Archived: Local Application Development on Windows-based CompactRIO

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With the release of the Multicore CompactRIO systems, the cRIO-9081 and cRIO-9082, NI now offers a choice of either a real-time or a Windows Embedded Standard 7 (WES7) operating system. One key difference between the LabVIEW Real-Time operating system and the WES7 operating system is the application development experience.

This guide steps through the development process locally on the Windows based CompactRIO as opposed to remotely developing an application and deploying it across Ethernet.

The following document describes the NI recommended process for local application development on the Windows based CompactRIO. To step you through the development process from out of box to deployment, the document is broken into three sections: Initial Configuration, Development, and Deployment and Replication. After reviewing this guide, if you find that local development on the CompactRIO target is not feasible for your application, reference the Remote Application Development for Windows based CompactRIO to learn how to setup a separate development machine.


Initial Configuration

Installing LabVIEW on the CompactRIO

Out of box the Windows based CompactRIO is similar to that of a new development computer in so much that it does not have any applications pre-installed or pre-configured. On the CompactRIO, you will need to install the LabVIEW Development System, the LabVIEW FPGA Module (without the Xilinx Compilation tools) and the NI-RIO driver. Since the Windows Embedded Standard 7 operating system replaces the real-time operating system the LabVIEW Real-Time module is not required.

Note: The cRIO-9081 and cRIO-9082 hardware targets are only supported with LabVIEW 2011 or later, so ensure that the following software is installed on your development computer:

  • LabVIEW 2011 Development System or later
  • LabVIEW 2011 FPGA Module or later (without installing the Xilinx Compilation Tools)
  • NI-RIO 4.0 or later

There are several methods for installing software onto your CompactRIO:

  1. Install the software from disks: Since the target has no attached optical drive, an external USB drive is needed to install software directly from a disk. One can be purchased at External USB CD/DVD-ROM Accessory
  2. Use a USB drive: Copy the software installers from your development machine or the LabVIEW Platform DVD to a USB flash drive, then plug the USB into one of the ports on the CompactRIO, and run the installers.
  3. Network Installation: If you have the NI installers located on a shared network drive you can connect your CompactRIO to the network and then download and install the software directly.

Although you can install each of these software components separately, the easiest way to install them is using the LabVIEW Platform DVD. If you are not using the LabVIEW Platform DVD, you should download and install the software in the order listed above from For further instructions on installation, read the steps to Install NI LabVIEW, LabVIEW Real-Time Module, LabVIEW FPGA Module, and NI-RIO Driver with the following modifications to the steps:

  • Omit the step to install the LabVIEW Real-Time Module as it is not needed
  • In step 5 of the above installation tutorial under the FPGA Module deselect the compilation tools as you will setup them on a remote computer

Figure 1: In the LabVIEW Platform DVD menu deselect the installation of the FPGA Xilinx compilation tools as they will need to be installed on a separate computer.

  • Also deselect both the NI-DAQmx and NI SignalExpress components.

Installing Additional Software Tools on the CompactRIO

Since the CompactRIO is also built as a deployment platform, note that the cRIO-9081 only has 16GB of hard drive space which is not sufficient to install many tools beyond the LabVIEW Development System, LabVIEW FPGA Module (without compilation tools), and the NI-RIO driver as shown in Figure 2. For disk space and RAM requires for other NI software that you can install onto the CompactRIO, reference the System Requirements for NI LabVIEW Development Systems and LabVIEW Modules. If your application will require more than 16GB for the development tools, the cRIO-9082 includes a 32GB drive, you can remove the Acronis backup tools, or you can consider remote development of your application.

Figure 2: Installing the minimum LabVIEW development tools required locally on the cRIO-9081, with 16GB hard drive, leaves about 25% of the hard drive (3.8GB) for other application software and data logging.

