Microsoft Flight Simulator Disk Space Requirements: How Big is MSFS?

Embarking on a virtual odyssey with the newest Microsoft Flight Simulator release requires a grasp of its vast digital landscape. From base install sizes to dynamic caching of photoreal scenery, this powerhouse of virtual aviation demands a hefty chunk of your disk space.

Be prepared for the immersive experience by considering reserving space for add-ons, mods, and expansions. Understanding hard drive types (SSD/HDD) can make loading data faster, enhancing your simulated flight experience.

A TUI Boeing 737 landing in Turkey as shown within the Microsoft Flight Simulator package.

For our console aviators, the Xbox version specifics are also covered. Dive in to ensure your digital hangar is ready for the complexity and richness this simulation offers.

As this article is quite lengthy we have included jump links below;

Base Install

In the realm of modern flight simulation, the magnitude of a program's digital footprint is an indicator of its complexity and depth. The latest iteration of Microsoft Flight Simulator is no exception and calls for a considerable amount of disk real estate.

At the heart of this flight simulation experience lies the 'Base Install' - the fundamental components required to operate the simulation software. This includes the executable files, core system modules, aircraft models, and the necessary environmental graphics to set the stage for your virtual aviation journey. It's the bare minimum needed to get your virtual avionics up and running.

The Alps in MSFS which is a high definition scenery area requiring a lot of disk space.

The size of the Base Install for the PC version sits at an impressive scale. It's a clear testament to the level of detail and richness packed into the software. Requiring approximately 150 gigabytes (GB) of storage space, it's a sizable commitment, but one that's certainly justified by the stunning virtual world it hosts.

This number, however, is not set in stone. With the continuous stream of updates and enhancements, the requisite storage space might experience slight fluctuations. It's recommended to have an additional 20% storage space available, bringing the total to roughly 180GB. This extra leeway (buffer space) ensures that your system can accommodate the incremental updates and patches without compromising the simulation's performance or stability.

A Skyteam aircraft with an overhead shot of the runway in Microsoft Flight Simulator.

To put these numbers into perspective, let's take a closer look at what constitutes the Base Install:

Executable Files:
These are the primary files that run the simulator. They execute the core functionality and mechanics of the flight simulation experience.
Core System Modules:
This encompasses the backbone of the simulator. These modules govern the flight dynamics, weather systems, AI traffic, and other fundamental aspects of the simulation environment.
Aircraft Models:
These are the 3D models of the aircraft, complete with detailed cockpits and unique flight characteristics. The base install comes with a selection of aircraft, each meticulously crafted to replicate their real-world counterparts.
Environmental Graphics:
This includes the terrain textures, sky models, weather effects, and other visual elements that contribute to the simulator's photorealistic environment.

Given the high fidelity of the simulator, it's crucial to ensure your system is adequately equipped to handle the storage demands. Remember, the benefits of this initial investment in disk space become readily apparent once you're soaring through the exquisitely detailed virtual skies.

Barcelona city in MSFS - a screenshot from the simulator.

To conclude, the Base Install is a sizable but necessary commitment, laying the groundwork for an immersive and highly realistic flight simulation experience. Prepare your rig accordingly, and clear the runway for the ultimate virtual aviation journey.

Base Install Size:

Reserve Space for Add-ons, Mods, and Expansions

The evolution of flight simulation software has been in tandem with the progress of data storage capabilities. This means that the increasing complexity and realism found in today's simulators don't pose as much of a challenge as they would have in the era of FSX, thanks to the advancements in hard drive technology.

The Twin Otter add-ons - something you should be reserving disk space for.

When considering additional content for the MSFS such as add-ons, mods, and expansions, it's crucial to understand that these elements can vary widely in size. For instance, an aircraft add-on (an additional component that simulates a specific type of aircraft not included in the base simulator) may range from a few hundred megabytes to a couple of gigabytes, depending on the complexity and detailing of the model.

Scenery expansions (modifications that enhance the visual and geographical accuracy of specific regions in the simulator) can be much more substantial, often reaching into the tens of gigabytes due to the high-resolution textures and detailed geographical data they incorporate.

Mods, or modifications, (changes made to the simulator software to alter or improve its functionality or performance) can vary even more, ranging from a few kilobytes for small script changes, up to several gigabytes for more comprehensive overhauls.

The floatplane version of the Twin Otter add-on for MSFS.

