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How To.... Properly Install MSTS and OpenRails

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  • Properly Install MSTS on Windows 10 and Higher

    Running the Microsoft / Open Rails Train Simulator is a little different from other simulators, in that there are a lot of options available for add-ons (over 30,000 in our library alone), as well as companion applications that are used to create routes, activities and even new models.

    Adding to the complexity, some of these applications date back to 2001, when MSTS was first introduced. The Windows operating system has changed quite a bit since then, and as a result, the way older app installers work has proven to be problematic.

    The community has developed a modified (and still evolving) set of best practices that are shared here to help you get as much from the game as possible.






    Microsoft Train Simulator was released in 2001, and has not been upgraded since. Many continue to enjoy it as-is or with the third-party developed BIN enhancement that was developed in 2006 and last updated in 2007.

    The decision on whether or not to install MSTS is a personal choice.

    • If you run everything in OpenRails and use TSRE for its consist editor, activity editing or route building, it might not be necessary to install MSTS at all.
    • If you run older routes which have dependencies on the Original Six Routes, then you may need to install the application in order to have those routes and their related content.
    • Some feel that particular aspects of steam locomotive handling and activity capabilities are not truly matched feature for feature by Open Rails, and may prefer to MSTS as their primary simulator engine.


    Microsoft Train Simulator was and still is distributed via CD-ROM only. Various third parties such as Atari and Ubisoft are licensed to continue selling it via CD-ROM either as a boxed retail set or in a plastic "clamshell" case. There are no legal downloads of MSTS or ISO images available. If anyone has offered or sold you a digital copy, do be aware it's an illegal copy.

    Installation itself is very easy, assuming you still have a CD reader. With many new devices no longer having optical drives, you may need to consider purchasing a USB CD-ROM drive.

    • You will be prompted to install Acrobat reader. Click No -- it's a very old version and may cause issues with any newer versions already installed
    • You will be prompted for installation options. By default, "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Games\Train Simulator" will be pre-populated. It's highly recommended that you choose another directory to install to. Do so by clicking Customize installation options and specify a new directory (see below for suggestions)
    • In the Customize installation options flow, you will be given the option to do a Complete Install, or Custom Install to pick and choose which routes to install. It's recommended to do the complete install.
    • Lastly, you'll pick the directory to install to.

      It's important not to install content like Routes or Trains into any of the protected directories controlled by Windows and User Access Control. These include:

      • Desktop
      • Documents
      • Downloads
      • Program Files
      • C:\Users\{username}


      Installing in a folder which is synchronized under Onedrive is also not recommended, as files may be removed from the local copy and placed into cloud storage (folders replicated to DropBox and other cloud backups do not seem to have this issue)

      Best practice -- Create a dedicated directory for MSTS either immediately off the Root directory or grouped in a folder that's used just for your gaming content:

      • C:\MSTS
      • C:\Trainsims\MSTS




    That's it -- MSTS is now installed.

    If you've only installed it to have the default routes and folder structures, you can stop here.

    If you are planning to run MSTS as your game engine or editor, read on.




    Post-Installation Steps



    1. Install the MSTS 1.4 Upgrades

    The version 1.4 upgrade from Microsoft fixes a few bugs from the initial release, and also adds new SD40-2 and Class 50 locomotives plus some rolling stock. You can find it in the Trainsim.com file library by searching for "MSTS Official" and installing/unpacking to your MSTS folder.




    2. Install BIN

    MSTSBIN is an enhancement that brings expanded functionality and stability to MSTS, and is highly recommended. You can find it in the Trainsim.com file library by searching for "MSTSBIN" and chosing the stable or work release. Most find the 1.8 work release to be suitable.

    The installer is fairly simple -- it will locate your MSTS folder based on the registry entry, and give you options for transparent GUI panels, sound buffer upgrades, and additional command key options.

    Several DLL and train.exe will be replaced.

    3. Adjust Desktop Icon Properties

    You can update the shortcut to have the app run Windowed instead of full screen, and/or change the resolution from the 640x480 default.