Setting Up Remote FPGA Compilation

As CompactRIO is primarily a deployment platform the hard drive space and memory size are not adequate for local compilation of FPGA applications. It is recommended that you setup a remote FPGA compilation server that is accessible from the CompactRIO through your network. There are three options to obtain this remote compilation functionality:

  1. (Recommended) Use the LabVIEW FPGA Compile Cloud Service
    This Internet-based service offloads the FPGA compilations to a high-performance NI server so you do not have to maintain the server, such as providing upgraded hardware and software. In addition the service is capable of parallel compilations so multiple developers can have compilations executing or you can compile multiple variants of your FPGA code at one time. Similarly to a Windows PC-based development system, on the CompactRIO you access the service by entering your login and password without further configuration required. If you have an active service contract, such as Standard Service Program (SSP), you are eligible for one year of free access to the LabVIEW FPGA Compile Cloud Service, or there is a 90-day free trial.
    Getting Started with the LabVIEW FPGA Compile Cloud Service

  2. Install the LabVIEW FPGA Compilation tools on a computer
    The LabVIEW FPGA license allows you to install just the Xilinx compilation tools on a remote computer. You use the LabVIEW Platform DVD that you used to install LabVIEW on the CompactRIO, except now you only select the appropriate compilation tool. To learn more about this process refer to Installing and Activating the LabVIEW FPGA Compile Server on a Remote Computer.

    Once you have installed the FPGA compilation tools, open up LabVIEW on the CompactRIO and configure it to reference this remote FPGA compilation server by following the steps in the Compiling an FPGA VI Remotely help document.

  3. Setup a LabVIEW FPGA Compile Farm
    The LabVIEW FPGA Compile Farm toolkit includes the software required to setup a centralized farm of computers devoted to FPGA compilations for your organization. It has similar functionality to the LabVIEW FGPA Compile Cloud except that you take over the hardware and software maintenance associated with having your own computers.

    Figure 3: To remotely compile LabVIEW FPGA VIs, you can setup and maintain server computers at your organization or you can offload the compiles through the NI LabVIEW FPGA Compile Cloud Service.


The development process with LabVIEW directly installed on the Windows based CompactRIO is similar to that for any other Windows targets. As shown in Figure 4 below, you add the back plane FPGA as a target under the My Computer project target and create and debug VIs under each target. The only significant difference is when you click the run button to compile your LabVIEW FPGA application the compilation process will occur on a remote computer.

Figure 4: Similar to a Windows-based PC, in local development on the CompactRIO you develop your application under the My Computer target and add the FPGA back plane target underneath the Windows target.

All the standard LabVIEW debugging tools in Windows, such as highlight execution, probes, and stepping through you application are accessible when developing on the CompactRIO. Likewise, the FPGA interactive front panel used during debugging is also available.

Learn more about best-practices for developing Windows and FPGA-based applications through these documents:
Software Engineering Best Practices
Testing and Debugging LabVIEW FPGA Code

Deployment and Replication

Since you are developing directly on the CompactRIO hardware, the process of moving to final deployment is straight forward. As with any other LabVIEW for Windows application, to distribute the application, you create and configure a Build Specification in the Project Explorer window. For more information on how to create an application in LabVIEW, reference Developing and Distributing an Application. Running the build specification then generates the Windows executable that you will use in a deployment situation.

To replicate a deployed Windows based CompactRIO system, you can transfer and execute a LabVIEW built installer on each target or you can use third-party Windows imaging tools. The first method, a manual replication process, starts by building an installer that packages your LabVIEW application with the appropriate support files. Learn more about Building an Installer (Windows) in the LabVIEW help. Once built, the installer can then be transferred to the CompactRIO, copied on to the target, and executed to load the necessary application files. The second method, useful for higher deployment volumes or for more complex operating system configurations, is to use a third-party hard disk imaging tool. These tools are capable of copying the entire contents of the hard disk for your correctly configured Windows system to a blank system. There are a variety of these tools available and do require a larger initial investment of time and money as opposed to the installer method, but depending on the needs of your system they may make sense.

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