Therefore, while it's challenging to give an exact estimate of how much additional disk space you might need for add-ons and mods, a reasonable starting point could be anywhere from 50GB to 200GB. This allows a healthy mix of aircraft, scenery, and mod installations, but of course, your mileage may vary based on the specific content you choose to add.

Remember that while these numbers may seem large, modern hard drives often come in sizes of 1TB (terabyte) or more, meaning that even a large collection of add-ons and mods will only occupy a fraction of your available storage.

Here's a general guideline to consider for additional disk space:

Aircraft Add-Ons:
Reserve 10-50GB
Scenery Expansions:
Reserve 20-100GB
Reserve 5-50GB

Dynamic Caching of Photoreal Scenery

As simulator enthusiasts, we're all aware of how immersive the experience can be, especially with the latest Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS) 2020 release. One key feature that sets it apart from its predecessors is the dynamic loading and caching of photorealistic scenery as you traverse the virtual skies.

The beautiful New Zealand scenery displayed in the default install of Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Let's start with the concept of 'dynamic loading' (the process of loading resources into memory during runtime). In this context, it refers to the simulator's ability to fetch and render photorealistic scenery from cloud-based servers in real time. As a pilot navigates through different geographic locations, only the immediate surroundings are loaded, hence reducing the storage burden on your system and providing you with a seamless, lag-free experience.

However, dynamic loading is only half of the equation. To further optimize performance, the simulator implements a method known as 'caching' (the practice of storing data in a temporary storage area called cache). This means that once a specific area of the world has been loaded, it is temporarily stored, or cached, on your hard drive.

Another shot of the default New Zealand scenery in MSFS that uses dynamic caching technology within the sim.

Why is this important? Let's say you are retracing your flight path or frequently flying over the same region. Instead of re-downloading the same data repeatedly, the simulator will pull this information from the cache, thus saving bandwidth and further enhancing the simulation's smoothness.

Now, you might be asking, "How large is this cache?" The answer is, it's flexible. The simulator offers a configurable cache size, allowing you to determine the amount of hard disk space dedicated to storing this photorealistic data. As expected, the larger the cache size, the more data that can be stored for quick access. However, keep in mind that dedicating too much space may eat into your system resources, leading to potential performance issues elsewhere.

A stunning shot demonstrating the default MSFS Hawaii scenery.

A notable feature is the simulator's ability to manage this cache effectively. It employs a 'Least Recently Used' (LRU) algorithm, which automatically removes the oldest data that has not been accessed recently when the cache reaches its limit. This ensures that the cache is always ready to store new data from your latest adventures in the virtual skies.

To sum up, the combination of dynamic loading and caching is a powerful one, enabling the simulator to provide breathtaking, photorealistic environments without overloading your system's storage. It's a testament to how far flight simulation technology has come, and we can't wait to see where it takes us next.

Hard Drive Types: Loading All that Data Faster

For those deeply immersed in the world of flight simulation, the choice of a storage device - be it a Solid State Drive (SSD) or a traditional Hard Disk Drive (HDD) - can considerably impact the overall experience. To ensure a smooth and immersive flight, let's delve into the different types of hard drives and their relative merits, particularly focusing on their effects on load times and performance.

A shot showing a North Sea oil rig and tanker boat in Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Solid State Drives (SSD)

The SSD, a non-volatile storage device that employs solid-state memory to store data, has become a game-changer in the realm of PC storage. Unlike traditional HDDs, SSDs don't have any moving parts (hence 'solid-state'), leading to faster data access, decreased power consumption, and increased durability.

When it comes to the simulator, an SSD can make a world of difference. The high-speed data transfer rates of SSDs significantly reduce loading times, allowing pilots to be in the cockpit, ready for takeoff, in a fraction of the time required by HDDs. This rapid data access also enables smoother transitions when loading new scenery and reduces stuttering, ensuring the most immersive flight experience possible.

The Louvre as displayed in MSFS.

For instance, a typical HDD might take around 1-2 minutes to load the simulator's main interface, and possibly another 2-3 minutes to load a flight in a highly detailed area. In contrast, a comparable SSD could reduce these times by more than half, getting you airborne much more quickly.

Hard Disk Drives (HDD)

The HDD, a tried-and-true storage solution, uses magnetic storage to read and write data. While it doesn't offer the same speed as an SSD, its cost-effectiveness and high storage capacity make it a viable choice for many users. However, be prepared for longer loading times and occasional performance hiccups during gameplay, particularly when loading complex scenery or high-detail airports.

