System Requirements

Updated 2019 October 12

The following hardware and software requirements and recommendations apply to all current versions of PixInsight 1.8 Ripley.


Hardware Architecture

PixInsight is available for 64-bit machines supporting the x86_64 / EM64T architectures: Intel Core i3/i5/i7/i9, Intel Xeon, AMD 64, etc.

Operating System

The PixInsight platform has been ported to the FreeBSD, Linux, Apple macOS and Microsoft Windows operating systems.

The primary development platforms for PixInsight 1.8.7 are Kubuntu Linux 18.04 LTS and FreeBSD 12. The macOS and Windows versions are ports of the main development trunk on Linux/FreeBSD.

Recommended operating systems: Linux and FreeBSD. These are the platforms where you'll get the best performace, stability and user experience with current versions of PixInsight.

No 32-bit versions. Current versions of PixInsight are only available as 64-bit applications for all supported operating systems. Please note that no 32-bit versions will be released anymore. Note also that any existing 32-bit version will no longer be supported or updated. No 32-bit version of PixInsight is or will be available for download from our servers.

FreeBSD

The latest version 1.8.7 of PixInsight for FreeBSD has been developed on FreeBSD 12.0-RELEASE.

  • Tested FreeBSD releases: FreeBSD 12.0-RELEASE x64.
  • Recommended FreeBSD configuration: FreeBSD 12.0 or 12.1 with the KDE Plasma 5.12 LTS desktop environment.

Linux

PixInsight 1.8.7 for Linux requires a 64-bit Linux distribution with glibc version 2.27 (January 2018) or later and GLIBCXX_3.4.26 / CXXABI_1.3.11 (GCC 9.0 or later).

As of updating this document (October 2019), PixInsight 1.8.7 has been fully tested on the following Linux distributions:

For the latest 1.8.7 version of PixInsight, we strongly recommend the KDE Plasma desktop environment.

GNOME 3 also works well, but we strongly recommend KDE for the best user experience, especially with bundled projects, an important new feature in PixInsight since version 1.8.6.

Other Linux distributions for x86_64 should work without problems, as long as they provide glibc 2.27 or later. However, please understand that we cannot guarantee that PixInsight will work out-of-the-box on any of the hundreds of different Linux distributions available.

macOS

  • macOS 10.15 (Catalina)
  • macOS 10.14 (Mojave)
  • macOS 10.13 (High Sierra)
  • macOS 10.12 (Sierra)

PixInsight 1.8.6 and 1.8.7 are no longer compatible with OS X 10.11 (El Capitan) and older versions.

All installation packages for PixInsight 1.8.6 and 1.8.7 have been notarized by Apple.

Windows

  • Microsoft Windows 10

The only Windows platform supported officially by current versions of PixInsight is Windows 10.

Important: Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1 are no longer supported. Many users report that they are using current 1.8.6 and 1.8.7 versions of PixInsight on Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8.1 without problems, but we no longer test the application on these Windows versions. This means that we cannot guarantee that current PixInsight versions will still work correctly on Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8.1.

PixInsight does not run on Windows Vista, XP, NT, 2000, ME, 98, 95, or 3.1x/Win32s.

Processor

  • Minimum required processor: Intel Core i5 or equivalent. Current 1.8.7 versions of PixInsight require a CPU with at least SSE4.2 instruction support on FreeBSD, Linux and macOS.
  • Minimum reasonable processor: Intel quad-core Core i7/i9, quad-core Xeon, or similar.
  • Examples of recommended performance processors: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX / AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X / AMD Ryzen 9 3900X / Intel Core i9-9980XE @ 3.00GHz / Intel Core i9-7960X @ 2.80GHz / Intel Core i7-9800X @ 3.80GHz / Intel Xeon E5-2679 v4 @ 2.50GHz / Intel Xeon Gold 6154 @ 3.00GHz.

By default, the PixInsight platform will use all processors and processor cores available on your machine. There are specific preferences settings to control the maximum number of processors used by PixInsight, along with other parallel execution options such as thread execution priority, thread processor affinity, etc.

See the PixInsight Benchmark community-driven project for up-to-date information on hardware performance.

RAM

  • Minimum required amount of RAM: 8 GiB on a 64-bit machine and operating system.
  • Minimum reasonable amount of RAM: 16 GiB on a 64-bit machine and operating system.
  • Recommended performance RAM: From 32 GiB to 512 GiB, depending on the sizes and number of images to process, on a 64-bit machine and operating system. The recommended practical minimum for production work is 32 GiB of RAM.

Being a 64-bit application, PixInsight has no practical memory limit. It will use all memory available to applications, and will cause the operating system to allocate virtual memory on disk when necessary.

Video Hardware

  • Minimum required display resolution: At least 900 pixels of vertical resolution.
  • Minimum reasonable display resolution: 1920×1080.
  • Recommended low-dpi display resolution: 2560×1440.
  • Recommended high-dpi display resolutions: 3840×2160 (4K) / 5120×2880 (5K) / 7680×4320 (8K).

We strongly recommend a high-end 27-inch or larger LED/LCD panel, or two panels driven by a dual-head video card. For serious image processing, working with large monitors is a real must with PixInsight.

