6. Windows

This chapter describes installation steps specific to Microsoft Windows (version 10) and its derivatives (e.g. Home, Pro, Enterprise) using the Msys2/MinGW64 toolchain.

There are two documented ways to use ns-3 on Windows: the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) or via the Msys2/MinGW64 toolchain. Both options are listed below; users may choose to install either WSL or the Msys2/MinGW64 toolchain (installing both is not required).


ns-3 is not fully compatible with Visual Studio IDE / MSVC compiler; only Visual Studio Code editor, the Msys2/MinGW64 toolchain, and WSL, as explained below.

6.1. Windows Subsystem for Linux

Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), particularly WSL2, can be used on Windows for ns-3. WSL2 runs a real Linux kernel on Windows’s Hyper-V hypervisor, providing 100% code compatibility with Linux and seamless integration with Windows. VS Code has excellent support and integration with WSL, enabling Windows users to develop for ns-3 in a native environment. It is recommended to install the WSL extension in VS Code for this purpose.

Users starting with WSL2 can follow the Linux installation instructions to fill out other package prerequisites. Note that ns-3 emulation features using WSL2 are not tested/supported.

For more information:

6.2. Windows 10 package prerequisites

The following instructions are relevant to the ns-3.37 release and Windows 10.

6.2.1. Installation of the Msys2 environment

The Msys2 includes ports of Unix tools for Windows built with multiple toolchains, including: MinGW32, MinGW64, Clang64, UCRT.

ns-3 has been tested with the MinGW64 (GCC) toolchain. MinGW32 is 32-bit, which ns-3 does not support. The project’s Windows maintainer has tested Clang64 unsuccessfully, and has not tested the UCRT toolchain (which may work).

The Msys2 installer can be found on their site. Msys2 will be installed by default in the C:\msys64 directory.

The next required step is adding the binaries directories from the MinGW64 toolchain and generic Msys2 tools to the PATH environment variable. This can be accomplished via the GUI (search for system environment variable), or via the following command (assuming it was installed to the default directory):

C:\> setx PATH "C:\msys64\mingw64\bin;C:\msys64\usr\bin;%PATH%;" /m

Note: if the MinGW64 binary directory doesn’t precede the Windows/System32 directory (already in %PATH%), the documentation build will fail since Windows has a conflicting convert command (FAT-to-NTFS). Similarly, if the Msys64 binary directory doesn’t precede the Windows/System2 directory, running the bash command will result in Windows trying to run the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) bash shell.

6.2.2. Accessing the MinGW64 shell

After installing Msys2 and adding the binary directories to the PATH, we can access the Unix-like MinGW64 shell and use the Pacman package manager.

The Pacman package manager is similar to the one used by Arch Linux, and can be accessed via one of the Msys2 shells. In this case, we will be using the MinGW64 shell. We can take this opportunity to update the package cache and packages.

C:\ns-3-dev\> set MSYSTEM MINGW64
C:\ns-3-dev\> bash
/c/ns-3-dev/ MINGW64$ pacman -Syu

Pacman will request you to close the shell and re-open it to proceed after the upgrade.

6.2.3. Minimal requirements for C++ (release)

This is the minimal set of packages needed to run ns-3 C++ programs from a released tarball.

/c/ns-3-dev/ MINGW64$ pacman -S \
mingw-w64-x86_64-toolchain \
mingw-w64-x86_64-cmake \
mingw-w64-x86_64-ninja \
mingw-w64-x86_64-grep \
mingw-w64-x86_64-sed \

6.2.4. Netanim animator

Qt5 development tools are needed for Netanim animator. Qt4 will also work but we have migrated to qt5.

/c/ns-3-dev/ MINGW64$ pacman -S mingw-w64-x86_64-qt5 git

6.2.5. Support for MPI-based distributed emulation

The MPI setup requires two parts.

The first part is the Microsoft MPI SDK required to build the MPI applications, which is distributed via Msys2.

