2. Quick Start

This chapter summarizes the ns-3 installation process for C++ users interested in trying a generic install of the main simulator. Python bindings installation is not covered.

Some of this chapter is redundant with the ns-3 tutorial, which also covers similar steps.

The steps are:

  1. Download a source archive, or make a git clone, of ns-3 to a location on your file system (usually somewhere under your home directory).

  2. Use a C++ compiler to compile the software into a set of shared libraries, executable example programs, and tests

ns-3 uses the CMake build system to manage the C++ compilation, and CMake itself calls on a lower-level build system such as make to perform the actual compilation.

2.1. Prerequisites

Make sure that your system has these prerequisites. Download can be via either git or via source archive download (via a web browser, wget, or curl).



Minimum Version


git (for Git download)

or tar and bunzip2 (for Web download)

No minimum version

No minimum version



or clang++

>= 9

>= 10



>= 3.5

Build system


and at least one of: make, ninja, or Xcode

>= 3.10

No minimum version


If you are using an older version of ns-3, other tools may be needed (such as python2 instead of python3 and Waf instead of cmake). Check the file RELEASE_NOTES in the top-level directory for requirements for older releases.

From the command line, you can check the version of each of the above tools with version requirements as follows:


Version check command


$ g++ --version


$ clang++ --version


$ python3 -V


$ cmake --version

2.2. Download

There are two main options:

1. Download a release tarball. This will unpack to a directory such as ns-allinone-3.42 containing ns-3 and some other programs. Below is a command-line download using wget, but a browser download will also work:

$ wget https://www.nsnam.org/releases/ns-allinone-3.42.tar.bz2
$ tar xfj ns-allinone-3.42.tar.bz2
$ cd ns-allinone-3.42/ns-3.42

2. Clone ns-3 from the Git repository. The ns-3-allinone can be cloned, as well as ns-3-dev by itself. Below, we illustrate the latter:

$ git clone https://gitlab.com/nsnam/ns-3-dev.git
$ cd ns-3-dev

Note that if you select option 1), your directory name will contain the release number. If you clone ns-3, your directory will be named ns-3-dev. By default, Git will check out the ns-3 master branch, which is a development branch. All ns-3 releases are tagged in Git, so if you would then like to check out a past release, you can do so as follows:

$ git checkout -b ns-3.42-release ns-3.42

In this quick-start, we are omitting download and build instructions for optional ns-3 modules, the NetAnim animator, Python bindings, and NetSimulyzer. The ns-3 Tutorial has some instructions on optional components, or else the documentation associated with the extension should be consulted.

Moreover, in this guide we will assume that you are using ns-3.36 or later. Earlier versions had different configuration, build, and run command and options.

2.3. Building and testing ns-3

Once you have obtained the source either by downloading a release or by cloning a Git repository, the next step is to configure the build using the CMake build system. The below commands make use of a Python wrapper around CMake, called ns3, that simplifies the command-line syntax, resembling Waf syntax. There are several options to control the build, but enabling the example programs and the tests, for a default build profile (with asserts enabled and and support for ns-3 logging) is what is usually done at first:

$ ./ns3 configure --enable-examples --enable-tests

Depending on how fast your CPU is, the configuration command can take anywhere from a few seconds to a minute.

Then, use the ns3 program to build the ns-3 module libraries and executables:

$ ./ns3 build

Build times vary based on the number of CPU cores, the speed of the CPU and memory, and the mode of the build (whether debug mode, which is faster, or the default or optimized modes, which are slower). Additional configuration (not covered here) can be used to limit the scope of the build, and the ccache, if installed, can speed things up. In general, plan on the build taking a few minutes on faster workstations.

You should see some output such as below, if successful:

'build' finished successfully (44.159s)

Modules built:
antenna                   aodv                      applications
bridge                    buildings                 config-store
core                      csma                      csma-layout
dsdv                      dsr                       energy
fd-net-device             flow-monitor              internet
internet-apps             lr-wpan                   lte
mesh                      mobility                  mpi
netanim (no Python)       network                   nix-vector-routing
olsr                      point-to-point            point-to-point-layout
propagation               sixlowpan                 spectrum
stats                     tap-bridge                test (no Python)
topology-read             traffic-control           uan
virtual-net-device        visualizer                wifi

Modules not built (see ns-3 tutorial for explanation):
brite                     click                     openflow

Once complete, you can run the unit tests to check your build:

$ ./test.py

This command should run several hundred unit tests. If they pass, you have made a successful initial build of ns-3. Read further in this manual for instructions about building optional components, or else consult the ns-3 Tutorial or other documentation to get started with the base ns-3.

If you prefer to code with an code editor, consult the documentation in the ns-3 Manual on Working with CMake, since CMake enables ns-3 integration with a variety of code editors, including:

  • JetBrains’s CLion

  • Microsoft Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code

  • Apple’s XCode

  • CodeBlocks

  • Eclipse CDT4

2.4. Installing ns-3

Most users do not install ns-3 libraries to typical system library directories; they instead just leave the libraries in the build directory, and the ns3 Python program will find these libraries. However, it is possible to perform an installation step– ns3 install– with the following caveats.

The location of the installed libraries is set by the --prefix option specified at the configure step. The prefix defaults to /usr/local. For a given --prefix=$PREFIX, the installation step will install headers to a $PREFIX/include directory, libraries and pkgconfig files to a $PREFIX/lib directory, and a few binaries to a $PREFIX/libexec directory. For example, ./ns3 configure --prefix=/tmp, followed by ./ns3 build and ./ns3 install, will lead to files being installed in /tmp/include, /tmp/lib, and /tmp/libexec.

Note that the ns3 script prevents running the script as root (or as a sudo user). As a result, with the default prefix of /usr/local, the installation will fail unless the user has write privileges in that directory. Attempts to force this with sudo ./ns3 install will fail due to a check in the ns3 program that prevents running as root. This check was installed by ns-3 maintainers for the safety of novice users who may run ./ns3 in a root shell and later in a normal shell, and become confused about errors resulting in lack of privileges to modify files. For users who know what they are doing and who want to install to a privileged directory, users can comment out the statement refuse_run_as_root() in the ns3 program (around line 1400), and then run sudo ./ns3 install.