Building a flight simulator computer

Building A Flight Simulator Computer: Everything You’ll Need

No matter what flight simulator you use, be it Microsoft Flight Simulator, X Plane, DCS World, or any other sim, the heart and soul of every flight simulator setup is undoubtedly the computer.  Without a computer, you’ve just got some rudder pedals and a yoke/stick. That doesn’t do us much good does it? In recent years, the practice of building one’s own computer to fit their personal needs has risen in popularity.  If you’re anything like me and like to do everything DIY, or even if you just want a flight sim computer fit to your exact needs, building your own PC is a very good route to take. Sound interesting? If so, you’ve come to the right place! In the following are 5 simple steps that will show you everything you’ll need in building a flight simulator computer.

 

1. Decide What You Want From Your Computer

I’ve always said that the very first step in building any computer is to decide what exactly you want from your computer and how you want it to perform. This holds just as true with flight simulation as it does with any other computing task. Although they all do the same thing, not all flight simulators are created equal.  Some simulators can tend to be extremely CPU heavy while others will be GPU heavy and visa versa. It is very important to learn about the program(s) you want to run with your computer so that you can make well educated decisions when purchasing your parts. Learning about what each program requires in regards to computing power is also important so that you can avoid bottlenecks. If you don’t know what a bottleneck is, I’ll link a very helpful article here. But to put it simply, in the PC world a bottleneck is when one part of the PC (such as the CPU) slows down everything else because it lacks the power to keep up with everything else. This means you could spend several thousand dollars on a very high end GPU and only get a fraction of its performance because you skimped on your CPU not knowing the program you intended to run was much more CPU heavy.  Once you have determined the specific program(s) you would like your PC to run, take some time to learn about their minimum system requirements and make sure that your planned system is up to par. Following this you should be well on your way to building your very own flight simulation PC.

 

2. Budget

I know I know.. no one likes to talk about spending their hard earned cash. But I have to be brutally honest. Building a solid, long lasting system can be EXPENSIVE. Especially at the time of writing this article. But even if you have the extra cash to throw at a shiny new computer, a budget is still a very useful tool when constructing your system. A good budget helps to keep everything organized when picking and ordering parts, and also helps by adding guidelines to certain parts you should go for if your budget is rather limited.  Either way, if you want to keep your money and parts organized during the process of constructing your system, a budget is a simple, but very useful tool.

 

3. Part Picking

Now comes the fun part! You’ve figured out what you want your computer to do, you’ve set up your budget and now you get to start ordering some parts! If you’ve never built a computer before, the task may sound daunting but in reality, its quite simple. PCs are pretty much Lego for grownups. You get all of your parts and you stick everything together (sorta).  When it comes to building a computer there are 9 main parts that make up the PC. These are:

  • Central Processing Unit (CPU)
  • Motherboard
  • Memory (RAM)
  • Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)
  • Power Supply Unit (PSU)
  • Storage
  • System Cooling
  • Peripherals
  • Case
  • Operating System (OS) i.e. Windows, Mac, Linux…

These 9 main parts are what make every computer system.  After studying the minimum system requirements for the flight simulators you would like your PC to run, picking your parts should be a breeze. Pretty much all of the important parts for running the programs is listed in the system requirements. Just pick the parts that perform equal or better than the program requires. Like I said before, be careful about bottlenecks! You don’t want to waste all your money on a high end part only for it to be dragged down by the rest of your system. A couple of good places to look for parts are http://newegg.com and http://bestbuy.com.

 

4. Put it all together!

By now you should have all your parts together and be ready to construct your system. If you have never constructed a PC before that task can be rather daunting, but I can assure you it’s much easier than most people think. It’s a lot like Lego for grownups! You get all your pieces and put everything together! There are literally hundreds if not thousands of videos on YouTube explaining how to properly construct a PC. I recommend you watch a couple of these before you start messing around with all your shiny new parts. PC parts are VERY delicate and I am not responsible for any damage you do to your computer or parts within it. I urge you to be careful when putting your computer together and maybe spend a few extra bucks on some specialized tools such as a static wristband to make your process easier and safer for you and your computer.  Once you’ve got everything together it’s time for the first boot!

 

5. Start ‘Er Up!

After assembling your computer parts and spending a few minutes to admire your work, it’s time to boot up your computer for the first time. This can be a little scary as it may not work properly (or at all) the first time you power it on. Don’t freak out! Usually  haven’t broken anything and there is just a disconnected cable. However, before your first boot, I urge you to double check that everything is connected properly and securely to increase your chances of a successful first boot! Once you finish troubleshooting and get your PC working, just load up your programs and your good to go and have fun flying from your desk!

 

Conclusion:

Weather your flying around the world in X Plane, or flying intense dogfights in DCS World, we can all agree that without our computer, none of it would be possible. I hope I was able to provide a good amount of insight to those building for the first time or at the very least, an entertaining read for those of you who are experienced builders. If you’re looking for a good simulator to run on your shiny new PC you can check out this post here!

 

 

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