Software Installation Guide

Installing software on any Unix platform can be challenging for inexperienced and veteran users alike.

While it is impossible to cover every issue you may experience, the following steps will allow you to compile and install in your own home directory many of the libraries and scientific applications that you will come across.

Introductory Compiling

Building a Python interpreter from its source code is straightforward, requiring only a C compiler, and will serve as an instructive example.

Installation materials are most commonly distributed as compressed tar files with the extension .tar.gz or

These files can be untarred and unzipped with the tar -xzf and tar -xjf commands, respectively.

We have downloaded the file Python-2.7.2.tar.gz from to our home directory, so the appropriate command is:

tar -xzf Python-2.7.2.tar.gz
cd Python-2.7.2

Your next step should always be to review the distributed files for a README file, which can be viewed in a text editor, or some other file that is named to indicate it contains installation instructions.

In many cases, and as is the case with Python, a configure script is included. In the simplest case, all that is necessary to compile the code is to run the configure script, then make.

By default many codes will try to install to system directories you cannot access. The recommended installation method is to create a directory in your home directory for software installation.


(It will display a result such as /home/xe2/nlabello/Python-2.7.2)
mkdir /home/xe2/nlabello/software/python
./configure --prefix=/home/xe2/nlabello/software/python/

make install

When the make install step completes you will have access to binary in /home/xe2/nlabello/software/python/bin.

Advanced Compiling

In many cases it is necessary to use specific compilers and MPI libraries to build a working binary. See the quick start guides for details about the configuration on each HPC system.