• How To...Upgrade To FSX On A Budget

    FSX Finally--Or How To Upgrade To FSX On A Budget

    By Steve Christensen (13 April 2008)

    Like most flight simmers I remember the day when I got FSX, Christmas and the Deluxe version. After seeing the preview videos and screen shots, anticipation of installing it was almost too much to bear. After waiting and getting the kids settled in with their new toys, now it was my turn.

    Seating in front of my computer and opening the package. Scanning the contents and wondering how long it would take to load, before I was on the active and gently nudging the throttle forward and heading skyward once again in a new simulator. It had been this way since the old DOS days and I still have the CD's to prove it. Each version was a step ahead and more hardware was needed to push the program. Ah progress.

    Why all this reminiscing? Well in short, like others here, we anticipated the newest version would work well within our systems and installing and flying would be easy and simple.

    How wrong I was.

    Again, my current hardware that is pumping the current version of flight simulator to the limits is crawling along like the tortoise racing the hare. Once again the minimums are just that, minimums. Like a CAT-3 landing at O'Hare in a blinding snowstorm, I should have seen it coming.

    My last big upgrade to my flight simulator computer was the NVidia 5950 Ultra video card. That system was reviewed in my "Video Card Comparison" I uploaded here a few years ago. Believe me, I still get e-mails over that one. So if you'd like to recap that system, download the file and enjoy.

    OK, now for the guts of this article. It's been over a year since I had FSX and installed it on my flight simulator computer. I prefer to make sure that if anything goes wrong, I can start over and be right where I was, before installing the software. Hence I backed up my system, creating a image and then installing FSX.

    After about an hour or so, it finally decides to load the screen and then I'm off. Hey wait, the demo version I was getting 11-15 fps, looked good. What now, here I am getting 7-9 fps, lagging, stuttering, etc. Reminds me of 2000 Pro. OK, let's check a few settings and run some utilities. Defrag the system, check the pagefile, turn off some processes and programs from running at boot. OK, back into FSX and lets see if that helps.

    I have always tried to target my frame rate to 30, as a test and for smoothness. Normal video is 29.97 and hence flight simulator trying to be as smooth as that, should be able to maintain the same frame rate.

    This is taking off from Seattle - KSEA and heading north. FPS 10.8

    Here is a daytime shot same area, coming into KSEA from the north.

    Nope, nada, zip, same 7-12 fps. OK, let's look at the system itself.

    Intel D101GGC motherboard
    P4 775 3.4 HT processor
    1 gig RAM
    ASUS ATI EAX1600 Pro PCI-e 512 meg video card

    So this is no slow system. FS2004 is great on it. Now I admit, I prefer NVidia over ATI and that's personal preference only. But the ATI card was a good deal and I wanted to do some testing.

    The system that was referred to before was tested with a 7600 GT card - still AGP, but 512 meg and this system was placed together to see about the PCI-e difference.

    This situation reminds me of the FS98 to FS2000 jump, like I said, frame rates through the floor.

    OK, bide my time till I can put together a system that might just rock FSX.

    This is the meat of this and you'll be amazed.

    With the economy today and such, being as frugal as possible is a good thing.

    Recently, I decided to clear out some of my older systems and sell them for cash. Raise a little money and since I gave my youngest son my 7600GT card so he could play some of his games, decided to put my FSX system together.

    I wanted a decent processor, Dual Core at least, an 800 bus speed or better, 2 gigs ram, faster and SATA HD, a newer NVidia video card.

    So let's start shopping and see what bargains I can come up with.

    First the video card. I already know that I want an NVidia card. Do I spend the extra money and go with an SLI configuration or a single card. I use a web site called GPUReview to compare cards and NVidia releases the 9600GT, several stores including a big name retailer are selling it for less then $200.00, not a bad buy. I like the specs and hence settle on it.

    Now for the processor and motherboard.

    Since the next step up from the HT is the Dual Core, that seems like a nice jump. The Intel E6600 looks like the processor that I'll use. I like the 1066 bus speed and the 4 MB cache. Now for the motherboard. Again, being frugal and money tight, I scanned eBay and other places. I locked into the Intel D945GCNL or DG965RY motherboards, the biggest concern was the number of PCI slots.

    Then I got a bargain, an Asus P5N-E SLI motherboard. I had an Asus motherboard before and no issues so I might get lucky. Even though I wasn't going with SLI the board had nice specs. OK, I bought the board and it had the CPU even, at a GREAT price, less then $100.00. Only thing I had to get memory. Again, online and 2 gigs of DDR2 800 MHz cost less then $50.00 with free shipping.

    Now I have the parts and pieces and let's see what this can do. After getting it all put together, and praying to the computer gods that it powers up.

    Yes it does.

    I have images of the previous systems, all syspreped and ready to go. I already slipstreamed SP2 into the images and 15 minutes later XP has booted and asking for the new drivers. I already have FS2004 loaded with a hangar full of planes after about an additional 20 minutes loading drivers and defragging, I open FS2004. Frame rates through the roof. This is cool, change all the sliders to max and still running like a champ.

    OK, now for FSX. I have a second HD, boot into that and again load the drivers.

    Start FSX and hope for the best.
    Tags: upgrade fsx