application and of course this is great news from a systems performance perspective.
Unfortunately, the “what we don’t know” about Flight Sim World is about the only thing giving me some pause. The way I see it, (and this is just my opinion) but as FSW is born from FSX…if Dovetail doesn’t get the 3rd party developers involved and allow them to develop the content we all expect to see in a sim, then this may never get off the ground.
The Importance of 64 Bit
Before I proceed with my article, I just want to touch on one very important piece and that is the importance of a 64 bit application in today’s modern technology world compared to the older 32 bit architecture.
I’ve written many pieces regarding the obstacles we’ve all faced in trying to wring out as much performance as we can from the older 32 bit applications like FSX (and early versions of P3D). As we drifted further and further away from the date the original FSX code was developed, we’ve pushed harder and harder on that ever important envelope referred to as VAS or Virtual Address Space. Essentially available RAM.
Unfortunately, simply adding more RAM to a PC isn’t the solution. A 32 bit application (like FSX) will only utilize up to 4 GB of available RAM regardless of the amount available in the PC. Running down to the local hardware store and buying an extra 8 GB of RAM will do nothing to help prevent those pesky OOM’s or Out Of Memory Errors. Of course, these OOM’s are (for the most part) self-inflicted by piling on visually stunning add-on payware in the form of ground textures, enhanced airport scenery and highly detailed study level type aircraft. In other words, for the most part….the base FSX application works well until you begin adding the eye candy.
Let’s continue with the list….
Lockheed Martin – Prepar3D
In 2009, Lockheed Martin announced they had negotiated with Microsoft to purchase the intellectual property (including source code) from the Microsoft ESP side of their flight simulation division. ESP was the commercial side of Microsoft’s business in developing flight simulation applications. Prepar3d version 1.1 was released in 2011, P3D v2 in 2013, P3D v3 in 2015 and finally Prepar3d version 4 (64 bit) in May 2017.
For me, P3D v4 has become my personal standard and it is what I use for my day to day flight simulation enjoyment. While P3D v4 (just like versions 1-3) still very much contain original baseline ESP code, and much of the base scenery hasn’t been updated since the days of FSX….the 64 bit architecture is a noticeable “night versus day” difference maker for this very popular flight sim application.
Unfortunately, the only real drawback to P3D comes down to their EULA or End-User License Agreement. To put it mildly, it’s confusing. Essentially, P3D is licensed under the following structure:
Academic – ($59.95) Designed to offer the academic community a platform to develop hands-on STEM lessons. While the academic version of the software is the same as the professional version, there is a watermark visible signifying the acceptable use of the license. The academic license is provided at a discount for students. Currently, there are no requirements to prove eligibility for the academic license.
Professional – ($199.00) The P3D Professional license does allow for training, instruction, simulation and learning.
Professional Plus – ($2300.00) The P3D Professional Plus license is designed for real world business customers who are going to use the software for extensive training purposes.
Developer – ($9.95/Month) Registered software developers can subscribe and receive two full copies.
I’ve written about the confusion of how the P3D EULA simply doesn’t offer a license for basic entertainment purposes only. It is for this purpose, I personally purchase the “Professional” level which does specifically identify simulation as part of the acceptable use of the software. I feel this is also the right thing to do considering that I do often stream and record my flights on YouTube, Twitch etc. Plus….I’m not a student.
All versions of P3D are still available for purchase on the Prepar3D website and all are offered at the same price. So if you are truly interested in the P3D platform, I would saddle up with the brand new P3D version 4.
Before I venture away from the topic of P3D allow me to address one thing. Many are upset, disappointed etc. with the fact that Prepar3D version 4 is simply a 64 bit update of the original ESP code. Meaning, much of how P3D looks by default hasn’t changed since FSX hit the store shelves almost a dozen years ago. While I truly understand what many are saying….I must also remind everyone that P3D has never been directly marketed to the general consumer for mere entertainment purposes. The real target audience of P3D is the commercial, professional and academic side of things and I suggest that perhaps…just perhaps the criteria is just different.
Needless to say, I for one am extremely pleased with P3D v4. If Lockheed Martin had followed the suggestions from those demanding a new game engine, the wait would be much, much longer. P3D v4 is performing extremely well on my gaming system and is allowing me to finally enjoy ultimate realism without the need to worry about the crash due to running out of memory.
Just a reminder, my list is not ranking the titles in any particular order. X-Plane has been around for a number of years and it should be noted that X-Plane was the absolute very first to release their flight sim platform built on the 64 bit architecture. Their recent release of X-Plane 11 has been making news and is certainly a worthy consideration. One of the great things about X-Plane is the community behind it. It truly reminds me of the old Microsoft Flight Sim days where the community truly worked together to develop quality freeware add-ons. Unfortunately, for the FSX, FSX SE and P3D titles….most add-ons will be payware (with a few exceptions).
For me personally, while I do own X-Plane 11, I’ve really found it to be a struggle to forget the old Microsoft ways of controlling the sim application. Fortunately for my old mind, much of how FSX was controlled (again from the application level) is absolutely the same in the most recent version of P3D v4. Plus my extensive collection of add-ons continue to work well.
