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B21

FSX SSD Install

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Further to Hodge's question on another (CumulusX) sub-forum, I'm installing FSX on my new PC with an SSD main drive and can share experience a bit here.

My new machine cost £1240 from overclockers.co.uk (British pounds) (= US$1880, Euro 1450) for the system unit - I re-used my displays/keyboard etc. The basic idea was to get an i7-920 cpu with a 5870 graphics card without mortgaging the kids. Within the budget I was able to get an 80GB SSD as the main (boot) drive, and as I know the i7-920 can be easily overclocked I planned for that. Full config:

i7-920 cpu, with a Coolit ALC (sealed water) cooler

6GB of triple-channel DDR2 memory, on a Gigabyte GA-X58-UD3R motherboard

ATI 5870 1GB graphics card

Intel X25-M 80GB solid-state-disk, plus a standard 1TB hard drive, plus a DVD read/writer

A reasonably well-cooled case (In-Win Fanqua) and a quality 600W psu.

The Intel i7-920 cpu runs at a standard frequency of 2.66GHz but is known to 'overclock' well. I was able to increase mine to 4GHz (making it faster than the stock performance of a cpu costing £300 more) without adjusting any voltages and remaining within acceptable temperatures (80 deg C).

Assembling this PC from parts took 3 or 4 hours (jeez), the overclock step only took a couple of minutes and is the most-value free upgrade I've ever had.

Windows 7 was installed onto the SSD (with the hard drive disconnected), then the hard drive was added.

The full Win 7 install took about 20GB.

FSX was installed (then SP1, then SP2, then removed SP2, then installed Acceleration) - this ensures you have every variant of DLL that add-on software might require. Then I left the scenery folders on the SSD but to save precious SSD space I *moved* the less-time-critical bits of FSX over to the hard drive - e.g. the entire SimObjects folder - to make things simple I backed up my old SimObjects folder (and Gauges, Fonts, Modules) and restored it to the new machine (hard drive). The clever trick is to create 'links' back on the SSD where these folders used to be in the "Microsoft Flight Simulator X" folder, so that they now transparently link across to the hard drive but FSX has no clue those folders have been moved. Don't worry about this bit unless you want to do it. The magic word is 'mklink'. Worked like a charm.

The ATI 5870 graphics card natively supports 3 screens, but one of them has to be 'displayport'. I have 3 x Dell 20" monitors connected to an existing VGA Triplehead2go and so connected those - this kind of thing:

withoutBezel.jpg

The max resolution with VGA triplehead2go is 3x1280x1024 so I'm using that - If I buy a displayport screen or an active displayport->DVI adapter (£80) I'll be able to run all three screens at their native 1600x1200 DVI. So far the FSX update rate is totally smooth locked at 26fps with the sliders mostly maxed out - I haven't tweaked the couple that aren't (terrain resolution?) as things are good so far, and I haven't tried upping or removing the 'locked' rate either. The i7-920 appears to FSX as eight (!) cpu's but it's obvious most of the time only one cpu is 100% loaded - the others kick in in bursts presumably when scenery is being loaded or something. There are FSX config parameters you can mess with to optimise the balance of processing across cpu's but I'll wait until I've got any enthusiasm to mess with that.

So the machine boots fast and seems to run FSX pretty well - load times are noticeably less than they were but I'm not one of those fan-boys who tries to suggest my life has changed as a result (although now I don't go and get a coffee after pressing the power-on key).

With Win7, FSX, Counter-Strike Source, Left4Dead2 installed on the SSD, I'm up to 50GB out of the 75GB available (SSD is a nominal 80GB unformatted) so I'll have to watch it, but the move-it-over-to-the-hard-drive and create-a-link trick seems to work pretty well if I need to free up space.

B21

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very interesting as I have in mind buying something similar.

why not installing win 7 on the HD and FSX on the SSD alone? Would be worried for the trim effect on the main drive as a SSD.

would have gone for the Intel X25-M 160GB solid-state-disk, for space. But I realize you would have to mortgage the first child.

