While I’m sure you’ll find many differing opinions on Microsoft’s current OS, I must say that Windows 10 is perhaps the best thing that has happened in the PC gaming industry since sliced bread or a pocket on a shirt. But the Windows 10 update process does lack a lot to be desired.
My PC gaming experience dates back to the early days of Windows. Over the past couple of decades (geez, I’m getting old), Microsoft Windows has released some excellent operating systems and a few not-so-great versions. In more modern times, Windows XP (with service pack 3) was a fairly reliable OS and performed well in its day. Then there was the infamous Windows Vista (barf) followed by Windows 7. Windows 7 (64bit) was also a very reliable and solid performer. In my real life day job, we still have a fairly large number of workstations still running Windows 7. However, over the next 18 months most of these will be decommissioned. After Windows 7, we endured the Windows 8 fiasco (big barf) but thankfully Windows 10 came along quickly became the go-to OS.
You Get a Copy, You Get a Copy and You Get a Copy
Sometime in the summer of 2015, Microsoft began handing out free copies of Windows 10 much the same way Oprah handed out cars many years ago. Licensed users of Windows 7 and Windows 8 could download/install Windows 10 without charge for one year. I must admit that I was a bit reluctant to upgrade my gaming machine to Windows 10. After all, I had a pretty reliable process for building/rebuilding my Win 7 system and everything (including all my Steam games and Prepar3D v3.x) was dialed in pretty solid.
However, I had been testing Windows 10 at work and had also updated one of my other home PC’s to Win 10 and was starting to see that Windows 10 was going to be the future of PC gaming. My current instance of Windows 7 was starting to slow down and things were getting cluttered on the system. I wanted to take the free Windows 10 update, but didn’t want to hassle of inheriting all the little issues I had been having with the Win 7 setup. So I formatted my main SSD drive, reinstalled Windows 7 and then applied the Windows 10 update.
Time Flies when you are having fun…
For the past 18+ months my gaming machine has performed flawlessly. Prepar3D version 4 (64 bit heaven) worked beautifully and all my Steam games performed like a dream. While this particular gaming machine is approaching 4 years old, I built it with the future in mind and pending no hardware failures, should still handle my gaming needs for another year or two.
Windows 10 Updates
Having the IT background I do, I’m a firm believer in applying updates/patches etc. in a timely manner. I began experiencing an issue shortly after the new year where my machine wouldn’t/couldn’t install Win 10 updates. I did some research and tried all the usual things. Nothing I did worked…but it was only a minor nuisance until about a week ago.
Last Saturday morning, with coffee in hand I went down to my basement office to play a little Farming Simulator 17 and record an episode. I guess Microsoft was hell bent on changing my plans, because for the past 2-3 months these updates wouldn’t install, but magically they did…but to my fear it left my system in a terrible state.
I did manage to repair Windows 10 to a point where most things worked fine, but I ran into issues with Prepar3D and I just can’t live with that.
I’m a Perfectionist
I really don’t know if being a perfectionist is a good trait or a bad one. I think it can easily go both ways. In my real world job, I suppose it’s a good thing as I typically don’t settle for anything less than perfection. In my personal life…well…it absolutely drives my wife crazy. But the problem with little nagging issues is they can quickly become really major showstoppers and as I have just less than three weeks worth of recorded content ready to go, I figure now is a good time to fix this mess.
A Change is a coming…
Shhhhh, don’t tell my wife….but I’m about to plop a new 500 GB SSD in my gaming machine. As I previously mentioned, I did build this machine with the future in mind. At the time, I installed three 250 GB SSD drives in the machine with the idea that SSD #1 would run Windows, SSD #2 would be for all things P3D and SSD #3 would be for Steam Games. In addition to the SSD drives, I also have one 500GB SATA drive that I use to capture my video recordings and also use it as a backup drive.
The new plan is to rebuild Windows 10 on the current 250 GB SSD. The primary Windows drive doesn’t need to be massive and I feel 250GB will be fine. The new 500GB SSD will contain all my Steam games as I’m quickly approaching the point where 250GB won’t hold everything. P3D will continue to live on its own 250 GB SSD and finally, the older 250GB SSD will contain nothing but the Documents folder. After all, so many of the games I run utilize the “Documents” folder to save files, mods, aircraft, scenery etc.
