(updated September 13, 2014)
This page covers some ways to improve Prepar3D performance, some details on the settings menu, how to customize the aircrafts' virtual cockpit views, and a few other tweaks that I have learned along the way.
Many of these suggestions were posted on forums by other users. My intent has been to just gather together all the tweaks in one place, where they can easily be viewed by anyone (without spending hours on the web searching).
Low Frame Rates: This is a major issue, mainly because so many users are trying to run P3D with settings that are way too high for their system. The first time that P3D runs after it is first installed, it sets your graphics, based on your system. Too many users immediately increase P3D's settings. Just because you can run the latest game with everything set to max, does not mean that you will be able to run P3D at max settings.
OOM (Out of Memory) issues: If you run out of VAS (Virtual Address Space), you run out of memory and P3D will crash to desktop. If you're running FSUIPC4, when your VAS gets below 300 MB, you will hear two Windows "exclamation" sounds. This is a warning that you are close to running out of VAS. This gives you time to save your flight before getting an OOM CTD. At this point, you should save your flight and exit P3D. Then, you can restart P3D, reload your flight, and continue flying. If this is happening frequently, then you need to reduce some P3D settings (like autogen density). There's also a Prepar3D.cfg edit , which may help to free up some memory.
P3D's maximum graphic settings are a LOT higher than what you have in FSX. For many sliders, 50% (midway) in P3D2 is about the same as 100% in FSX (for a similar setting), yet too many users expect to be able to use the same setting for P3D2 as they did for FSX (and then they get upset because their FPS drop to the basement).
P3D is still being optimized, and so are many of its third party add-ons. The other thing is that P3D was design not just for current hardware, but to take advantage of future hardware. So its graphic options can be set way higher than what most of our systems can effectively handle (the same is true for X-Plane 10). So we have to be a bit more conservative in the settings that we use. So even if you have a very high performance system, you will likely not be able to run P3D with everything set to max and still get high FPS when the graphics get the most demanding (such as landing at a major airport, in stormy weather . . . especially if you're using graphically demanding add-on scenery and/or an advanced aircraft).
For consistent frame rates: Do NOT set P3D's Target Frame Rate to Unlimited! Start out with a 20 to 30 FPS Target. If you frame rates are consistently remaining lower than your FPS Target, reduce your target amount (or reduce P3D's settings a bit). If they are consistently remaining higher, you can try increasing your Target FPS a bit. Once you have things set so that you're getting fairly consistent frame rates, save your settings. Note: I have different saved setting, depending on where I am flying (rural or urban) and on conditions.
One other thing that I have noticed is that you can often change a setting in P3D without seeing any difference in FPS . . . UNTIL you restart the sim. This is why it is so important to find the settings that work best and then stop messing with them, and just fly the sim.
If your Operating System is Win 8 and your joystick (or other USB controllers) is 'disappearing in P3D (reverts to just Mouse Yoke in Control settings). the proplem is that Win 8 is allowing your computer to power down your USB devices. This was constantly happening with my Saitek X52 Flight Control System (my LED display would also go dark). To fix this: in device manager, under Human Interface Devices (may be under USB Controllers, depending on your device), I right-clicked the "Saitek X52 Flight Controller (USB), selected Properties/Power Management, and unchecked "Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power."
Use an External FPS Limiter:
The above only helps your frame rates when your GPU is struggling . . . in larger city areas, it is the AI and/or autogen and/or scenery complexity that are generally impacting your FPS, and these are mostly being processed by your CPU.
Also be aware that undocking a window (like ASN's weather radar) will pretty much cut your FPS in half, when you are using a FPS Limiter.
Default Flight: To avoid possible issues, set up your default flight using one of the Prepar3D default aircraft (rather than an add-on aircraft).
Aircraft crashes when loading saved flight: When you have crashes enabled and the AI aircraft set to higher than 50%. Your aircraft loads on top of an AI plane that had chosen that parking space Parking spaces are randomly occupied by AI aircraft. You can test this possibility by turning off crashes or setting your AI Aircraft level to 0. Another thing that could cause it is the occasional messed up AFCAD file, where the parking space is inside the crash zone of an object (try at a different starting location. like at a different gate).
For the most Realism, use the following settings.
The following settings are the most important, if your want to fully follow the aircraft checklists, and be able to follow all my flight procedures:
Instrument's and lights:
Make sure that "Display indicated
airspeed" is checked.
