Tips for optimizing Google Earth

If you’re wondering what Google Earth experts do to make things run faster or better, this post describes tips on how to set up your Google Earth options (“Preferences” on the Mac). These options can greatly improve your experience with Google Earth by optimizing important graphics and data constraints, speeding up certain actions, or improving the quality of your views.

To get to the GE options, select the menu “Tools -> Options” (or “Google Earth -> Preferences” on the Mac). This opens a window of options with the following panes: 3D View, Cache, Touring, Navigation, General.


Here are recommendations for each pane of the options (Read the Google Earth User Guide for settings not covered here):

  • 3D View tab – You will have to restart Google Earth after applying most of these settings.
    • Anisotropic Filtering – This advanced graphics feature improves resolution when viewing 3D at an angle. Things at a distance will seem clearer. If you have a relatively new computer/graphics card you should try turning this setting to “medium”. If you have a gaming machine, you can probably use “High”. I recommend using this setting (at least at “Medium”) if your computer can do it, you will enjoy GE views even more.
    • Graphics Mode – For my Windows computer, OpenGL seems to give better results. However, depending on your graphics card, DirectX may do better. The primary difference is 3D update speed, and support for features such as antialiasing, and polylines.
    • Terrain – these settings can be very important for graphics performance and realism. A higher setting of quality will improve the realism and detail of the 3D terrain and the new 3D imagery can looks quite amazing. However, higher quality means more 3D rendering which will slow performance. If you have a faster / newer graphics card you can probably leave both of those options enabled. If you have slower performance, you may want to disable one or both of these.  In severe cases, you can disable both and also uncheck the main “3D Buildings” option in the [Layers] sidebar to help keep things running smoothly.
    • If you use Google Earth to look at mountains, try temporarily setting Elevation Exaggeration to 1.5 or higher (maximum of 3). This makes the 3D terrain have exaggerated heights. A setting of 2.0 would be twice as high. Also, it is best to return the exaggeration to 1 – otherwise 3D buildings and other features won’t work right.
    • Overview Map – I suggest you adjust the map size to what works for your screen size. The Zoom relation is handy – a smaller value has the zoom level more closely match your view. (tip: use Control-M (or Apple-M on the Mac) to bring up the Overview Map)
  • Cache tab
    • Memory Cache Size Starting back in Google Earth 4, this setting is automatically optimized. You can adjust it, but I recommend leaving it alone unless you change the amount of memory on your system.
    • Disk Cache Size – If you can afford the disk space, set your disk space cache to 2000 MB (2GB) – the maximum GE will allow – this will mean less downloading when viewing the same locations. Also, you can use Google Earth offline better.
  • Touring tab
    • When creating a tour from a folder – You can “tour” a folder of placemarks. These settings effect the time between placemarks.
    • When creating a tour from a line – You can also tour a drawn line in GE. This lets you set the camera position relative to the line. Very handy for driving direction playback, or for guided tours.
    • When recording a tour – this setting lets you determine how much data is stored (size of resulting file) while recording motions in a “recorded tour“.
  • Navigation tab
    • Fly-To Speed – Set the Fly-to/Tour Speed to a faster speed if you use GE a lot. This means you will fly more quickly when you double click or search for a location.
    • Mouse Wheel Settings – I recommend adjusting the speed of the mouse wheel setting which will increase your control for zooming up and down in GE.
    • You can also invert the mouse wheel direction so it makes sense for you whether forward or backward zooms you down/up.
    • Automatically tilt while zooming – turn this off if you prefer the old GE behavior which would not tilt as you zoom closer to the Earth.
  • General tab
    • Click “Show web results in external broswer” if you want (or don’t want) to use an external browser when clicking on a link in a placemark description.

Now, go enjoy an improved experience with Google Earth!

If you click on the “Google Earth Tips” category of this blog you’ll find many other tips for improving your experience with GE. Or, check out the “Basics” page for a list of stories covering the basics for using GE.

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.


  1. offroadinghomedj says

    You mention the so-called “option” to turn off the auto-tilt during zoom. FRANKLY I can’t think of anything but infrequent, novices that this benefits and you imply that to not think it’s great is not HIP. This is the most annoying aspect of the current build – which by the DOES NOT WORK! Google thinks that IT knows better than the USER what we want?? I get it set, move somewhere else and have to reset it OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER … again. The crap thing is that just about every other so-called enhancement the programmers screw it up all over again ant the “disengage” function no longer works. This new version – (beta) – the latest it will download for me – now refuses to disengage the zooming foolishness. Like before (several times) someone in Google will eventually put down his cell phone long enough to realize the bug and fix it – only for some other fool to break it again in the next “up-grade.”

  2. Rajesh David says

    great article.useful for me.thanks

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.