• How To...Install Enhancements In Microsoft Flight Simulator

    How To...Install Enhancements in Microsoft Flight Simulator

    By Bill Stack (29 January 2008)

    A wonderful secondary feature of Microsoft Flight SimulatorĀ® (MSFS) is the user's ability to enhance and expand simulations by adding features such as aircraft, sceneries, panels, sounds, and flight plans.

    These enhancements are done by installing certain operational files to appropriate locations inside the program. The simulator sees these additions and reflects them in the selections menus. Some tweaking is necessary sometimes to help the simulator see these files.

    Some users have aptly asked how enhancements are installed within MSFS. Well, they aren't. Although some add-on products include setup programs that install their products in MSFS, the simulation program itself does not offer file-management features.

    When dedicated setup programs are not included with the enhancement, installation is done with file-management programs such as Windows Explorer (do not confuse with Internet Explorer) and with archiving programs such as WinZip.

    Although much of this lesson might seem elementary to some flight simmers, we discovered that some simmers know more about using the simulator than the computer itself. Accordingly, the procedures are explained for all experience levels.

    Examples of flightsim enhancements

    1. Obtain the Files

    First, these files are usually obtained by downloading from internet sites such as FlightSim.Com or from compact disks (CD) included with flightsim magazines and products.

    Files from the Internet should be downloaded to a place where you can easily find them when needed. A lot of people download to their desktop and move them to a permanent storage folder later. I have a dedicated folder that I named "Downloads."

    Files from CDs can remain on the CDs or copied to your storage folder if desired.

    Downloading enhancement files from FlightSim.Com

    2. Examine the Files

    Files available from the Internet are often compressed and archived with related files to minimize storage space and transfer time. Such files are compressed and uncompressed by utility programs, the most common being "WinZip", which is readily available from the Internet. Use the archive program to look inside and see the MSFS files it contains.

    Files from CDs are often listed independently of one another, sometimes in folders with related files. Use a file-management program such as Windows Explorer.

    It's important to know which files are which. Most developers include instructions in their archive files, but here's a list of common MSFS file extensions:

    *.air - a program file
    *.bmp - an image file
    *.cfg - a configuration file
    *.flt - a flight file
    *.gau - a gauge file
    *.jpg - an image file
    *.mdl - a program file
    *.pln - a flight plan
    *.wav - a sound file
    *.wx - a weather file

    Use a file manager such as Windows Explorer or an archive program such as WinZip to examine your enhancement files.

    3. Follow the Developer's Instructions

    The next thing you need to know is which files to copy and where to put them. Most developers include instruction files in their archives. Those instructions are usually in ordinary text files with a "txt" extension. Some developers use a word-processing program such as Microsoft Word, in which case the instructions will be in a file with a "doc" or "rtf" extension.

    If those instructions are not included with the package you obtained, contact the developer (most of them provide e-mail addresses) or discard the enhancement if you cannot find instructions. The precise locations for functional files vary among MSFS versions. Putting files in the wrong place can foul your simulator's operations, or do nothing at all. Either result will waste your time and frustrate you.

    4. Determine Where the Files Belong

    The basic folder for MSFS files is usually this:

    C:\Program Files\Microsoft Games\Flight Simulator

    Within that basic folder are the subfolders for aircraft, scenery, sounds and so forth. Click on that primary flightsim folder, and you will find numerous subfolders named "aircraft," "scenery" "sounds," and many more. The exact names will differ among MSFS versions, and you can find where your files should go once you've arrived at the primary folder for your flightsim files.

    Obviously, aircraft files go in the aircraft folders, scenery files go in the scenery folders, sound files go in sound folders, and so forth. In earlier MSFS versions, sound files were stored among aircraft folders, which resulted in numerous sound folders and files. In FSX, they are in a single folder independent of the aircraft folders. Examine your simulator's folders and subfolders to see where these files are stored.

    Read and follow the developer's instructions.

    5. Copy the Files

    This section applies only if your files are not archived. Such files can be copied directly into their appropriate locations within MSFS using a file-management program. If the files are archived, skip this section and go to Section 7.

    Windows Explorer is an easy-to-use file-manager that comes with all versions of Windows. Go to the destination such as the CD or Desktop, find the needed file or files. Highlight them with your mouse, then click on "Copy."

    6. Paste the Files

    Go to the appropriate destination folder, click on "Paste." Your files will be copied into that folder. The amount of time needed for copying depends on the amount of date being transferred in the numbers of files and their sizes.

    Use a file manager such as Windows Explorer to copy and paste files

    7. Extract the Archived Files

    This section applies only if your files are archived. If your files are not archived, skip this section and go back to Section 5.

    WinZip and other archive programs will extract the compressed files directly to the folder specified by the user. Some developers preprogram their archives to extract directly to the appropriate folders for user convenience. Highlight the needed files and click on "Extract" to copy them to the appropriate folder or folders. Check to be sure the programmed folder is correct for your computer, and change it if necessary before starting the extraction.

    Extract only the files needed by MSFS. There's no need to extract instruction and description files into MSFS because they will only consume space.

    Use an archive program such as WinZip to extract and install your files

    8. Check Your Enhancements

    Once the files are installed, open your flight simulator and look for the enhancements. As examples:

    If you installed a flight, pull down the "File" menu, then click on "Load," and look for the flight you copied.

    For flight plans, pull down the "File" menu, then click on "Flight Planner," and look for the flight plan you copied.

    For aircraft, pull down the "Aircraft" menu, click on "Select Aircraft," and look for your new aircraft in the selection list.

    If your enhancement does not appear (or sound), recheck the instructions that came with your enhancement and follow them step by step. If they still don't work, contact the source for assistance. If you cannot make contact with the author, flightsim message forums are a great way to contact other flightsimmers and get their help.

    Check your enhancement in MSFS

    A tip: Aircraft are not recognized by MSFS unless their instrument panels are in the correct location and properly referenced in the aircraft's configuration files. If the aircraft you installed doesn't appear, check the panel references in the configuration files, or install a panel separately. Without panels, aircraft will never appear in your selection list.

    A little experimentation and practice goes a long way toward increasing your ability to enhance your simulator by adding files.

    Bill Stack is a flightsim expert and author of several popular books and regular magazine articles about flight simming. His website is www.topskills.com

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