Tick Tock, Tick Tock
After backing up my precious game saves for FS17, ATS, ETS2 and other important items I began the process by kicking off the built in Windows 10 reset tool and selecting the option to delete all personal data, files, settings etc. After all, I’m wanting to start from scratch. This is a excellent feature of Windows 10 and it worked just as intended. Less than 30 minutes later, Windows 10 was perfectly reset with all patches and updates safely and securely applied. I then proceeded to update my Nvidia GPU drivers and a few other critical device drivers. Another 30 minutes or so and I was ready to start installing games and other applications.
Steam – I love it!
I know a lot of people loath Steam and Steam games. For me, I absolutely adore it and in a rebuild scenario it is your best friend. As my primary recorded content on my YouTube Channel is FS17, FS17 was the first to get installed. I changed the install directory to the new 500GB SSD drive and allowed Steam to download and install FS17. Once FS17 was installed, I launched it so it would create the appropriate folders in the Documents directory (living on its own SSD drive) then shut down FS17. Next I copied over the saved folders/files from the previous Documents installation. This brought over all my mods and the appropriate game save folders. It also pulled in the much appreciated keybindings file which worked perfect. I fired up FS17, loaded up my new map game save and everything was just like it was on the old setup. Love it!
Next I installed ATS and ETS2 and followed much the same procedure as I did with FS17. I’m pleased to report everything is 100% like it was when I last played. Fantastic!
Finally, I got OBS, TrackIR and a few other things I need to be able to continue producing my video content on YouTube. I highly recommend you backup your OBS configurations as it is super easy to import these back into OBS when performing a rebuild like this. I’m now 100% ready to resume recording my game content for what I’m currently featuring on the channel. From start to finish, I’d say I reached this point within less than 2 hours from the time I started the rebuild process. Awesome!
Are we there yet?
My gaming rig wouldn’t be complete without my flight sim setup installed and dialed in to perfection. While it only took me about two hours to completely refresh Windows 10 and get the rig back to a point where I could play and record FS17, ATS or ETS2. Two hours is merely a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of time required to get fully airborne. In February, Lockheed Martin released version 4.2.x of their 64 bit Prepar3D Flight Simulator. I had been running 4.1.x so I took advantage of this re-birth to go with the latest and greatest. I installed P3D v4.2.x onto its own 250GB SSD drive and verified all was working by loading up the sim and choosing a default aircraft. Success!
Next comes all the add-ons. Now for those of you who enjoy FS17, ATS and ETS2 and enjoy those games with mods, you know we simply need to find the mod we want, download it and drop it in the mods folder. Launch the game and a few clicks the mod is enabled and hopefully it’s everything we had hoped it would be. The process for flight sim just isn’t that simple. Every, single, add-on has its own .exe or some can only be downloaded/installed via a central application (as is the case with Orbx). Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the new Orbx FTX Central. Not only does it automate the download, install and updating process…it’s just really cool. I’ve already praised this new application in a blog post last year.
But to put things into perspective. In FS17, I have well over 150 mods. Most likely closer to 200. Getting FS17 downloaded, installed and running again just where I left off only took me about 2 hours and this included the Windows 10 refresh process. But Flight Sim is much, much different. On my mod spreadsheet for P3D, I have approx. 100 add-ons. Again, each of these are .exe’s that need to be checked if they are the latest versions, downloaded if not, then installed. With scenery add-ons, it’s advisable to restart the PC and load up the sim between each install. I would estimate (and this really is a guess), but it most likely takes me well over 24 hours (I really don’t think this is an exaggeration) to get P3D running with absolutely everything I own running and dialed in. This also includes configuring all my external controls including yoke, rudder pedals and various button/switch panels. Very little is simply “plug & play”.
My typical approach to reinstalling P3D (which I do every 18-24 months) is to do a little at a time. I typically install all the Orbx ground texture applications (base, vector, openLC etc.) then proceed to the Orbx regional terrain (Cen. Rocky Mountains, Southern Alaska, NoCal etc.). Then I install the other add-ons like Weather, Sky Textures, VATSIM etc. Then I proceed with payware aircraft. Typically I always install the PMDG 737 NGX first along with add-on airports of KDEN and KDFW. Then I typically begin installing other airports and aircraft as I fly around the virtual world.
Whew….well, I need to get busy again installing scenery and aircraft. After all, it’s not gonna get done all by itself.
Until next time….