/c/ns-3-dev/ MINGW64$ pacman -S mingw-w64-x86_64-msmpi

The second part is the Microsoft MPI executors (mpiexec, mpirun) package, which is distributed as an installable (msmpisetup.exe).

After installing it, the path containing the executors also need to be included to PATH environment variable of the Windows and/or the MinGW64 shell, depending on whether you want to run MPI programs in either shell or both of them.

C:\ns-3-dev\> setx PATH "%PATH%;C:\Program Files\Microsoft MPI\Bin" /m
C:\ns-3-dev\> set MSYSTEM MINGW64
C:\ns-3-dev\> bash
/c/ns-3-dev/ MINGW64$ echo "export PATH=$PATH:/c/Program\ Files/Microsoft\ MPI/Bin" >> ~/.bashrc

6.2.6. Debugging

GDB is installed along with the mingw-w64-x86_64-toolchain package.

6.2.8. The ns-3 manual, models and tutorial

These documents are written in reStructuredText for Sphinx (doc/tutorial, doc/manual, doc/models). The figures are typically written in dia.

The documents can be generated into multiple formats, one of them being pdf, which requires the same Latex setup for doxygen.

Sphinx can be installed via Msys2’s package manager:

/c/ns-3-dev/ MINGW64$ pacman -S mingw-w64-x86_64-python-sphinx

Dia on the other hand needs to be downloaded and installed manually. After installing it, or unzipping the package (example below), add Dia/bin to the PATH.

C:\ns-3-dev\> setx PATH "%PATH%;C:\dia_0.97.2_win32\bin" /m
C:\ns-3-dev\> set MSYSTEM MINGW64
C:\ns-3-dev\> bash
/c/ns-3-dev/ MINGW64$ echo "export PATH=$PATH:/c/dia_0.97.2_win32/bin" >> ~/.bashrc

6.2.9. GNU Scientific Library (GSL)

GSL is used to provide more accurate WiFi error models and can be installed with:

/c/ns-3-dev/ MINGW64$ pacman -S mingw-w64-x86_64-gsl

6.2.10. Database support for statistics framework

SQLite3 is installed along with the mingw-w64-x86_64-toolchain package.

6.2.11. Xml-based version of the config store

Requires libxml2 >= version 2.7, which can be installed with the following.

/c/ns-3-dev/ MINGW64$ pacman -S mingw-w64-x86_64-libxml2

6.2.12. Support for openflow module

Requires some boost libraries that can be installed with the following.

/c/ns-3-dev/ MINGW64$ pacman -S mingw-w64-x86_64-boost

6.3. Windows 10 Docker container

Docker containers are not as useful for Windows, since only Windows hosts can use them, however we add directions on how to use the Windows container and how to update the Docker image for reference.

First, gather all dependencies previously mentioned to cover all supported features. Install them to a base directory for the container (e.g. C:\tools).

Save the following Dockerfile to the base directory.

# It is really unfortunate we need a 16 GB base image just to get the installers working, but such is life
FROM mcr.microsoft.com/windows:20H2

# Copy the current host directory to the container
COPY .\\ C:/tools
WORKDIR C:\\tools

# Create temporary dir
RUN mkdir C:\\tools\\temp

# Export environment variables
RUN setx PATH "C:\\tools\\msys64\\mingw64\\bin;C:\\tools\\msys64\\usr\\bin;%PATH%" /m
RUN setx PATH "%PATH%;C:\\Program Files\\Microsoft MPI\\bin;C:\\tools\\dia\bin;C:\tools\texlive\2022\bin\win32" /m

