UPDATE: Workaround for the overexposed sky and clouds is added below. This graphics guide will be updated on July 27 due to Sim Update 5. Be sure to check our updated Performance Boost Tricks from time to time.
WORKAROUND FOR THE OVEREXPOSED SKY AND CLOUDS: To disable the unrealistic overexposed sky and clouds effect seen from the cockpit view, if unable to use the HDR10, is to edit one value in the UserCfg.opt file. To find this UserCfg.opt file, go to your Community folder, and then “Go up” by two folders. Open the UserCfg.opt file with the Notepad and search for ColorGrading 1. Change the ColorGrading (in both non-VR and VR sections) value from 1 to 0, then save and close the file before launching the MSFS. Note, if you change the graphics settings via in-sim, this file will be overwritten, and you will need to apply this workaround again.
This is a set-up guide for the best graphics without losing too much performance of the Microsoft Flight Simulator. My kinda solid frames-per-second value increased noticeably, and I still maintained very good-looking visuals and terrain detail, almost no difference compared all set to Ultra. Of course, the benefit is tied to what kind of system you are running MSFS in, and the effect might change by future MSFS patches and optimizations by Asobo Studio. Hardware used for this article is Intel Core i7-9750, RTX 2060 6GB, 16GB RAM, and 512GB SSD.
Make sure your system is up-to-date, meaning Windows 10 is version 20H2 or higher. Open Start menu, select Settings – Update & Security – Windows Update – Check for updates. Also, ensure that all the apps are up-to-date in Microsoft Store. In the top right-hand side corner of the Microsoft Store, click on the three-dot menu > Downloads and updates, then click Get updates > Update all. I do recommend turning automatic updates OFF for both Windows 10 and Microsoft Store. Updates rolling on the background can interfere with the performance of MSFS.
Ensure your Graphics Processing Unit has the latest drivers installed. Outdated or corrupted graphics drivers can impact the performance of MSFS. I recommend you completely remove your old graphics drivers before installing the latest drivers. Go get the latest graphics card drivers for your GeForce or Radeon graphics card. It’s recommended to download the right graphics drivers manually and avoid using automatic update software. At least, the GeForce Experience app can sometimes change MSFS graphic settings without user notice. Also, it’s important to disable GPU overclocking when running the MSFS because it can cause crash-to-desktop issues.
Next, let’s tweak a couple of settings on Windows 10 before launching the MSFS. With the Game Mode enabled, which should usually prioritize games and minimize background tasks to improve performance, many games encounter poorer frame rates, stutters, and freezes. Therefore, open the Start menu, select Settings, for Find a setting field type Game Mode, and under its settings turn Game Mode OFF. On the same page under the Related settings title, click on Graphics settings and make sure Hardware-accelerated GPU scheduling is OFF. Also, under Captures settings (found by Find a setting field), make sure Background recording is OFF.
Increasing the Virtual Memory can help to end unknown crash-to-desktop issues if having less than 32GB RAM. In the Windows Search bar, type and open View advanced system settings. Under the Advanced tab, click the Settings (Performance). On the Performance Options, go to the Advanced tab and set Processor scheduling to Background services (and Apply), which after click Change (Virtual memory). Uncheck the Automatically manage paging file size for all drives. Click to select the drive on which Windows 10 is installed (by default C:). Select the Custom size and for both fields below, type the Pagefile in megabytes according to your physical memory present in your computer (e.g. 16GB RAM = 16384 megabytes). Finally, click Set, then click OK, and restart your computer.
Finally, it’s time to tweak the Microsoft Flight Simulator graphics settings in-game under OPTIONS – GENERAL – GRAPHICS. Several settings have a high impact on performance but by setting them right you gain a smoother flight simulator and still maintain very good-looking visuals and the best terrain details. More information on how much each of the graphics options will affect performance can be found at the end of this article. At first, set the Display Mode to FULL SCREEN, and make sure the Full Screen Resolution is your native resolution. Then, select the Global Rendering Quality to be HIGH-END and check that the rest of the options are as described below.
