In this article we summarise the most important steps to immediately improve your VR experience of Microsoft Flight Simulator.
A Quick Guide
The goal is to make the sim run stutter-free and look great, and the one that will make most difference are listed below. This is a reasonable baseline from which you can make incremental improvements. There are multiple ways to maximise your results and the ones you prefer will depend on your system and preferences.
How to Improve the VR Headset Image
The best free improvement you can make for a lower resolution VR headset is to feed it higher resolution images than it natively supports. It doesn’t sound likely but it works very well because you will see two separate images that will combine.
How to Improve Image Quality & Performance
The best performance boost is currently provided by the NIS/FSR Scaling Tool in the OpenXR Toolkit. This tool is capable of reducing the size of the image that MSFS has to provide. It then upscales the image to full size using algorithmic tricks that preserve details. Upscaling like this saves time.
You can use the processing time you have saved to increasing the headset image size. You can also combine it with Microsoft’s own DLSS implementation.
Nominate a Master Image Size Scale
Managing the sim settings will be less confusing if you nominate a single render scale to be the master (excluding the OpenXR Toolkit upscaler because it doesn’t change the output image size, it changes the input size). I use the VR headset driver’s render scale directly but some headsets may rely on the OpenXR scale instead.
For example, this is how mine are set for a Rift-S:
- MSFS graphics settings = 100%
- The OpenXR Toolkit upscaler = 85% input upscaled to 100% output
- The OpenXR = 100%
- The headset driver = 135% (my nominated master scale)
How the above scenario works:
The headset driver requests images at native resolution * 135%. The upscaler creates a buffer at 85% of that and the sim creates the image in the buffer. The upscaler expands the 85% image up to 100% of the requested headset size (135%) and feeds it back to the headset driver.
Preparation for a Flight
- Run an anti-virus check so Windows doesn’t do one later
- Check and install any pending Windows Updates.
- Check and install any pending Microsoft Store Library Updates for the sim, OpenXR & Xbox.
- Update graphics drivers as necessary.
- Disable auto-starting programs that may be using CPU in the background by using Autoruns and Startup Delayer to control them. Look at the Task Manager process list to find programs that are using the CPU by sorting on the ‘usage’ column.
- Benchmark your PC so you can see how things are progressing.
- Record your CPU & GPU usage using the Task Manager etc.
- When you are ready, restart your PC to ensure you are running normally.
These can be used as a baseline to get you going, but there are many more things you can do.
- Check and adjust your PC’s Page File if you have less than 32 Gb of RAM by referring to the relevant section. Note: Windows requires a page file for its own uses, so if you don’t want to use it, set it to auto.
- Turn off your anti-virus’s real-time protection for the duration of your flights to reduce stutter. I suggest you make the state of the ant-virus visible on your task bar so you don’t forget to turn it back on again later. If in doubt, leave this out – its important to keep your machine protected.
- PC Settings
- Search for ‘Graphics Settings’
- Set Hardware Accelerated GPU Scheduling (HAGS) = off
- Set Variable Refresh Rate = off
- Add ‘Microsoft Flight Simulator’ to the Graphics performance preference and set its option to High Performance. This negates the need to set the whole PC to ‘performance’ mode all of the time.
- Search for ‘Game Mode’ and set Game Mode = off
- Search for ‘Graphics Settings’
- Use the OpenXR Toolkit, (works with DirectX 11 not 12) it will make a substantial difference to the load on your computer.
- Enable NIS or FSR upscaling (eg: 85% meaning rendered at this fraction of the required size).
- Use Foveated Rendering if it doesn’t detract from your experience.
- While you are there, consider adjusting the saturation so it’s more realistic (eg: 45%)
- If you are using an Nvidia driver open the NVidia Control Panel from the desktop right-click menu and in ‘3D Settings > Manage 3D Settings> Program Settings > Microsoft Flight Simulator’
include these values as a minimum:
- Texture Filtering – Negative LOD bias = Clamp
- Texture Filtering – Anisotropic sample optimization = Application Controlled (x16)
- Texture Filtering – Quality = performance
- Texture Filtering – Trilinear optimisation= on
- Virtual Reality pre-rendered frames = Application Setting
- Launch Microsoft Flight Simulator and alter these settings:
- In the MSFS VR Graphics settings, set everything to ’high’ then adjust the settings you care about least step by step until you get a stable output.
- Use DirectX 11 for better performance (review that in mid 2023)
- Try DLSS ‘Quality’ anti-aliasing first. If the image quality is less than desired, try out TAA instead. Unfortunately, the DLSS output quality can change for better or worse from time to time even if you don’t change its setting yourself. The variations are most likely due to MSFS updates, but could also be due to GPU driver updates or VR headset driver updates.
- Set the size of the MSFS rolling cache to no more than 20Gb as a stutter prevention precaution.
- Exit MSFS using the provided in-sim ‘exit’ menu option to save your settings.
- Experiment with oversampling the VR render scale between 120% & 140% using either the VR Headset driver render scale or the OpenXR render scale. Ensure the MSFS render scale is at 100%.
- Restart your PC and check that the PC settings are still set correctly
- Launch MSFS and check that the MSFS settings are still set correctly
- Ensure your ASW / Reprojection set to 30 FPS for your VR headset
That completes the initial pass, and you should be closer to optimal performance.
If you go on to adjust the individual settings in depth it will take a few hours to get everything working together really well. Be aware that some settings require a sim restart before they become active and failing to do this will lead into a quagmire of incorrect observations regarding the settings. You may be surprised to find that the sim operates differently when you come back to it the next day.
Although the individual settings might also indicate a preference, this is just a guide for those who aren’t sure what to do. Whichever way you go, you will need to experiment to optimise your own preferences.