Installing Software on NI Linux Real-Time PXI Controllers With NI MAX 19.0

Updated Aug 14, 2023



  • PXI Controller

Operating System

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

This tutorial covers the process to format and install software to an NI Linux Real-Time PXI Controller to use with LabVIEW 2019. If you are using a later version of LabVIEW or NI MAX please see the steps for your version at Installing Software on NI Linux Real-Time PXI Controllers .

This article will assume you have already Determined the compatibility of your PXI controller and NI Real-Time Linux and have already Provisioned your PXI controller to NI Linux.

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


Required Hardware

Required Software

  • LabVIEW 2019
  • LabVIEW 2019 Real-Time Module
  • NI Measurement and Automation Explorer 19.0

Formatting the Controller

With NI Linux Real-Time PXI Controllers, a format is required before any software can be installed. This section will cover the changes to the format experience in NI MAX for these controllers and how to perform the format.

Standard Format and Formatting with 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 light-weight installation of the minimum software needed to configure, install software to, and successfully use all available features with a Linux Real-Time PXI Controller.

In the past, formatting an NI Real-Time Controller from NI MAX would fully wipe all user data and installed software from the controller, leaving just the Linux Operating System. Moving forward, this option will be referred to as a Standard Format. In the case of PXI Linux Real-Time Controllers, there is now an additional format option: Base Images. These will format the controller such that all user data and software are removed, but after doing so will also apply the selected Base Image.

If you are planning to deploy 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.

Note: NI Linux Real-Time PXI Controllers can still be formatted with a Standard Format. However, this will prevent the proper installation of available packages and users will be prompted to format with a Base Image when attempting to install software.

Formatting from NI MAX

Before installing software from NI MAX the controller must first be formatted with a compatible Base Image. To do so, follow the instructions below. Make sure to launch NI MAX as administrator before attempting the steps below.

  1. Locate your PXI Controller in NI MAX under Remote Systems.
  2. Right-click on the controller and select Format Disk. This will launch the Format Disk window.
  1. In the window, select the type of format to apply from the dropdown. For the purpose of this tutorial, select a PXI System Image
  1. (Optional) To ensure the network settings of the PXI Controller do not change, select Preserve the primary adapter settings and reset the others or Preserve the settings for all network adapters.
  2. Click the Format button to begin the format process.
  1. Once the format is complete, click the Close button to close the window.
  1. The PXI Controller should now appear in NI MAX with a Status of Connected – Running.

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 use a process which 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 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.
  2. 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. If the controller has not been formatted with a Base Image, the wizard will require this to be done first. Otherwise, the Real-Time Software wizard will appear.
  1. Select the items to install, update, or uninstall from the AddUpdate, and Remove tabs respectively.
  1. Click Review changes to see a summary of the changes that will be made to the system through the install process.
  1. Click Continue to make the required updates.
  2. 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 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.