# Install Msys2
RUN .\\msys2-x86_64-20220503.exe in --confirm-command --accept-messages --root C:\\tools\\msys64

# Update base packages
RUN C:\\tools\\msys64\\usr\\bin\\pacman -Syyuu --noconfirm

# Install base packages
RUN bash -c "echo export PATH=$PATH:/c/Program\ Files/Microsoft\ MPI/Bin >> /c/tools/msys64/home/$USER/.bashrc" && \
    bash -c "echo export PATH=$PATH:/c/tools/dia/bin >> /c/tools/msys64/home/$USER/.bashrc" && \
    bash -c "echo export PATH=$PATH:/c/tools/texlive/2022/bin/win32 >> /c/tools/msys64/home/$USER/.bashrc" && \
    bash -c "pacman -S mingw-w64-x86_64-toolchain \
                   mingw-w64-x86_64-cmake \
                   mingw-w64-x86_64-ninja \
                   mingw-w64-x86_64-grep \
                   mingw-w64-x86_64-sed \
                   mingw-w64-x86_64-qt5 \
                   git \
                   mingw-w64-x86_64-msmpi \
                   mingw-w64-x86_64-uncrustify \
                   mingw-w64-x86_64-imagemagick \
                   mingw-w64-x86_64-doxygen \
                   mingw-w64-x86_64-graphviz \
                   mingw-w64-x86_64-python-sphinx \
                   mingw-w64-x86_64-gsl \
                   mingw-w64-x86_64-libxml2 \
                   mingw-w64-x86_64-boost \

# Install Microsoft MPI
RUN .\\msmpisetup.exe -unattend -force -full -verbose

# Install TexLive
RUN .\\install-tl-20220526\\install-tl-windows.bat --no-gui --lang en -profile .\\texlive.profile

# Move working directory to temp and start cmd
WORKDIR C:\\tools\\temp

Now you should be able to run docker build -t username/image ..

After building the container image, you should be able to use it:

$ docker run -it username/image
C:\tools\temp$ git clone https://gitlab.com/nsnam/ns-3-dev
C:\tools\temp$ cd ns-3-dev
C:\tools\temp\ns-3-dev$ python ns3 configure --enable-tests --enable-examples
C:\tools\temp\ns-3-dev$ python ns3 build
C:\tools\temp\ns-3-dev$ python test.py

If testing succeeds, the container image can then be pushed to the Docker Hub using docker push username/image.

6.4. Windows 10 Vagrant

As an alternative to manually setting up all dependencies required by ns-3, one can use a pre-packaged virtual machine. There are many ways to do that, but for automation, the most used certainly is Vagrant.

Vagrant supports multiple virtual machine providers, is available in all platforms and is fairly straightforward to use and configure.

There are many boxes available offering guests operating systems such as BSD, Mac, Linux and Windows.

6.4.1. Using the pre-packaged Vagrant box

The provider for the ns-3 Vagrant box is VirtualBox.

The reference Windows virtual machine can be downloaded via the following Vagrant command

~/mingw64_test $ vagrant init gabrielcarvfer/ns3_win10_mingw64

After that, a Vagrantfile will be created in the current directory (in this case, mingw64_test).

The file can be modified to adjust the number of processors and memory available to the virtual machine (VM).

~/mingw64_test $ cat Vagrantfile
# -*- mode: ruby -*-
# vi: set ft=ruby :

# All Vagrant configuration is done below. The "2" in Vagrant.configure
# configures the configuration version (we support older styles for
# backwards compatibility). Please don't change it unless you know what
# you're doing.
Vagrant.configure("2") do |config|
# The most common configuration options are documented and commented below.
# For a complete reference, please see the online documentation at
# https://docs.vagrantup.com.

# Every Vagrant development environment requires a box. You can search for
# boxes at https://vagrantcloud.com/search.
config.vm.box = "gabrielcarvfer/ns3_win10_mingw64"

# Disable automatic box update checking. If you disable this, then
# boxes will only be checked for updates when the user runs
# `vagrant box outdated`. This is not recommended.
# config.vm.box_check_update = false

# Create a forwarded port mapping which allows access to a specific port
# within the machine from a port on the host machine. In the example below,
# accessing "localhost:8080" will access port 80 on the guest machine.
# NOTE: This will enable public access to the opened port
# config.vm.network "forwarded_port", guest: 80, host: 8080

# Create a forwarded port mapping which allows access to a specific port
# within the machine from a port on the host machine and only allow access
# via to disable public access
# config.vm.network "forwarded_port", guest: 80, host: 8080, host_ip: ""