Render Scaling: 100
Terrain Level of Detail: 175
Terrain Vector Data: HIGH
Grass and Bushes: HIGH
Object Level of Detail: 200
Volumetric Clouds: HIGH
Texture Resolution: HIGH
Anisotropic Filtering: 16X
Texture Supersampling: 6X6
Texture Synthesis: HIGH
Water Waves: HIGH
Shadow Maps: 1536
Terrain Shadows: 512
Contact Shadows: HIGH
Windshield Effects: HIGH
Ambient Occlusion: HIGH
Light Shafts: HIGH
Depth of Field: OFF
Motion Blur: OFF
Lens Correction: OFF
Lens Flare: OFF
Glass Cockpit Refresh Rate: MEDIUM
If you are flying online, on networks such as VATSIM, IVAO, POSCON, and PilotEdge, note that under the TRAFFIC page, the Ground Aircraft Density controls the amount of static aircraft at the gates, this should be set to zero. The other values should not be more than a value of 50 either. If your Internet connection is slower than 50 Mbps or experiencing stutters at Photogrammetry locations, I recommend disabling Photogrammetry under the DATA page. Also, disabling Rolling Cache improves performance a bit. With graphics settings explained in this guide, my FPS is between 35-60, depending on the location and phase of flight.
Here are listed all the options under OPTIONS – GENERAL – GRAPHICS and if choosing a greater value, it starts to impact frames-per-second with certain settings. Especially, options Terrain Level of Detail and Glass Cockpit Refresh Rate have the top most impact on the performance. On the other side options like Anti-Aliasing, Windshield Effects, and Reflections has a low impact on frames-per-second. Eventually, this all comes down to a lot of personal preference for how the flight simulator is looking visually and how many frames-per-second is wanted. Performance impact, lowest (1/5) to highest (5/5), has been given for each setting.
- Anti-Aliasing (2/5) – A technique to blur and smooth out edges.
- Terrain Level of Detail (5/5) – Visual quality of all the terrain.
- Terrain Vector Data (3/5) – Texture patterns on a distance.
- Buildings (4/5) – Visual quality and draw distance of the buildings.
- Trees (3/5) – Visual quality and draw distance of the trees.
- Grass and Bushes (4/5) – The density and render distance of the grass and bushes.
- Objects Level of Detail (4/5) – This controls the render distance of various objects.
- Volumetric Clouds (4/5) – Level of cloud resolution and quality.
- Texture Resolution (4/5) – Lower this setting if VRAM runs out on your GPU.
- Anisotropic Filtering (4/5) – Quality of textures when viewed at oblique angles.
- Texture Supersampling (4/5) – Ground textures at a distance becomes sharper.
- Texture Synthesis (4/5) – Constructing a larger image from a smaller texture.
- Water Waves (4/5) – Resolution level of wave simulation.
- Shadow Maps (3/5) – Resolution of shadow maps.
- Terrains Shadows (4/5) – Resolution of terrain shadows from a distance.
- Contact Shadows (2/5) – Quality of shadows for screen space objects up close.
- Windshield Effects (2/5) – Quality for rain effects and reflections on the windshield.
- Ambient Occlusion (4/5) – A technique used to create artificial shadows.
- Reflections (3/5) – Quality of reflections on reflective surfaces.
- Light Shafts (3/5) – A technique to simulate shafts of light from bright sources.
- Bloom (1/5) – Effect of bright lens bloom.
- Depth of Field (3/5) – A technique to simulate background blur.
- Motion Blur (2/5) – Intensity of motion blur increases at higher setting.
- Lens Correction (2/5) – A process that corrects camera lens distortion.
- Lens Flare (2/5) – A technique that adds small flares to bright light sources.
- Glass Cockpit Refresh Rate (5/5) – Smoothness of the cockpit screens.