Here's a rough comparison of loading times:

Main interface load: 30-45 seconds
Flight load (high detail area): 1-1.5 minutes
Main interface load: 1-2 minutes
Flight load (high detail area): 2-3 minutes

In conclusion, while both SSDs and HDDs have their merits, choosing the right storage device for your flight simulation setup can greatly enhance your virtual flying experience. An SSD, with its superior speed and performance, is undoubtedly a worthwhile investment for any avid flight sim enthusiast.

Xbox Version

The console rendition of Microsoft Flight Simulator is a feat of technological ingenuity. To fully comprehend the magnitude of its installation, we must first delve into the core elements that compose this digital aviation marvel.

The Seine river running through Paris with Eiffel tower displayed in Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Initial Install Size

The Xbox version's base installation requires a substantial amount of storage capacity. As the simulator is a graphical titan, it calls for a significant storage allocation to accommodate its hyper-realistic environments and meticulously designed aircraft models. Expect an installation footprint in the ballpark of 100GB.

Base Install Size:
100GB (approximate)

This hefty requirement is primarily due to the high-fidelity visual assets incorporated within the simulator, as well as the computational data needed to authentically replicate real-world aviation experiences.

Additional Space for Mods and Add-Ons

The dynamic and ever-evolving nature of the flight simulation ecosystem is one of its most alluring attributes. As such, it is prudent to reserve additional storage for Xbox-compatible modifications and add-ons. These enhancements can range from additional aircraft, scenery packages, to flight system upgrades, each contributing to the realism and immersion of the experience.

Additional Space for Add-Ons:
30-50GB (approximate)

This additional space allocation is by no means a hard and fast rule, but rather a guideline based on typical user behavior and the average file size of popular add-ons. The exact amount of space you'll need will depend on your specific simulator customization preferences.

Shot showing aircraft wing out of the window taking off from Skopje in MSFS.

In summary, the storage requirements for the Xbox edition of the simulator are substantial, reflecting its grand scope and the extensive detail contained within. However, the space it commands is justifiable, given its ability to immerse pilots in an aviation experience that's as close to reality as currently possible from the comfort of one's living room.

Please bear in mind that these are rough estimates and actual disk space needed may vary based on updates, individual user preferences, and the continual evolution of the simulator environment.

Your Comments Please!

We always value the insights from our dedicated flight simulation enthusiasts. As we continue to explore the vast skies of the latest release, we'd love to hear your thoughts on the installation metrics and performance of the simulator.

The beautiful AN225 in MSFS.

Please consider sharing the following details in the comments section below:

  1. Install Size: What's the size of your simulator installation? This refers to the amount of space the simulator takes up on your hard drive after it's fully installed. Remember, the core size could vary depending on the different add-ons and updates you may have installed.

  2. Disk Space Utilization: How much total space did the simulator consume on your storage device? This encompasses both the initial install size and any additional disk space used for temporary files, saved games, or cache data.

  3. Storage Type (SSD or HDD): Are you running the simulator on a Solid-State Drive (SSD) or a Hard Disk Drive (HDD)? SSDs use flash memory to store data, which can lead to significantly faster loading times compared to HDDs that use mechanical platters and read/write heads.

  4. Loading Times: If you've used both types of storage devices, have you noticed any difference in loading times between the SSD and HDD? The time taken to load the simulator could significantly impact your overall experience, and we're keen to hear your real-world observations.

  5. Installation Size Range: Is your installation on the smaller end, or have you filled your drive to the brim with add-ons and high-resolution textures? It's always interesting to know the size range of installations in our community.

Your input is invaluable to us and the entire Fly Away Simulation community. It allows us to better understand the varying systems and setups out there, leading to more optimized and inclusive simulation experiences in the future.

We appreciate your time and look forward to your comments! Safe flights, fellow pilots!

Download iconDon't forget... We have a huge selection (over 24,000 files) of free mods and add-ons for MSFS, FSX, P3D & X-Plane in the file library. Files include aircraft, scenery, and utilities All are free-to-download and use - you don't even need to register. Browse on down to the file library here.

Ian Stephens

Ian Stephens

Ian Stephens is a flight simulation industry expert with over 20 years of experience and also has a keen interest in aviation and technology. Ian spends a lot of his time experimenting with various simulator packages but has a love for Microsoft Flight Simulator X because of the huge selection of add-ons available. However, Ian also has copies of Prepar3D and X-Plane installed.