# Create a private network, which allows host-only access to the machine
# using a specific IP.
# config.vm.network "private_network", ip: ""

# Create a public network, which generally matched to bridged network.
# Bridged networks make the machine appear as another physical device on
# your network.
# config.vm.network "public_network"

# Share an additional folder to the guest VM. The first argument is
# the path on the host to the actual folder. The second argument is
# the path on the guest to mount the folder. And the optional third
# argument is a set of non-required options.
# config.vm.synced_folder "../data", "/vagrant_data"

# Provider-specific configuration so you can fine-tune various
# backing providers for Vagrant. These expose provider-specific options.
# Example for VirtualBox:
# config.vm.provider "virtualbox" do |vb|
#   # Display the VirtualBox GUI when booting the machine
#   vb.gui = true
#   # Customize the amount of memory on the VM:
#   vb.memory = "1024"
# end
# View the documentation for the provider you are using for more
# information on available options.

# Enable provisioning with a shell script. Additional provisioners such as
# Ansible, Chef, Docker, Puppet and Salt are also available. Please see the
# documentation for more information about their specific syntax and use.
# config.vm.provision "shell", inline: <<-SHELL
#   apt-get update
#   apt-get install -y apache2

We can uncomment the virtualbox provider block and change vCPUs and RAM. It is recommended never to match the number of vCPUs to the number of thread of the machine, or the host operating system can become unresponsive. For compilation workloads, it is recommended to allocate 1-2 GB of RAM per vCPU.

~/mingw64_test/ $ cat Vagrantfile
# -*- mode: ruby -*-
# vi: set ft=ruby :
Vagrant.configure("2") do |config|
config.vm.box = "gabrielcarvfer/ns3_win10_mingw64"
  config.vm.provider "virtualbox" do |vb|
    vb.cpus = "8"
    vb.memory = "8096" # 8GB of RAM

After changing the settings, we can start the VM and login via ssh. The default password is “vagrant”.

~/mingw64_test/ $ vagrant up
~/mingw64_test/ $ vagrant ssh

We are now logged into the machine and ready to work. If you prefer to update the tools, get into the MinGW64 shell and run pacman.

C:\Users\vagrant\> set MSYSTEM MINGW64
C:\Users\vagrant\> bash
/c/Users/vagrant/ MINGW64$ pacman -Syu
/c/Users/vagrant/ MINGW64$ exit

At this point, we can clone ns-3 locally:

C:\Users\vagrant> git clone `https://gitlab.com/nsnam/ns-3-dev`
C:\Users\vagrant> cd ns-3-dev
C:\Users\vagrant\ns-3-dev> python3 ns3 configure --enable-tests --enable-examples --enable-mpi
C:\Users\vagrant\ns-3-dev> python3 test.py

We can also access the ~/mingw64_test/ from the host machine, where the Vagrantfile resides, by accessing the synchronized folder C:vagrant. If the Vagrantfile is in the host ns-3-dev directory, we can continue working on it.

C:\Users\vagrant> cd C:\vagrant
C:\vagrant\> python3 ns3 configure --enable-tests --enable-examples --enable-mpi
C:\vagrant\> python3 test.py

If all the PATH variables were set for the MinGW64 shell, we can also use it instead of the default CMD shell.

C:\vagrant\> set MSYSTEM=MINGW64
C:\vagrant\> bash
/c/vagrant/ MINGW64$ ./ns3 clean
/c/vagrant/ MINGW64$ ./ns3 configure --enable-tests --enable-examples --enable-mpi
/c/vagrant/ MINGW64$ ./test.py

To stop the Vagrant machine, we should close the SSH session then halt.

/c/vagrant/ MINGW64$ exit
C:\vagrant\> exit
~/mingw64_test/ vagrant halt

To destroy the machine (e.g. to restore the default settings), use the following.

vagrant destroy

6.4.2. Packaging a new Vagrant box



Start by downloading the Windows 10 ISO.

Then install VirtualBox.

Configure a VirtualBox VM and use the Windows 10 ISO file as the install source.

During the installation, create a local user named “vagrant” and set its password to “vagrant”.

