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How To.... Use MSTS Content Without Installing MSTS

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  • Using MSTS Content And Third Party Applications Without Installing MSTS

    This is a work in progress. Please add to the comments if you see things you'd like to add or correct.





    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.




    Alternative Installations If You Do Not Plan To Install MSTS


    Fortunately, most Third Party applications do not require MSTS itself to be installed, but there are some dependencies which still need to be taken into account.


    Directory Structure

    Portions of the sub-directory structure established by MSTS will need to exist somewhere so that content can easily be located and installed:

    .{parent folder}. \ Global
    .{parent folder}. \ Global \ Shapes
    .{parent folder}. \ Global \ Textures
    .{parent folder}. \ Sounds
    .{parent folder}. \ Trains
    .{parent folder}. \ Trains \ Trainset
    .{parent folder}. \ Trains \ Consists
    .{parent folder}. \ Routes

    Some of the pre-packaged route options from the OpenRails.org website will create this folder structure for use with that particular route, but due to differences with track systems and default texture types, you may want to create a parallel folder for the routes available for download or purchase from other providers.

    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 Content either immediately off the Root directory or grouped in a folder that's used just for your gaming content:

    • C:\MSTS
    • C:\Trainsim Content
    • C:\Trainsims\Content





    Registry Entries:


    Some applications need a reference in the registry to identify where the expected directory structure used by both MSTS and ORTS can be found.

    Typically only a few entries are needed:

    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

    [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Microsoft Games\Train Simulator]
    [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Microsoft Games\Train Simulator\1.0]
    "Path"="C:\\TrainsimContent"
    "EXE Path"="C:\\TrainsimContent"


    Creating the registry entries is as easy as copying the block of text above into Notepad, saving as a file on your Desktop e.g. "Trainsim.reg", and then right-clicking on that file to "Run as Administrator" and install the entries into your registry.
    Last edited by eric; 02-16-2024, 05:12 PM.
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