System Requirements

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 Duo, Intel Core i5, Intel Core i7, Intel Xeon, AMD 64, etc.

Operating System

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

The current versions 1.8.x 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.

The primary development platforms for PixInsight 1.8 are PC-BSD 10.0 and Fedora 19 Linux on x86_64 workstations.

FreeBSD

PixInsight 1.8 for FreeBSD has been developed on PC-BSD 10.0 Joule Edition x64.

  • Tested FreeBSD releases: FreeBSD 10.0-RELEASE x64, FreeBSD 9.2-RELEASE x64.
  • Recommended FreeBSD configuration: PC-BSD 10.0 Joule Edition x64 or later, with KDE 4.8 or later, or Gnome 3.2 or later.

Linux

PixInsight 1.8 for Linux requires glibc version 2.15 (March 2012) and a 64-bit Linux distribution.

  • Tested 64-bit Linux distributions: Fedora 16, Fedora 17, Fedora 18, Fedora 19, Fedora 20, Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, Ubuntu 12.10. Other Linux distributions for x86_64 should work without problems, as long as they provide glibc 2.15 or later.
  • Recommended Linux configuration: Fedora 19 x86_64 or later with KDE 4.8 or later, or Gnome 3.2 or later.

Mac OS X

  • Mac OS X 10.10 (Yosemite)
  • Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks)
  • Mac OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion)

PixInsight is no longer compatible with Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) and older versions.

Windows

  • Microsoft Windows 8.1
  • Microsoft Windows 8
  • Microsoft Windows 7 – Service Pack 1 required
  • Microsoft Windows Vista – Service Pack 2 required

Windows XP is not supported. The PixInsight Core application still runs on Windows XP, but there are screen rendering problems and, which is more important, our automatic updates system does not work correctly on Windows XP. Our updates system is based on UAC technology (User Account Control) and code signing, which unfortunately are not available on Windows XP.

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

Processor

  • Minimum required processor: Intel Core Duo or equivalent.
  • Minimum reasonable processor: Intel Core i5 or equivalent.
  • Minimum recommended processor: Intel quad-core Xeon, quad-core Core i7, or similar.
  • Recommended performance processors: Intel Xeon E5-2697 v3 @ 2.60GHz / Intel Xeon E5-2680 v3 @ 2.50GHz / Intel Xeon E5-2697 v2 @ 2.70GHz / Intel Xeon E5-2695 v2 @ 2.40GHz / Intel Core i7-5960X @ 3.00GHz / Intel Core i7-4960X @ 3.60GHz.

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.

RAM

  • Minimum required amount of RAM: 4 GiB on a 64-bit machine and operating system.
  • Minimum reasonable amount of RAM: 8 GiB on a 64-bit machine and operating system.
  • Recommended performance RAM: From 16 GiB to 64 GiB (depending on the sizes and number of images to process) on a 64-bit machine and operating system.

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 video mode: 1024×768, 24-bit true color.
  • Minimum reasonable video mode: 1280×1024, 32-bit true color.
  • Minimum recommended video mode: 1680×1050, 32-bit true color.
  • Recommended performance video modes: 2560×1440 / 2560×1600, 32-bit true color.

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.

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 is 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 (February 2014), the current versions 1.8.x of PixInsight don't make direct use of Graphics Processing Units (GPUs). Hopefully this is going to change during 2015. We are working to implement GPU acceleration via CUDA programming on systems with NVIDIA graphics cards.

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 Core a demanding application regarding free disk space requirements. For serious production work, we recommend a minimum of 50 to 200 GB 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 last-generation Serial ATA disks or, much better, high-throughput SCSI and SAS disks, or solid-state 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 Mac OS X

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

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.