Freeware/Open-Source Alternatives and a warning
There is an open-source alternative to flight simulation software available from FlightGear. While I’ve never spent any time testing or flying using the FlightGear flight simulation software, I know others do use it and there are methods of importing planes from Microsoft Flight Simulator into FlightGear. In addition, there is also an on-line client for the VATSIM network called SquawkGear that will allow you to use FlightGear to fly on-line. It is extremely encouraging to see developers like FlightGear contribute to the flight sim community with their open-source program.
Unfortunately, there are some individuals who have taken the open-source code from FlightGear, made a few minor modifications and are attempting to market the product under various names such as Flight Pro Sim, Pro Flight Simulator etc. I first learned about this back in 2010 and blogged about it here and here. But please….don’t take my word for it. Read the official statement released by FlightGear and judge for yourself.
What should you choose?
Unfortunately, we all have different interests and we all have different budgets. If you’ve previously been involved with the flight simulation hobby and are looking to get back in…then I would recommend either Prepar3D v4 or X-Plane. What we know about these two platforms should prove these will both be around and will see continued improvements and enhancements for many years to come.
However, if you are brand new to flight simulation and are looking for simply an entry level starting point to help you understand some of the basics of flight and serve as a litmus test if you want to pursue the hobby further, then I suggested giving the new Dovetail Games Flight Sim World a solid look. While this sim is in early access (beta), the current price of $24.95 won’t be money wasted even if you decide in six months you want to move to P3D or XP. I’m very impressed with the tutorials in FSW and believe they can be most helpful in helping you achieve a better level of understanding in the principles of flight. I believe this to be extremely helpful.
As time permits, I do plan to feature more flight simulation content on the GrizzlyBearSims YouTube Channel. Most likely, I will provide some videos from Flight Sim World and of course also Prepar3D v4. While I do own XP 11, I’m really just not comfortable enough with that platform to do it justice.
I hope this information has helped you. As I recently discussed, I truly believe 2017 will be a great year for flight simulation. I wish you the very best in your new aviation adventure.
Until next time…
In less than 24 hours, Lockheed Martin will release the highly anticipated and very long overdue 64 bit version of Prepar3D version 4. With this release, will we finally see an end to the out of memory issues we’ve all experienced with FSX and every version of P3D? Have we experienced the last OOM? Can we once and for all stop worrying about how much (or how little) VAS we have? Are those little ding, ding, ding noises just as we are on final approach after an extremely long-haul flight going to be a thing of the past? I darn well hope so….
If you are an FSX or P3D user and don’t know what the acronyms of OOM or VAS stand for, or you haven’t encountered those ding, ding, ding sounds just before you are rudely presented with the error that says “Too Bad, Too Sad…we don’t care that you’ve just spent 12 hours flying and are in the final 5 minutes of flight, but you’ve run out of memory and we’re about to ruin your fun”, then I suggested you read this post.
Taking the Plunge
Sure…I might as well! While I owe a review of Dovetail Games brand new Flight Sim World FSW (and I’ll get that done soon), in a nutshell I don’t believe (at this time) there is any chance I’ll spend a great deal of time in FSW. Reason being is lack of 3rd party aircraft, scenery and such. I don’t see FSUIPC making its way to FSW anytime soon and without that, it really limits just how much fun I can have in the sim. NOTE: I said it will lack how much fun I will have. Your mileage may vary depending on what you want from a flight sim.
But yes…I do plan to purchase P3D v4. But I’m also doing so knowing it will be some time before some of my favorite add-ons will be made available. Some developers will have content ready on day 1, others will have their content after the first few weeks etc. etc. From what I’ve read, much of the add-ons I currently own will not require a repurchase to obtain the P3D version 4 installers. This is great news…but it’s more or less the commitment that many of these developers made when we all began speculating about a 64 bit version.
By the way, I have been flying lately as I’ve been playing around with both FSW and enjoying flights in P3D v3.4. I experienced what will hopefully be one of my last OOM crashes on Sunday when I was flying from KDFW to KMEM. Just within about two minutes after landing (thankfully) the system just said..”Nope…you’re done” it has used up 100% of the available 4 GB of VAS which is the dreadful limitation of 32 bit applications we’ve all been dealing with. It was a great flight other than that.
My Future in Flight Sim
All things being equal, in the past 6 months I’ve been using P3D v3.4, X-Plane 11 and Dovetail Games new Flight Sim World. As I’ve stated many times, I have a large dollar investment in FSX/P3D, so much so that I really can’t afford to seriously look at X-Plane as being a full replacement and still be able to enjoy the hobby in the same fashion. I have many years of experience with the Microsoft Flight Sim family of products and still find the X-Plane way of doing things about as difficult as trying to hammer a nail into the wall using only my forehead.
You can expect to read my first impressions on the 64 bit version of Prepar3D version 4 in the coming days/weeks. I might even record my thoughts and make it available on my YouTube channel. Stay tuned…
Until next time…