I normally pay extra attention when adding addons to my system because the performance of FSX sometimes is so allergic to tinny tiny stuff added to it.
No matter the addon is a scenery or an airplane, we mostly don’t have sufficient prior informantion about what will be added to, and in particular what will be overwritten from the system.
To minimize the risk of uncertainty, I normally take the dummyproof approach described below to “quarantine” the content of the new addon in the first place.
The logic behind is:
The installer of most addons will firstly look for fsx.exe before commencing installation. It is therefore possible to use a Dummy FSX System Folder to fool it.
I’ve been using this approach to secure the integrity of my FSX system as much as possible over the past few years.
The steps are pretty straightforward even though the descriptions look complicated:
Locate the FSX system folder (e.g. X:\Microsoft Flight Simulator X);
Rename the folder to MSFX (or whatever sensible);
At the same location, create a new folder;
Name the new folder Microsoft Flight Simulator X (the original name of FSX system folder);
Copy (not move) the fsx.exe file from the original FSX folder (MSFX) to this new folder.
Now a Dummy FSX System Folder is created. The new addon will be installed onto it.
However, it is always a good practice to backup some of the key configuration files of FSX first. There are four of them:
Scenery.CFG (e.g. C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\FSX) and
fsx.CFG, DLL.XML, exe.xml (e.g. C:\Users\<user name>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\FSX)
This is because most scenery addons will automatically add in respective scenery details to the Scenery.CFG. And other types of addon (including scenery addons sometimes) might modify the fsx.CFG, the DLL.XML or the exe.xml for some specific functions, such as the simplified airport service feature called VistaMare from Aerosoft.
When the backup is done, run the installer.
It will put everything of the addon (well, almost everything) onto the Dummy Folder.
When the installation is done, make a copy of the whole Dummy FSX folder.
Rename the duplicate folder to NewAddon (or anything sensible).
Check if the Scenery.CFG, fsx.CFG, DLL.XML or exe.xml are changed. If so, make a copy of them.
Check if additional flight plans, etc, are created in Flight Simulator X Files folder under Documents (e.g. X:\Documents\Flight Simulator X Files). If so, make a copy them too.
These duplicates created from steps 7 to 11 are the ripped version of the addon. Keep them aside safely for subsequent use.
Use the addon’s uninstaller, or the Programs and Features function in Control Panel, to remove the addon just installed.
When the process is done, delete the Dummy FSX Folder (Microsoft Flight Simulator X).
Then rename the genuine FSX folder (MSFX) back to Microsoft Flight Simulator X.
Now, the FSX system folder is restored back to its original state with everything untouched.
However, note that the uninstallation process may or may not revert the configuration files (Scenery.CFG, fsx.CFG, DLL.XML) to its original state. It’s better to check these files first before moving on to the last two steps.
If everything is ok,
Copy the content from NewAddon to the exact locations inside Microsoft Flight Simulator X folder;
If necessary, make corresponding changes to the Scenery.CFG, fsx.CFG, DLL.XML or exe.xml files based on the duplicates created from steps 9 to 11 earlier.
When it is done, Run FSX and off you go!
I dare not say this installation approach is bulletproof and error-free. And many times, adjustments are required on a case by case basis.
But at least this approach presents a more transparent environment, in which I have a chance to look at the content of the addon; even though I may still not know what they are and what they do.
Moreover, this approach also allows me to put the addon to any directory of my choice rather than the default location, which may not be an option at all through the original installer.
For example, 80 percent of my scenery addons are now stored on a harddisk separating from the one FSX is on, resulting a leaner and more responsive system when the simulator is run.