Since version 1.8.4 (released Summer 2015), PixInsight is a fully scalable application supporting high-dpi display resolutions such as Retina displays, 4K, 5K and 8K displays, on all supported operating systems.

Important: We do not guarantee the correct behavior of our graphical user interface on screen resolutions smaller than 1920×1080. Note that this refers to logical resolutions, not physical (for example, a Retina display with 2880×1800 native resolution has 1440×900 logical pixels). The application will run on smaller resolutions, but you may need to perform manual adjustments such as closing control bars and explorer windows, or changing automatic high-dpi screen and font management settings. Even with manual tuning, PixInsight has not been designed specifically to work on very small screens.

Important: Multiple monitor desktop configurations are supported with two restrictions:

  • The application has been designed to keep images at the left side of the desktop and tool windows at the right side. This means that several monitors should be distributed horizontally with the application's main window located on the leftmost monitor.
  • Multiple monitor configurations with mixed high-dpi and low-dpi displays are not supported. For example, a dual monitor desktop configuration with a 5K display (5120×2880) and a QHD display (2560×1440) is not supported. The application will work, but windows will be scaled to match the 5K display, and they will look huge when moved to the QHD display.

We'll try to overcome these limitations in future versions, but right now we have too many pending high-prority tasks. Sorry for the inconvenience if you are affected by these restrictions.

FreeBSD and Linux

On X11 (FreeBSD and Linux) a compositing extension manager is required. Hardware-based compositing, such as OpenGL, is a precondition to run PixInsight on all platforms. This should be no problem at all on any modern X11 desktop. As an exception, the KDE desktop environment allows you to use software-based compositing (XRender) on systems without hardware acceleration. XRender compositing works fine, but can be slow. However, XRender allows you to run PixInsight on a virtual machine where the virtualization system does not provide video hardware acceleration to guest operating systems.

To work with two or more monitors on FreeBSD and Linux you must have the Xinerama X11 extension installed and correctly configured—this should work out-of-the-box with all modern X11 desktops.

GPU Acceleration

As of writing this document (October 2019), the current version 1.8.7 of PixInsight doesn't make direct use of Graphics Processing Units (GPUs), although it makes extensive use of display hardware acceleration via OpenGL on all platforms. Hopefully this will change in the medium-long term. We have plans to implement GPU acceleration in PixInsight, but currently we have much more important priorities, including evolving our development platforms, and the design and implementation of new image analysis and processing tools.

Hard Disk Space

To maximize availability of RAM for critical tasks, the processing history management and masking systems implemented in PixInsight are based on temporary disk swap files. In addition, more space is required during file writing operations because of disk I/O security strategies (basically, when an existing file is rewritten a temporary copy of the original is kept during the whole disk write operation).

We really cannot speak of a minimum required free disk space, since this depends on the number and dimensions of the images that the user opens and modifies in the application. PixInsight is able to store and manipulate seven different sample formats transparently: 8, 16 and 32-bit integers, along with 32 and 64-bit real and complex floating point. 32-bit and 64-bit images require two and four times more disk storage space, respectively, than the native 16-bit format of a CCD camera. In addition, PixInsight can store an unlimited number of history states (unlimited undo/redo operations). This makes PixInsight a demanding application regarding free disk space requirements. For serious production work, we recommend a minimum of 100 to 250 GiB of free hard disk space, depending on the average size of your images and the complexity of your processing workflows.

Hard Disk Performance

PixInsight demands fast hard disks. We recommend working with solid-state disks (SSD) or high-throughput SCSI, SATA or SAS disks.

Windows

Under Windows, disk fragmentation may affect performance severely. You should always keep the information reasonably compacted on your hard disks by running the Windows defrag utility frequently, or any suitable disk maintenance utility. This is true for both the NTFS and FAT32 file systems.

FreeBSD, Linux and macOS

The native file systems of these operating systems (ext3, ext4, xfs, zfs, hpfs, afs) have minimal fragmentation problems thanks to their design. Fragmentation on a typical FreeBSD, Linux or macOS disk is very low no matter how much file system activity occurs. There is no need for a defragmentation utility on FreeBSD, Linux and macOS.

Parallel Swap File Storage

Starting from version 1.4 (released in early 2007), PixInsight uses parallel disk I/O operations to generate and maintain temporary swap disk files. When two or more physical disk drives are available, PixInsight can be configured to spread swap files on all disks (no specific limit), and read/write them through parallel execution threads running concurrently.

Since version 1.8.3 (released in late 2014), PixInsight's parallel swap storage is optimized for multiple I/O threads on fast SSD drives and virtual RAM disks. See this forum thread for the official announcement of this feature. See also this official benchmark for an example where I/O transfer rates above 3.2 GiB/s are achieved on Linux with 4 threads working on a SSD drive. See this benchmark for another example of 5.4 GiB/s achieved with 4 threads on a virtual RAM drive (Linux tmpfs).

The performance gain that can be achieved thanks to parallel disk I/O can be spectacular. This allows working with huge images in PixInsight. For example, with one or two fast SSD drives configured for parallel swap file storage, you can work with a 32-bit RGB image of 12000×12000 pixels and perform undo/redo operations virtually in real time. Note that parallel disk access is at least as fast as RAID 0 storage, although much more flexible and much easier to configure and maintain.