In this section, we briefly overview the necessary steps for setting up a CUDA development environment. At the time of writing this tutorial, CUDA Toolkit v11.2 is the latest official release. Therefore, this version will be the center of our focus throughout the tutorial.

1. Linux#

Depending on the flavor of the Linux OS on the host machine, NVIDIA offers three options for installation of CUDA Toolkit: RPM, Debian or Runfile packages. Each of these packages are provided as Local or Network installers. Network installers are ideal for users with high-speed internet connection and low local disk storage capacity. Network installers also allow users to download only those applications from CUDA Toolkit that they need. Local installers, on the other hand, offer a stand-alone large-size installer file that should be downloaded to the host machine once. Future installations using this installer file will not require any internet connection. Runfiles are Local installers but depending on the type of Linux OS on the host machine, RPM and Debian packages can be Local or Network installers.

Managing the dependencies and prerequisites in various operating systems can be very different depending on the chosen installation method. In comparison with Debian and RPM packages, Runfiles offer a cleaner and more independent method with more control over the installation process. Meanwhile, the installed CUDA Toolkit and its dependent software will not automatically update. On the other hand, Debian and RPM packages provide a native and straightforward way to install the CUDA Toolkit. However, resolving dependencies, conflicts and broken packages will often be an inseparable part of the process. Take a look at CUDA Toolkit documentation for further information and details on installers.

Before spending time on the installation of the CUDA Toolkit on your Linux machine, consider the following set of actions.

Pre-installation Steps

  • Make sure your system has a CUDA-capable graphics processing unit (GPU) device. There are multiple ways to do this task:

    ♠ For a minimalist, a simple bash command will do the trick

$ ls -l /dev/nv*   

if the system is armed with a GPU accelerator device, a typical output of the command above would be:

crw-rw-rw- 1 root root 195,   0 Jan 10 09:43 /dev/nvidia0        <--   This line corresponds to your active GPU accelerator device
crw-rw-rw- 1 root root 195, 255 Jan 10 09:43 /dev/nvidiactl
crw-rw-rw- 1 root root 195, 254 Jan 10 09:43 /dev/nvidia-modeset
crw-rw-rw- 1 root root 236,   0 Jan 10 09:43 /dev/nvidia-uvm
crw-rw-rw- 1 root root 236,   1 Jan 10 09:43 /dev/nvidia-uvm-tools
crw------- 1 root root 243,   0 Jan 10 09:43 /dev/nvme0
brw-rw---- 1 root disk 259,   0 Jan 10 09:43 /dev/nvme0n1
brw-rw---- 1 root disk 259,   1 Jan 10 09:43 /dev/nvme0n1p1
brw-rw---- 1 root disk 259,   2 Jan 10 09:43 /dev/nvme0n1p2
brw-rw---- 1 root disk 259,   3 Jan 10 09:43 /dev/nvme0n1p3
brw-rw---- 1 root disk 259,   4 Jan 10 09:43 /dev/nvme0n1p4

Helpful information about active hardware on the host machine (including graphics card) can be obtained from About This Computer panel which can be accessed from the top-right gear icon at the top corner of the Ubuntu (Unity) desktop screen or through Settings/Details icon that can be looked up from the search bar.

♣ NVIDIA website provides tables of CUDA-enabled GPUs along side their compute capabilities. Compute capability (or streaming multiprocessor version) consisting of a version number (M.N) where M and N stand for major and minor digits, respectively, specifies features that the GPU hardware can support. GPU devices with the same major number (M) belong to the same core architecture: 8 for devices based on the Ampere architecture, 7 for devices based on the Volta architecture, 6 for devices based on the Pascal architecture, 5 for devices based on the Maxwell architecture, 3 for devices based on the Kepler architecture, 2 for devices based on the Fermi architecture, and 1 for devices based on the Tesla architecture. Older CUDA-enabled GPUs (legacy GPUs) are listed here.

♦ The NVIDIA System Management Interface (nvidia-smi) is a command-line tool which is derived from NVIDIA Management Library (NVML) and designed to provide control and monitoring capabilities over NVIDIA CUDA-enabled GPU devices. nvidia-smi ships with NVIDIA GPU display drivers on Linux and some versions of Microsoft Windows. For further details, see here. In order to run nvidia-smi, simply call it through a terminal:

$ nvidia-smi   

A typical output would look like:

   | NVIDIA-SMI 455.38       Driver Version: 455.38       CUDA Version: 11.2     |
   | GPU  Name        Persistence-M| Bus-Id        Disp.A | Volatile Uncorr. ECC |
   | Fan  Temp  Perf  Pwr:Usage/Cap|         Memory-Usage | GPU-Util  Compute M. |
   |                               |                      |               MIG M. |
   |   0  GeForce GTX 1650    Off  | 00000000:01:00.0 Off |                  N/A |
   | N/A   42C    P8     2W /  N/A |    438MiB /  3911MiB |     10%      Default |
   |                               |                      |                  N/A |

where unnecessary information from the output are replaced with ellipses. The result shows the driver version (455.38), CUDA version (11.2), and the CUDA-enabled GPU device name (GeForce GTX 1650). Since multiple GPUs might be available on each machine, applications such as nvidia-smi often adopt integer indices, starting from zero, for referencing the GPU devices.

  • Because the present tutorial is based on the CUDA C/C++ programming language extensions, check to see if the version of Linux on the host machine is supported by CUDA. To do so, take a glance at this page. In order to verify the availability of GNU compilers (gcc and g++) on the system, try

$ <gnu-compiler> --version

where <gnu-compiler> placeholder should be replaced with either gcc or g++.

  • Download the NVIDIA CUDA Toolkit from here. Once the CUDA Toolkit installer is downloaded, follow the instructions here based on the type of your Linux OS platform.

Known Issues

It is a very common issue that a previously installed version of CUDA conflicts with a newer version that is intended to be installed. In order to resolve the conflict, check the compatibility matrices and follow the instructions provided thereafter

2. Windows#

Basic instructions on using Local or Network installers can be found on CUDA Toolkit’s documentation. NVIDIA CUDA Toolkit supports specific version combinations of Microsoft Windows OSs, compilers and Microsoft Visual Studio environments. For further details, see here.

WSL Users

After following directions in the Pre-installation Steps section, the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) users can refer to CUDA Toolkit documentation for setting up CUDA Toolkit and following the instructions.

3. Mac OS#


CUDA Toolkit v10.2.x is the last release that supports Mac OS as a target platform for heterogeneous parallel code development with CUDA. However, NVIDIA still provides support for launching CUDA debugger and profiler application sessions for Mac OS as a host platform.

Since the present tutorial is based on the latest version (v11.2.0), the Mac OS will not be the subject of our further consideration.