Download a Bitfile to NI FPGA Controller Without LabVIEW

Updated Aug 20, 2021



  • CompactRIO Controller


  • Measurement & Automation Explorer (MAX)


  • NI CompactRIO

This article explains how to download a bitfile to an FPGA target even without having the LabVIEW FPGA Module installed, by using Measurement and Automation Explorer (MAX).

Option 1: Download a bitfile using NI RIO Device Setup.

The NI-RIO driver offers a stand-alone tool that allows configuration of FPGA targets.

  1. Launch the RIO Device Setup tool. Select Start»All Programs»National Instruments»NI-RIO»RIO Device Setup to display the RIO Device Setup dialog box.

  2. Select the FPGA target to which you want to download a bitfile from the Resource pull-down menu.
    Note: If your RIO Device is not listed, please confirm it is connected using NI Measurement & Automation Explorer (MAX). 

  3. Browse or type the path to the bitfile you want to download to the flash memory on the FPGA device in the Bitfile to Download path control.

  4. Click the Download Bitfile button.

  5. On the Device Settings tab, select Autoload VI on device power-up or Autoload VI on device reboot.

  6. Click the Apply Settings button.

  7. Click the Exit button.


Option 2: Download a bitfile using Measurement and Automation Explorer.

As an alternative method, Measurement and Automation Explorer (MAX) allows you to download a bitfile to your target even without having the LabVIEW FPGA Module installed. To download or erase your bitfile using MAX:

  1. Locate your target in MAX.

  2. If your target is a local target, select your target's FPGA (named "RIO0" or similar)

  3. If your target is remote (and therefore shows up under Remote Systems), expand your target, expand Devices and Interfaces, and select your target's FPGA (named "RIO0" or similar)

  4. In the right-hand pane, choose any options desired and then select Update Firmware.

  5. Navigate to the location on disk of your bitfile and select it.