Ian has been writing for Fly Away Simulation for over 9 years. Should you wish, you can contact Ian via email at


Leave a Response

The content of the comments below are entirely the opinions of the individual posting the comment and do not always reflect the views of Fly Away Simulation. We moderate all comments manually before they are approved.

José SerraMon, 15 May 2023 22:49:40 GMT

I don't recommend less than 1TB for the first drive and 4TB for the second drive (both SSD). Only that way I feel free to install MSFS the way I want.

Michael BeckerMon, 15 May 2023 23:36:49 GMT

I am almost 50 years MS Flight sim user since the first version. COULD NOT RECOMMEND OR SUGGEST THE PURCHASE OF ANY MS-SPONSORED PRODUCT PAST FSX.

Cumbersome at best, awful for v sure.

There should I ld be a mode to allow drop back to a single flight with FS9 (2004) OR FSX mode?

Without that b I'm stripping b it from my machine.

Please feel free to contact me. Michael Becker.

Douglas Dailey Tue, 16 May 2023 01:32:48 GMT

I have been working on getting the flight sim to run for the past 4 months and is still not working, go figure.

ROOBOOTue, 16 May 2023 02:20:04 GMT

Installed 137 GB Total of 163 GB On a 1 TB SSD.

NikolaiOTue, 16 May 2023 02:35:58 GMT

I haven't purchased it (yet). Simple reason, I don't have enough disk space and my display card can't handle it. I'll wait until I get a new computer.

John HamiltonTue, 16 May 2023 05:03:18 GMT

It does take a lot longer than the previous edition of the flight simulator to load I have the deluxe version on. SSD drives by the time it does the checks it seems to go on forever

It's not as easy to add aircraft scenery no matter how often I try - FSX was a lot easier.

Jones BrendonTue, 16 May 2023 05:41:46 GMT

Sounds like a great idea and fully support it.

Rev Nicholas JonssonTue, 16 May 2023 06:11:17 GMT

Install Size: 809GB for the game Total Install: 809GB game + 100GB (community) = 909GB Storage Type: Main Drive is SSD but the game drive is HDD Loading Times: +5minutes. Installation Size: whole package with additional airports, scenery, and aircraft... thinking about getting an extra terabyte SSD just for MSFS ;-)

JEAN PAULTue, 16 May 2023 07:50:13 GMT


Without Community folder: 312 GB on 1 TB internal NVMe SSD.

My Community folder: 439 GB on 2 TB external USB3 SSD (symbolic link to this folder).

Peter BootesTue, 16 May 2023 08:07:43 GMT

My MSFS - de Luxe and FSX Gold are both on C: MSFS all (World)-updates installed. FSX full ORBX, UTX, AS16, I-Fly, etc. At the moment both are almost identical in size: 175 GB.

Jeff LaurieTue, 16 May 2023 08:42:42 GMT


#1 = 482 GB #2 = 660 GB #3 = SSD #4 = No #5 = 870 GB out of a 1Terrabyte HD.

Are these excessive?

#1 Rolling Cache = 220 GB

#2 Out of the total size of the Package folder, (480 GB) Steam takes up 220 GB under the Packages/Official folder.

Your input is of great value to me.

Thank you,


Manuel L. FonsecaTue, 16 May 2023 09:03:49 GMT

True, MSFS requires a lot of space in any HD. In my case, I have a 1 Tb SSD and I´ve just bought another 2 Tb SSD, so I assume that I will not have any problems in the future.

Larry CollinsTue, 16 May 2023 10:11:56 GMT

I purchased this sim approx 2 years ago, I still have not been able to install the damn thing. I’ve brought external hard drives and I am still having problems.

William FigueroaTue, 16 May 2023 10:57:02 GMT

Thanks for all this information about all the disk space MSFS takes when installed. It really takes a lot and I'm running low on my 2TB C drive. Any suggestion on this will be really appreciated.

Mike CollinsTue, 16 May 2023 11:19:20 GMT

AMD Ryzen 7 3700X 4.2 32 gig ram, Nvidia RTX3060 12 gig, Intel 760 SSD M2 NVMe 512 gig, Crucial MX500 SSD 1 TB External HDD 1 TB VR Oculus Quest 2

Base Install = 567 GB of which Community Folder Contains 264 GB of add-ons.