Etienne

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very interesting as I have in mind buying something similar.

why not installing win 7 on the HD and FSX on the SSD alone? Would be worried for the trim effect on the main drive as a SSD.

would have gone for the Intel X25-M 160GB solid-state-disk, for space. But I realize you would have to mortgage the first child.

Etienne

Win 7 (Professional) on a 6GB ram machine took up about 20GB on the SSD (that includes hibernate space for the 6GB ram, hence the mention of that). 160GB is better than 80GB but I was looking at a price optimisation and didn't want to spend £200 more on the SSD and £200 less on the graphics card for example... either way putting Win7 on there shouldn't be much of a concern. There is a ton of stuff that ends up *having* to install on the boot drive (e.g. games downloaded from Steam) plus windows itself has the memory page files on the boot drive (not sure if you can move that...) plus for Windows boot time it pays to have Windows on the SSD. These added up to my decision to use the SSD for 'C:'. Because you can 'mklink' folder entries that map across to a separate hard drive, it is fairly easy to move big chunks of any install from the SSD to the HD while leaving the system believing it's all still on C: - this is equally possible in reverse but you will need more 'mklink's to ensure *every* folder that benefits from rapid access is on the SSD. Net net with Windows on the SSD by default you're assuming fast access, but you can purposely move chunks of bulk data across where you're happy with read profile as opposed to the other way around.

The hard drive as my 'second' drive makes a very easy target for the massive folders, i.e. music, photos and videos.

Trim isn't an issue now with newish SSD's and Win7, but I chose the Intel X-25M just to be on the safe side !

B21

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b21

Very cool. Sounds like a great system!! I would love to max out all my sliders! Very interested in your comment that it only took a couple of minutes to overclock your i7 920. I have an i7 at work and investigated overclocking but got cold feet at the last minute (didn't want to stuff it up). Would appreciate the steps you took for the overclock, I have the i7 920 with 12g ram, a big cooler and an asus P6T motherboard with Win7 64bit.

Be great if FSX could share itself evenly over the 8 processors. I am trying at present with my work stuff to get a greater utilisation of the processors......... I have a need for speed!!!

Jeff

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i7 cpu's have a thermal sensor that slows them down if they get hot so it's not really possible to damage the cpu by tweaking the frequency. All you have to do is (anyone that says "all you have to do is" may be talking bolox) adjust the base clock up from 133 Mhz and reduce the memory multiplier so that the memory is still running at its rated speed. CPU speed is a fixed x20 multiple of the 'base clock', i.e. with a 133Mhz BCLK the cpu runs at 2.66Ghz, and BCLK=200MHz => cpu@4GHz. The memory multiplier needs to be reduced to keep that within spec - I think the P6T BIOS doesn't actually show you the memory *multiplier*, it just does the maths for you and tells you the memory speed, i.e. DDR3-1066MHz. CPU-Z will tell you the kind of memory you have - the generic default is 1066MHz i.e. the default multiplier is x8 of the default base clock 133Mhz. CPU-Z shows this as a 'DRAM Frequency' of 533Mhz as it's DDR2 (confusing I know).

There are plenty of online articles, e.g. this one. I searched google on 'asus p6t overclock'. The interesting page of the article is page 3, showing the BIOS settings.

My advice would be:

* Install CPU-Z , RealTemp and Prime95 (a useful heavy-load program that heats up your cpu) so you know your starting positions of cpu and memory timings and temps (see article above). These utilities are super easy and don't really need any explanation.

* Alter the BIOS setting to speed up the base clock (BCLK) a small amount just to get the idea. Check the BIOS memory speed is still correct for your memory. Turn OFF Intel Turbo Boost (this dynamically increases clock speed and you don't want that if overclocking)

* Reboot to Windows and look at CPU-Z and RealTemp, running Prime95 again to confirm things have speeded up and the temps are still ok. You should see the temps creep up a bit but not much if you haven't overclocked much. Top limit for a long run of Prime95 'small matrix' should be 80 degrees C.

