How to uninstall and reinstall FSX

It certain scenarios, it can become necessary to reinstall FSX or FSX: Steam Edition.  This article will take you through the process of fully uninstalling the sim, reinstalling it clean, and for FSX retail, getting it patched back up to SP2 or Acceleration.

THE UNINSTALL

WARNING - this will completely remove everything associated with FSX including your saved flights and fsx.cfg.  Back these up if you'd like, but it is imperative that you start off completely clean to ensure such files weren't involved with your issue.  Leaving them there through the reinstall could trigger the issue again if it is related to them.
 
  1. Go to Add or Remove Programs under Windows XP or Programs and Features under Windows Vista through 10.  Remove any addons you have installed for FSX, including aircraft, scenery, and utilities such as weather addons.  You need to do this because many addons (like our own) feature validation protection or registry entries that will get reset when you uninstall, if you leave your addons there, they may fail to reinstall correctly later.  You cannot just copy addon folders and then copy them back in later - this does not work for most due to things that need to happen during their installation to properly setup and validate them. If you have a side-by-side install of both FSX retail and FSX: Steam Edition, make sure you only uninstall the addons associated with the version of the sim you're trying to clean reinstall!

    Double check the list and make sure you got all of them. You may also want to check the Start Menu Programs list and see if you have any addons remaining there as well which may only uninstall through a link in the menu.

  2. Find the entry for FSX and uninstall it. This may say Acceleration, Service Pack 2, Steam Edition, etc. If you have a side-by-side install of both FSX retail and FSX: Steam Edition, make sure you only install the one that you're trying to reinstall! If you have FSX: Steam Edition, you can also uninstall it directly from your games library list within Steam.

  3. Once it is done uninstalling, close the control panel and reopen it.  It is likely you will now see FSX still present in the list.  This is because the previous step only uninstalls the Acceleration pack or Service Pack.  Uninstall whatever is now in the list for FSX.  Keep going through this step until no FSX entry shows up after you reload the control panel. (this is not necessary for FSX: Steam Edition.

  4. Open Windows Explorer and find your FSX root folder.  

    By default this is located at:

    FSX retail edition:
    32-bit versions of Windows: C:\Program Files\Microsoft Games\Microsoft Flight Simulator X
    64-bit versions of Windows: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Games\Microsoft Flight Simulator X

    FSX: Steam Edition
    32-bit versions of Windows: C:\Program Files\Steam\steamapps\common\FSX
    64-bit versions of Windows: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Games\Microsoft Flight Simulator X

    Delete this folder (just the FSX one, not the entire tree), answering yes to any dialogs that pop up warning you about it.  You don't want anything left over in this folder so that you start out completely clean for the reinstall.

  5. Open Windows Explorer and find your FSX application data folder.  By default this is located at:

    For FSX retail or FSX: Steam Edition in stand-alone mode:
    Windows XP: C:\Documents and Settings\(Your Windows Account Name)\Application Data\Microsoft\FSX
    Windows Vista\Windows 7: C:\Users\(Your Windows Account Name)\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\FSX

    For FSX: Steam Edition in side-by-side mode:
    Windows XP: C:\Documents and Settings\(Your Windows Account Name)\Application Data\Microsoft\FSX-SE
    Windows Vista through 10: C:\Users\(Your Windows Account Name)\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\FSX-SE

    Delete this folder as before, being careful to only delete the FSX part, not the entire folder tree.
     
  6. Open Windows Explorer and find your FSX shader cache folder.  By default this is located at:

    For FSX retail or FSX: Steam Edition in stand-alone mode:
    Windows XP: C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Microsoft\FSX
    Windows Vista through 10: C:\Users\(Your Windows Account Name)\AppData\Local\Microsoft\FSX

    For FSX: Steam Edition in side-by-side mode:
    Windows XP: C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Microsoft\FSX-SE
    Windows Vista through 10: C:\Users\(Your Windows Account Name)\AppData\Local\Microsoft\FSX-SE

    Delete this folder as before, being careful to only delete the FSX or FSX-SE part, not the entire folder tree.

  7. Open Windows Explorer and find your FSX saved flights folder.  By default this is located at:

    For For FSX retail or FSX: Steam Edition in stand-alone mode:
    Windows XP: C:\Documents and Settings\(Your Windows Account Name)\My Documents\Flight Simulator X Files
    Windows Vista through 10: C:\Users\(Your Windows Account Name)\Documents\Flight Simulator X Files

    For FSX: Steam Edition in side-by-side mode:
    Windows XP: C:\Documents and Settings\(Your Windows Account Name)\My Documents\Flight Simulator X - Steam Edition Files
    Windows Vista through 10: C:\Users\(Your Windows Account Name)\Documents\Flight Simulator X - Steam Edition Files

    Delete this folder as before, being careful to only delete the FSX or FSX-SE part, not the entire folder tree.

  8. The system is now clean of FSX.
THE REINSTALL

For retail FSX retail edition:
 
If you have the newer Gold Edition of FSX, it has everything you need already integrated. Install both FSX and Acceleration from its DVDs and you're good to go.  If you have the older Standard or Deluxe Edition, follow the instructions below.
  1. Install FSX from the DVDs.  This will put you at the RTM (release to manufacturing) version - the original code Microsoft shipped with the game in 2006.

    IMPORTANT - we do NOT recommended installing to the default file location in Windows Vista or Windows 7. (Program Files or Program Files (x86)) - Windows "protects" anything within these folders and has been shown to cause numerous problems with the install and configuration of addons.  We recommend you pick a simple folder path outside of these folders such as C:\FSX

  2. Run the sim once, going through the validation process and then loading it up to the point where you see the main interface.  You do not need to load into the sim itself, load an aircraft or anything like that.  The purpose of this step is to initialize the FSX.cfg file and a few other processes that get the sim ready to use.  You will likely experience trouble if you try to go directly to installing the Service Packs or Acceleration without doing running the sim once first to initialize it.

  3. Now you have a choice to make, if you own Acceleration, install that off the DVD, validate it, and you are done.  It already includes everything that SP1 and SP2 do.  Do not try to install either of the Service Packs after you've already installed FSX.  If you do not have Acceleration, continue on to step 4.

  4. Download SP1 here and SP2 here.  You need both files. (note, Microsoft removed these files from their own server years ago, these are the correct files in a known good location)

  5. Install SP1. Run the simulator once after, just as you did before with the RTM version.

  6. Install SP2.

  7. FSX is now installed clean and up to date.  You can now set up your options and begin installing your addons.  We recommend performing a defrag after you're done, preferably using a program like O&O Defrag in the Complete/NAME mode, as FSX is highly fragmented after install. (Note that this does not apply if you are using a Solid State Disk (SSD), defrag has no relevance to a drive that uses random access flash memory)
For FSX: Steam Edition:
 
  1. Simply reinstall from your Steam games library.

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