Installing Software on NI Linux Real-Time PXI Controllers

Updated Aug 2, 2023



  • PXI Controller

Operating System

  • LabVIEW Real-Time (NI Linux Real-Time)

The migration from NI Phar Lap ETS to NI Linux Real-Time means migrating your application from one operating system to another which takes several steps. This article works as a standalone tutorial for installing software and is part of a series on migration to NI Linux RT:

  1. Determine compatibility
  2. Provision your PXI controller
  3. Install software
  4. Migrate Phar Lap application to NI Linux RT

This tutorial covers the process to format and install software to an NI Linux Real-Time PXI Controller to use with LabVIEW. It includes a discussion of the differences between PXI and past NI Linux Real-Time controllers, and how to configure a password for the controller.

Note: The steps to install software onto your NI Linux Real-Time Controller are different in version 2019. If you are using NI Measurement & Automation (MAX) 2019 or LabVIEW 2019, please see Installing Software on NI Linux Real-Time PXI Controllers With NI MAX 19.0 instead.

Note: This tutorial requires that the Host PC and PXI controller have direct internet access in order to install software.

With the release of NI Linux Real-Time support for PXIe Controllers, you can install common NI Drivers and Utilities to these Real-Time Controllers from NI Measurement & Automation Explorer (MAX). However, the install process for these Real-Time Targets is different than what you may be familiar with. This document covers the first time install process for a freshly provisioned NI Linux Real-Time PXI Controller for LabVIEW.

Required Hardware

Required Software

  • LabVIEW 2020 or later
  • LabVIEW 2020 Real-Time Module or later
  • NI Measurement and Automation Explorer 20.0 or later

Installing a Base Image

With the release of NI Linux Real-Time Controllers, NI has introduced the concept of Base Images. A Base Image is a lightweight installation of the minimum software needed to configure, install software to, and successfully use all available features with a Linux Real-Time PXI Controller.
If you are planning to deploy a VeriStand project to NI Linux Real-Time Controllers, please refer to VeriStand and NI Linux Real-Time Version Compatibility to select the compatible base system image.
To apply a base image, follow these steps:

  1. Expand your controller in NI MAX and right-click on Software and select Add/Remove Software.
  1. Click on the cog icon next to Base System Image to bring up a list of the available Base Images you can apply.
  1. Select the Base Image you wish to use and select OK.
  1. Now click Format to format your controller and apply your selected Linux Base Image,
  1. Wait until the format has finished. Once finished, you have successfully applied a Base Image. Click Close and you can now install software onto your PXI.

Installing Software

Unlike past NI Real-Time Controllers, NI Linux Real-Time PXI Controllers install NI Drivers and Software as packages within a Linux package manager, opkg. This section will cover the PXI Linux Real-Time install system and how to install software using the wizard.

Online Package Repository and opkg

In the past, installing software to NI Real-Time Controllers has required installing the relevant software and drivers to a Host PC and then running an install process to push these items from the Host PC to the Real-Time Controller. This meant that all NI Software necessary for the controller had to be present on the Host PC in the exact versions necessary for a system.

Instead, NI Linux Real-Time PXI Controllers now use a process that scripts installation through a lightweight package manager: opkg. Existing users of NI Linux Real-Time may already be familiar with using this package manager to install many third-party software from the official NI-hosted package repository. As of the 2019 release of the LabVIEW Real-Time Module, software and drivers for NI Linux Real-Time PXI software and Controllers are now hosted in this same repository. As of the 2020 release, software and drivers for NI Linux Real-Time PXI software and Controllers can be installed to offline Real-Time Targets. Refer to Installing Software to Offline NI Linux Real-Time Targets  for more information.

As a result of this change, the Host PC no longer needs every driver or utility in order to install software to an NI Linux Real-Time PXI Controller. Only NI MAX is necessary to facilitate the installation once a system has been imaged with a Base Image. This makes replicating or restoring different software versions on a Real-Time controller much easier, with the Base Image ensuring access to the right versions of the repository feeds.

Once the software is installed, the controller can be used as with any other NI Real-Time controller. NI recommends keeping a development machine configured with all relevant software and drivers as the development APIs and environments will still be necessary for programming the controller.

Installing Software from NI MAX

To install software from NI MAX, follow the instructions below:

  1. In NI MAX, expand the controller by clicking the arrow to the left of the controller and Right-Click on Software and select Add/Remove Software.


  1. A prompt to login as the admin user will appear. If an admin password has been set, enter the password and click OK. Otherwise, just click OK without entering a password.
  2. Select the items to install, update, or uninstall from the Add, Update, and Remove tabs respectively. Use the cog next to Programming Environment to ensure select the environment and version you will be using to program with your controller. This is important to ensure the correct driver versions are loaded.


  1. Click Review changes to see a summary of the changes that will be made to the system through the install process. This may take a few minutes.


  1. Click Continue to make the required updates. This may take a few minutes.
  2. If the installation process gets stuck on the "Restart System" step, try with a direct Ethernet or USB connection. 
  3. Once the updates are complete, click the Close button. The software will now appear under the Software dropdown for the controller in NI MAX.

Next Steps

Once the software is installed on the target, it can be used in LabVIEW with the LabVIEW Real-Time Module just like any other Real-Time Controller. Configuration options, such as driver and device settings, will also be available with the proper software installed. Once necessary software is installed, you can migrate existing Phar Lap applications to NI Linux RT.
Before using the controller, NI recommends following the instructions below to set a secure password.

Configuring a Password

NI highly recommends setting a password for any Real-Time devices. As of NI MAX 19.0, users will now be notified via a warning for all Real-Time Linux Controllers with SSH enabled if a password has not been set. This warning will appear as shown in the below image.


To set an administrator password for a Linux Real-Time device:

  1. In NI MAX, select the Real-Time Controller to set a password for.
  2. Click Set Permissions from the top menu for the controller.
  3. Configure the new password as desired, then click OK.

Note: The default admin password for Linux Real-Time controllers is a blank password. That is, no password is set by default.