Getting Started with NVIDIA CUDA for Windows


CUDA is NVIDIA’s parallel computing architecture that can greatly ehance your computer’s performance by harnessing the power of your GPU (graphics processing unit), as opposed to your PC’s CPU (central processing unit). For a general overview, your best bet may be to go straight to their Getting Started guide.

Ensure a suitable graphics card is installed on your machine

As stated in NVIDIA’s Getting Started document, you must first verify that a CUDA-enabled graphics card system, such as the GE-FORCE, Tesla, Quadro range of products, is installed on your machine. Ordinary graphics cards will probably not work. Suitable makes of graphics card may be found on the NVIDIA web site.

If you don’t yet have one you may wish to search on Google Shopping or Amazon. Depending upon your needs, suitable devices may be found at prices ranging between approx. £40 – £2500.

Finding out which graphics card you have

You can find out which video adapter your Windows system currently has by going into Control Panel and double clicking the System icon. Click on the Hardware tab, and then Device Manager and expand the Display Adapters entry. Here you will find the vendor name and model of your graphics card – you will need to add an additional graphics device if the one listed is not a suitable make.

Download the latest NVIDIA® CUDA® SDK:

Upon looking at their web pages and documentation, it’s kind of hard to know how to find the thing. The current Getting Started pdf telling you where to download the software is out-of-date, sending you to a dead link. I found it via the following page, choosing to download the CUDA toolkit 32 bit version.

Verify your CUDA installation

Do this by compiling and running one of the installed sample programs:

The CUDA Toolkit installation defaults to C:\Program Files\NVIDIA GPU Computing Toolkit\CUDA\v#.#, where #.# is version number 3.2 or higher:

Install the GPU Computing SDK

Also install the complete NVIDIA GPU Computing SDK, also from the same web location:

And just run through the installation wizard.

The version of the CUDA Toolkit can be checked by running nvcc –V at the command prompt:

Verify the GPU Computing SDK installation

In Windows XP, the GPU Computing SDK is installed in C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\NVIDIA Corporation\NVIDIA GPU Computing SDK. Have a go at running the executable “BandwidthTest.exe” from the command line prompt. Depending on what kinds of drivers your machine has installed, the bandwidth test may not run correctly, as shown here:

If this happens go back to the downloads site and get a more up-to-date developer driver – the “Developer Drivers for WinXP (270.81)” bit. Download this executable (32 bit for Win XP in my case) and run it:

.. Selecting “Continue anyway” if prompted:

You will probably need to re-start your machine upon completion. After re-starting, check the drivers have updated OK by running the bandwidth test again:

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