    1. Right click over the Train Simulator icon
    2. Select properties
    3. Go to the Shortcut tab if not there already
    4. Change TARGET from 'launcher.exe' to 'train.exe' and ensure ' -rungame ' is at the end
    5. Optional: Append the following to the end of the TARGET: -vm:w1280x1024x32
    6. Go to the Compatability tab
    7. Select "Windows XP Service Pack 2" in the Compatability Mode dropdown
    8. Tick the "Run as Administrator" box
    9. Apply settings


    To add a link for the Route Editor:
    1. Copy the existing Train Simulator shortcut
    2. Select the new icon and press F2
    3. Rename it "Editor and Tools"
    4. Right click over the new shortcut
    5. Select properties
    6. Go to the Shortcut tab if not there already
    7. Change TARGET from ' -rungame ' to ' -toolset' with nothing else after it
    8. Apply settings



    4. Adjust your GPU Selection

    MSTS is incompatible with some laptop integrated video cards, so you may need to override it to point to a physical GPU if you have one (most advanced and gaming laptops have this)

    1. From the Start menu, type in Graphics Settings
    2. Add an App by browsing to your MSTS directory
    3. Select train.exe
    4. Select your highest performance GPU available (e.g. NVidia, Radeon, AMD)
    5. Try not to select "Intel UHD Graphics" or any other power saving option
    6. Save


    5.Delete the Startup Video(optional)

    To save a few seconds every time you load MSTS, you can delete the startup video.

    1. Browse to your {MSTS}\Global directory
    2. Locate file Startup.mpg
    3. Delete file Startup.mpg
    Last edited by eric; 03-16-2024, 10:07 PM.

    • Philbo
      #1
      Philbo commented
      Editing a comment
      Eric, what you wrote about the game being distributed by Atari and Ubisoft that may well be correct then but having the capability to distribute now and actually doing it are two different things.

      I have just done some searching and I may be at fault here, but I cannot find even one instance of a new CD ROM being offered for sale by either distributor anywhere in the world, or any other entity for that matter. I stand to be corrected there. Also, because the game is over 20 years old now, even used versions are becoming rare (from my quick searching).

      Oddly enough, I found the site from which I must have got a version of MSTS from, by entering "Ubisoft" + "Microsoft Train Simulator".

      On there page they request that if anyone aka copyright holder, does not want the game offered free to all they can contact the site through the link provided.
      Microsoft being what they are, I am positive that if at all interested in the game, it would have the game removed. It hasn't and I'm guessing that as an intelligent man, you know that to be true.

      Guys, I am trying to be logical and level-headed here.

      Just because it was once an active product (so many waited with bated breath for MSTS 2) does not mean its use by date is in-perpetuity. The game is a dead dog and even on Trainsim.com, Open Rails is being actively promoted, even in the MSTS thread (which to me is slightly annoying, but I'm just a newbie).

      This site Trainsim.com isn't a general forum where all sorts of software threads are flying around and talk of piracy could become endemic. On this site that simply isn't going to happen.

      The main threads here are about a free to use train simulator and an aged commercial train sim that neither Ubisoft, Atari or Microsoft can work up enough interest to write to this abandonware site to have the software taken down. This is a site that popped up in Google without any effort from me; quite the opposite actually so it's a very obvious presence on the net.

      Rather than pull me up for offering a copy of my Windows 11 capable copy of MSTS to people who already have a legit copy of the sim, moderators might do well to hammer home to even your own administrators, to keep the MSTS thread for MSTS issues. The reason I say that is I'm just getting confused with all the talk of something and I'll be frank here, I wont be using. I'm not interested in another train simulator and its idiosyncrasies and whether it does or does not work with MSTS.

      If MSTS users want to dip their feet into OR and all it's advantages, disadvantages and otherwise then they can dive right in . . on the OR threads.

      I've since bought a copy of MSTS because I'm also an honest guy and want to fit into this site's guidlines but I also minutes ago bought a Steam game code for TSW 3 so I will be building my controller to use with both sims. Quite excited I am too.

      Keep well Eric and thanks for your time.

    • eric
      #2
      eric commented
      Editing a comment
      Appreciate your comments.... and we're glad you're here.

      A few responses.
      1. We take intellectual property rights serious within the community. Our servers and more importantly our bank accounts make us subject to US law. It's not just a moral obligation on me and the other moderators/administrators to color within the lines of legalities. We're subject to DMCA takedown requests and legal action.
      2. We're also obligated by the terms of service with our web host. DMCA enforcement actions could see our hosting revoked.
      3. You as an individual have limited exposure to an enforcement action. As a website, we're a different target on the radar. I'm not about to put this site at any more risk than we need to.
      4. MSTS as a product is apparently not Microsoft's IP. When ACES was shut down, the IP for MSTS reverted to Kuju, who is now part of Curve Games.
      5. The presence of a product on an abandonware site doesn't make it right. Any perceived lack of attempt to take down those illegal distributions doesn't constitute Kuju giving up their rights.


      If you see things that are clearly in the wrong thread, feel free to report it to the moderators. Just be aware that with the cross-compatibility of content, some degree of crossover is going to be tolerated in the discussions.
      Last edited by eric; 06-29-2023, 06:45 PM.
    Posting comments is disabled.

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