All SSD's

George Voudouris Tue, 16 May 2023 12:30:11 GMT

SSD Disk 1TB - Space on disk 408GB - Load Time 9 mins 32GB RAM.

wil de boerTue, 16 May 2023 12:50:18 GMT

1-483 GB 2-530 GB 3-1,5yb m2 SSD 4-60sec 5-u filled drive to the brim with add-ons and high-resolution textures?

Konstantinos KottosTue, 16 May 2023 12:57:07 GMT

Details of my MSFS installation:

  1. Install Size:
    • Official: 280 GB
    • Community: 28.8 GB
  2. Disk Space Utilization: Disk size, 500 GB. Total space used: 309 GB (Windows run in a separate disk SSD 500 GB).
  3. Storage Type: SSD
  4. Loading Times: Concerning HDD disks, I have no previous experience with MSFS. The current loading time is 1 to 1.5 minutes plus 1.5 minutes to load PMDG 737.
  5. Installation Size Range: Approximately 180 GB is still available in MSFS disk.
Stephen BondTue, 16 May 2023 14:35:04 GMT

Hello On a 500GB M2 Drive Flight Simulator has taken 398 GB which is a lot and that is just the base simulation and a few minor add ons taking into account how many other files can be brought or downloaded it is my opinion that you will need over 500GB if you want all things with this.

Please note I have removed a few files from it like Texture files from aircraft that I will not use. I am starting to enjoy the flight simulator again and it runs smoothly on my system which isn`t high end nor is it low-end AMD 5600x CPU 32 gig Ram 8gb graphics M2 storage(which I need to increase) X56 FCS trin monitors. I can`t complain. I hope that this helps. Steve Bond.

R LabbeTue, 16 May 2023 18:04:34 GMT

Thankful for what flyawaysimulation give to us simmers. My installation is scattered in my storage. 2.5 TB of mixed HD and SSD storage. With FSXSE, XP12 and MSFS (mods & aux. software included) I have 23 GB left. One problem: when FSIMs update they should advise in advance its disk requirements. After an hour or so to download it you can face a "not enough disk space". Windows 11 Pro - 16 MB RAM - RX570 - Wired F.O. internet MSFS LOADING TIME 08:42 MIN

Alain DepraeterWed, 17 May 2023 14:24:45 GMT

Quite deceived. I used an SSD bigger than 400 GB dedicated to MSFS, and now 213 GB has already been consumed. Each month, compulsory updates of more than 20 GB! Within a year, I cannot afford it anymore. I didn't install any addon, just the strict obligatory. The download and installation are really time-consuming, and all this is spoiling the fun I could get from this splendid program. I regret to have to do it. NB: For all my other data and programs, I'm using an HDD 2Tb.

Rudy SaltzmannWed, 17 May 2023 18:29:54 GMT

Hello Ian Can you direct me to someone that REALLY knows FSX? I have thought about upgrading my Computer to be able to run MSFS but all these bad comments from the reader have me a bit gun-shy. Anyway my FSX stops in midflight at times by either just freezing in place or just totally shutting down. I am running FSX Steam on an I5-4690 @ 3.50GHz, a GTX 960 2.0GB Video Card, and 24 GB DDR3 my main drive is 1TB SSD. ALL works great until I run FSX and most flights short or long die somewhere along the way I have been using MS Flight sims since 2004 when I first got my Pilot Lic. but definitely, I am not a computer expert. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated for this old man! Pls, email me for a follow-up.

Colin CampbellWed, 17 May 2023 18:48:47 GMT

Answering some of your questions: I use a separate SSD drive for MSFS. It's a 1 terabyte drive (D) that has about 400 G stored which is MSFS and various add-ons. I'm not sure how much of that is just MSFS, but it is the store-bought version. I don't have a super-fast computer, it has a Ryzen 5 CPU. But it runs MSFS just fine for me. I have fiber at 1 gig connection to the internet. Not much else I can add, probably a typical setup.

Gary WhitcuttThu, 18 May 2023 02:02:43 GMT

I use X-Plane 11 currently occupying 157 GB on an SSD. Of that, Custom Scenery occupies 94 GB (including Orbx Washington State), Global Scenery 10 GB and Aircraft (all freeware) 29 GB, and all misc plugins, etc. 24 GB. I focus, primarily, on the Pacific Northwest of the USA (where I live) and seldom "fly" anywhere else.

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