Flight controls: Make sure that Autorudder is NOT checked, or you will not be able to fully control the rudder independently.
Control Issue: When I
first assigned the mixture and propeller
controls to two of my Saitek axis, neither one gave a full range of
adjustments. Instead I was limited to 19 to 81% (instead of 0 to
Below are my current settings, along with some explanations.
Graphic Global Settings/ Profile: I have several profiles saved, base on where I am flying (dense urban or sparse rural), conditions (stormy weather is much harder on FPS than clear/partly cloudy weather), and what add-ons I am using (flying in an Orbx region or one of there detailed airports can result in lower FPS than the default scenery).
Image and Texture Quality/FXAA: I found that enabling this actually makes things less sharp (because it 'softens' the image).
Frame Rate Controls:
View and Panel Settings:
Tessellation Factor: Tessellation moves most of the texture loading to the GPU (from the CPU), this is one of the biggest performance gains over FSX. BUT you need to have a pretty good GPU, with at least 2GB of RAM to be able to run this at Max. If you set this higher than what your GPU can handle, you will likely notice graphic abnormalities, like flashing vertical black lines, along with an increase in stutters.
Mesh Resolution: I have this set on 5m, because Orbx add-on scenery is designed for 5m mesh. If I set this to a higher resolution (like 1m), some of my Orbx airports will have mesh issues (as in holes in runway).]
Testure Resolution: I have this set to 7cm, only because some of my Orbx scenery uses that resolution. If you're using only the default scenery, you can set this a few notches lower (without having any noticeable effect on your visuals).
Sundog software's dynamic waves, but water animations
only appear at these Graphic Settings (and you have to be flying
pretty low to see them):
Scenery Complexity: controls the amount of custom-made scenery objects in the scenery (as opposed to autogen objects ). Of all the scenery sliders, this one has the greatest impact on FPS (if you're using any custom scenery). This is one of the first sliders that I back off when I want to boost my FPS in an urban area.
Cloud detail: If you're using an external weather engine like ASN, set the cloud density in P3D's weather setting as high as your system can handle. For ASN, a 'maximum' setting, with 'Live weather' mode results in the cloud coverage that is the closest to real weather conditions, but you may have to back this off some, if your FPS drop too low. Since P3D v.2.3, I've been leaving it at maximum (going from normal to maximum only resulted in a small drop in FPS).
Simulation Settings: The :Rate at which weather changes over time" is disabled by the Active Sky Next weather engine.
In general, AI traffic has less of an impact in P3D than it does in FSX . . . but it still has an impact.
Road Vehicles: With default scenery, traffic will only appear on major highways (like US Interstates). [If you install FTX Global, traffic will appear on nearly all roads.]
Aircraft labels: I have this checked because it is often impossible to spot distant aircraft unless their label is also displayed. Being able to report seeing an aircraft that ATC is warning me about, is more important to me than turning of these unrealistic labels. If I had a larger/higher resolution monitor, I would not need this visual aid.
Real Time based on Time Zone
(for flight location):
Important! Make sure that Prepar3D is not running, and make backup copies of the original files before making any edits!
Changing Initial Virtual Cockpit Eyepoint:
Button 5 on my joystick is assigned to: "Look (reset to Forward view)," but I always had to tilt the view down to see my main instruments. But then I discovered that you can add a line to the Cameras.cfg that makes this my default forward view.
The above changes the Virtual Cockpit views for ALL aircraft. To change the Eyepoint for an individual aircraft:
Find the aircraft you want to edit.
For Example: if you want to sit a bit lower (lower your eyepoint), change the third value to a slightly lower value. [ For the example above, you might try changing the 1.99 value to 1.9, save your changes, and then check out your new viewpoint in the sim.]
*** When testing out your changes: Make sure that you Reset the Eyepoint (default is: CTRL+SPACE), since viewpoints are saved with the default flight (or whatever flight you loaded). Also make sure that you have the zoom set to your default amount.
To Reduce Blurry Scenery (from
To reduce OOM (Out of Memory) issues:
To Prevent Text Messages from
To Increase Distance of Autogen Trees (and Orbx
lights, most of which are labeled as trees):
The following is no longer recommended after updating to version 2.3 of P3D:
To Reduce Stuttering,
try changing the number of CPU cores that Prepar3D is using. There
is no magical Affinity Mask setting that works best for every
system. . . the value below is just what works for me.
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