Check for any Windows updates and install them.

The following commands assume administrative permissions and a PowerShell shell. Install the VirtualBox guest extensions

On the VirtualBox GUI, click on Devices->Insert Guest Additions CD Image... to download the VirtualBox guest extensions ISO and mount it as a CD drive on the guest VM.

Run the installer to enable USB-passthrough, folder syncing and others.

After installing, unmount the drive by removing it from the VM. Click on Settings->Storage, select the guest drive and remove it clicking the button with an red x. Install the OpenSSH server

Open PowerShell and run the following to install OpenSSH server, then set it to start automatically and open the firewall ports.

Add-WindowsCapability -Online -Name OpenSSH.Client~~~~
Add-WindowsCapability -Online -Name OpenSSH.Server~~~~
Start-Service sshd
Set-Service -Name sshd -StartupType 'Automatic'
if (!(Get-NetFirewallRule -Name "OpenSSH-Server-In-TCP" -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue | Select-Object Name, Enabled)) {
    Write-Output "Firewall Rule 'OpenSSH-Server-In-TCP' does not exist, creating it..."
    New-NetFirewallRule -Name 'OpenSSH-Server-In-TCP' -DisplayName 'OpenSSH Server (sshd)' -Enabled True -Direction Inbound -Protocol TCP -Action Allow -LocalPort 22
} else {
    Write-Output "Firewall rule 'OpenSSH-Server-In-TCP' has been created and exists."
} Enable essential services and disable unnecessary ones

Ensure the following services are set to automatic from the Services panel(services.msc):

  • Base Filtering Engine

  • Remote Procedure Call (RPC)

  • DCOM Server Process Launcher

  • RPC Endpoint Mapper

  • Windows Firewall

Ensure the following services are set to disabled from the Services panel(services.msc):

  • Windows Update

  • Windows Update Remediation

  • Windows Search

The same can be accomplished via the command-line with the following commands:

Set-Service -Name BFE -StartupType 'Automatic'
Set-Service -Name RpcSs -StartupType 'Automatic'
Set-Service -Name DcomLaunch -StartupType 'Automatic'
Set-Service -Name RpcEptMapper -StartupType 'Automatic'
Set-Service -Name mpssvc -StartupType 'Automatic'
Set-Service -Name wuauserv -StartupType 'Disabled'
Set-Service -Name WaaSMedicSvc -StartupType 'Disabled'
Set-Service -Name WSearch -StartupType 'Disabled' Install the packages you need

In this step we install all the software required by ns-3, as listed in the Section Windows 10 package prerequisites. Disable Windows Defender

After installing everything, it should be safe to disable the Windows security.

Enter in the Windows Security settings and disable “anti-tamper protection”. It rollbacks changes to security settings periodically.

Enter in the Group Policy Editor (gpedit.msc) and disable:

  • Realtime protection

  • Behavior monitoring

  • Scanning of archives, removable drives, network files, scripts

  • Windows defender

The same can be accomplished with the following command-line commands.

Set-MpPreference -DisableArchiveScanning 1 -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue
Set-MpPreference -DisableBehaviorMonitoring 1 -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue
Set-MpPreference -DisableIntrusionPreventionSystem 1 -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue
Set-MpPreference -DisableIOAVProtection 1 -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue
Set-MpPreference -DisableRemovableDriveScanning 1 -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue
Set-MpPreference -DisableBlockAtFirstSeen 1 -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue
Set-MpPreference -DisableScanningMappedNetworkDrivesForFullScan 1 -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue
Set-MpPreference -DisableScanningNetworkFiles 1 -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue
Set-MpPreference -DisableScriptScanning 1 -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue
Set-MpPreference -DisableRealtimeMonitoring 1 -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue
Set-Service -Name WdNisSvc -StartupType 'Disabled'
Set-Service -Name WinDefend -StartupType 'Disabled'
Set-Service -Name Sense -StartupType 'Disabled'
Set-ItemProperty -Path "HKLM:\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows Defender\Real-Time Protection" -Name SpyNetReporting -Value 0
Set-ItemProperty -Path "HKLM:\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows Defender\Real-Time Protection" -Name SubmitSamplesConsent -Value 0
Set-ItemProperty -Path "HKLM:\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows Defender\Features" -Name TamperProtection -Value 4
Set-ItemProperty -Path "HKLM:\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows Defender" -Name DisableAntiSpyware -Value 1
Set-ItemProperty -Path "HKLM:\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows Defender" -Name DisableAntiSpyware -Value 1