* If you don't know what you're doing, my advice is do *not* adjust the voltages. Just see how fast you can get the cpu with stock voltages and keep the memory at its rated speed. You should still be able to get a good free overclock. The advantage of not upping the cpu votages is you're safe from a screw-up, upping the voltage ups the temps fairly dramatically, and the i7-920 will give *some* overclock on stock voltages. Quite a lot of memory has a max voltage spec of 1.65 volts while the default intel power is 1.5 volts, so there's not much of an issue altering that (i.e. you're still within the accepted spec) and that allows the memory to run at its max rated frequency, but if the memory in your machine is generic no-name no-brand maybe it's limited to 1.5 volts and 1066MHz so you'd need to check. 17-920 memory speed doesn't have much of an impact on benchmarks anyway, unlike the base clock speed.

I got fairly good mileage out of my i7-920, although I had invested in a more expensive cooler rather than keep the stock intel cooler that was included with the cpu. Doing the above I got to 4GHz while keeping the temps *just* acceptable. Heat is the issue - I'm sure my cpu could go faster if I invested in a meatier cooling solution (but I'm already water-cooling) and in your case you almost certainly have the stock intel fan cooler - maybe at 3.5Ghz running Prime95 your cpu's will reach 80 degrees and you'll have to stop there.

B21

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May I ask what settings you did for the overclock to 4.00GHz?

you mean FSX settings? I'll take a peek and update this post. Mainly I remember I enthusiastically slid all the sliders as far as they would go to the right, didn't get a great framerate (prob single digits, I forget) and worked out what do I have to slide back a bit to get the FPS back up to 20+. *Max* autogen was the framerate killer on my system (by the way, I'm running 3840x1024 across three monitors, ATI 5870) and I think moving autogen back was enough to get something I'm happy with.

I'm sure I adjusted other values down not because there was an immediate problem but because it was something unimportant to *me*. Soaring really is my main use of FSX and I love 'high detail clouds' but don't care about getting the max amount of AI aircraft traffic. I think I kept the max amount of vehicle traffic even though I think that hits the system fairly hard.

I have scenery detail on max without a problem so FSX doesn't miss out any airport buildings but then I haven't flown over Manhattan to see if my system chokes (I'll check...) . Understandably I don't have JFK as one of my soaring turnpoints so it's not an issue for *me*....

B21

*edit* My FSX Settings @ 3840x1024, i7 920@ 4Ghz, ATI 5870, SSD drive for Win 7 & FSX:

Weather: Cloud Draw Distance 60 miles / Detailed Clouds tick / Cloud Coverage Density maximum --- note when I fly I tend to set visibility to less than infinite, e.g. 40 miles

Traffic: Airline 71% / Gen Aviation 70% / Airport vehicle density High / Road vehicles 77% / Ships and ferries 40% / Leisure boats 40 %

Scenery (Terrain and water): LoD Radius Medium / Mesh complexity 75 / Mesh resolution 19m / Texture resolution 1m / Water effects max 2.x / Load detail textures tick

Scenery objects: Scenery complexity very dense / Autogen density Dense / Ground scenery shadows tick / Special effects detail High

Graphics: 3840x1024x16 / Filtering bilinear / Anti-aliasing tick / Global texture resolution high / Lens flare tick / Light bloom no tick

Aircraft: Hi-res cockpit tick / Aircraft casts shadows on ground tick / Aircraft casts shadows on itself no tick / landing lights illuminate ground no tick

As mentioned these settings weren't very scientifically worked out, e.g. I was surprised to find lens flare still on as I don't give a damn, but the process was as described: moved autogen back from max to get an ok frame rate, then adjusted other things down if I didn't really mind much without checking if there was any benefit to frame rates.

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