Note: the previous commands were an excerpt from the complete script in: https://github.com/jeremybeaume/tools/blob/master/disable-defender.ps1 Turn off UAC notifications

The UAC notifications are the popups where you can give your OK to elevation to administrative privileges. It can be disabled via User Account Control Settings, or via the following commands.

reg ADD HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\System /v EnableLUA /t REG_DWORD /d 0 /f Change the strong password security Policy

Open the Local Security Policy management window. Under Security Settings/Account Policy/Password Policy, disable the option saying “Password must meet complexity requirements”. Testing

After you reach this point, reboot your machine then log back in.

Test if all your packages are working as expected.

In the case of ns-3, try to enable all supported features, run the test.py and test-ns3.py suites.

If everything works, then try to log in via SSH.

If everything works, shut down the machine and prepare for packaging.

The network interface configured should be a NAT. Other interfaces won’t work correctly. Default Vagrantfile

Vagrant can package VirtualBox VMs into Vagrant boxes without much more work. However, it still needs one more file to do that: the default Vagrantfile.

This file will be used by Vagrant to configure the VM later on and how to connect to it.

# -*- mode: ruby -*-
# vi: set ft=ruby :

Vagrant.configure("2") do |config|
config.vm.box = "BOX_FILE.box" # name of the box
config.vm.communicator = "winssh" # indicate that we are talking to a windows box via ssh
config.vm.guest = :windows # indicate that the guest is a windows machine
config.vm.network :forwarded_port, guest: 3389, host: 3389, id: "rdp", auto_correct: true
config.ssh.password = "vagrant" # give the default password, so that it stops trying to use a .ssh key-pair
config.ssh.insert_key = false # let the user use a written password
config.ssh.keys_only = false
config.winssh.shell = "cmd" # select the default shell (could be cmd or powershell)
  config.vm.provider :virtualbox do |v, override|
      #v.gui = true # do not show the VirtualBox GUI if unset or set to false
      v.customize ["modifyvm", :id, "--memory", 8096] # the default settings for the VM are 8GB of RAM
      v.customize ["modifyvm", :id, "--cpus", 8] # the default settings for the VM are 8 vCPUs
      v.customize ["modifyvm", :id, "--vram", 128] # 128 MB or vGPU RAM
      v.customize ["modifyvm", :id, "--clipboard", "bidirectional"]
      v.customize ["setextradata", "global", "GUI/SuppressMessages", "all" ]

This Vagrantfile will be baked into the Vagrant box, and can be modified by the user Vagrantfile. After writing the Vagrantfile, we can call the following command.

vagrant package --vagrantfile Vagrantfile --base VIRTUALBOX_VM_NAME --output BOX_FILE.box

It will take an awful long time depending on your drive.

After it finishes, we can add the box to test it.

vagrant box add BOX_NAME BOX_FILE
vagrant up BOX_NAME
vagrant ssh

If it can connect to the box, you are ready to upload it to the Vagrant servers. Publishing the Vagrant box

Create an account in https://app.vagrantup.com/ or log in with yours. In the dashboard, you can create a new box named BOX_NAME or select an existing one to update.

After you select your box, click to add a provider. Pick Virtualbox. Calculate the MD5 hash of your BOX_FILE.box and fill the field then click to proceed.

Upload the box.

Now you should be able to download your box from the Vagrant servers via the the following command.

vagrant init yourUserName/BOX_NAME
vagrant up
vagrant ssh

More information on Windows packaging to Vagrant boxes is available here: