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Vulkan environment setuplink

Vulkan is a new generation graphics and compute API that provides high-efficiency, cross-platform access to modern GPUs used in a wide variety of devices from PCs and consoles to mobile phones and embedded platforms.

This page lists steps and tips for setting up and troubleshooting a Vulkan development environment. The information here is meant to be generic.

Vulkan architecturelink

Vulkan adopts a layered architecture, which aims to better support extensiblity. There are four components involved in this architecture:

High Level View of Loader

The Vulkan loader sits between the Vulkan application, which calls Vulkan APIs, and the ICDs, which implements these Vulkan APIs. Vulkan layers agument the Vulkan system to provide optional features like validation and debugging. The Vulkan loader composes a chain of requested layers, which processes the Vulkan application's API calls one by one, and finally redirects the API calls made by the Vulkan application to one or more ICDs.

It's highly recommned to read the Architecture of the Vulkan Loader Interfaces Overview to get a general understanding of what these components are and how they interact with one another.

Vulkan environment setuplink


You need to install the Vulkan SDK from LunarG to get the Vulkan loader.

Typically the Vulkan SDK will be installed at C:\VulkanSDK\<version>\ and there will be an environment variable VULKAN_SDK pointing to it. You can run the vulkancube executable under the Bin\ subdirectory of the Vulkan SDK to make sure everything works properly. If not, you probably need to check whether the graphics card is Vulkan capable or update the driver.


For Ubuntu 20.04/22.04, it's recommended to directly install the full Vulkan SDK from LunarG's APT sources for the loader and various developer tools.

If you want to have a minimal environment, the following packages should be installed for a proper Vulkan runtime:

  • libvulkan1 for the Vulkan loader
  • For AMD GPUs, you can install
  • For NVIDIA GPUs, you can install
    • nvidia-vulkan-icd on Debian for NVIDIA Vulkan ICD.
    • the most recent nvidia-driver-* package on Ubuntu for NVIDIA Vulkan ICD.

The above packages provide the Vulkan loader and ICDs. With them a Vulkan application should be able to run. You may additionally want to install

  • vulkan-tools for command-line tools like vulkaninfo (dumping available ICDs and their capabilities) and GUI application like vulkancube (rendering a rotating cube).

In order to develop Vulkan applications, you additionally need the following packages:


For other Linux distros, please consult the corresponding package management tools for the packages needed. (And please feel free to update this doc regarding them.)

You can also download and install the Vulkan SDK tarball from LunarG. It packages the loader with many useful layers and other shader tools.

You can also build the Vulkan SDK component projects like Vulkan-Loader and Vulkan-ValidationLayers from source. But note that building these components separately you need to make sure they are consistent with one another (e.g., using the same version of Vulkan headers) to function together.


Please make sure your Android device is Vulkan capable. Vulkan is supported on Android since 7, but we track newer Android versions (10+) closely and haven't set a clear min version yet.

Multiple Vulkan SDKslink

If you have multiple versions of Vulkan loaders exist, you may also need to set LD_LIBRARY_PATH and LD_PRELOAD to load the desired version of the loader. For example:


This can also be done by sourcing the proper from one of the downloaded Vulkan SDKs.

Vulkan environment troubleshootinglink

Useful environment variableslink

There are a few environment variables that can alter the default Vulkan loader behavior and print verbose information, notably:

  • VK_LOADER_DEBUG: enable loader debug messages. Setting it to all will enable the most verbose logging from the loader. This is especially useful when trying to see what layers/ICDs are searched and used.
  • VK_ICD_FILENAMES: force the loader to use a specific ICD. This is especially useful when you have multiple Vulkan capable devices and want to select which one to use manually.
  • VK_INSTANCE_LAYERS: force the loader to enable the given layers. For example, You can force enable VK_LAYER_LUNARG_api_dump to have a detailed dump of all Vulkan API calls made by the application. You can force enable VK_LAYER_LUNARG_core_validation to validate the API calls made by the application.
  • VK_LAYER_PATH: override the loader's standard layer library search folders.

Please see the Vulkan loader's documentation for detailed explanation for these variables.

Setting environment variables for Bazel testlink

Bazel runs tests in a sandbox and environment variables must be passed through to the test runner. Consider putting environment setup in a user.bazelrc to save typing. For example:

test --test_env="LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/absolute/path/to/vulkan/sdk/x86_64/lib/"
test --test_env=""
test --test_env="VK_LAYER_PATH=/absolute/path/to/additional/layers/:$VK_LAYER_PATH"

Vulkan function vkCreateInstance not available on Androidlink

Since Android 8 Oreo, Android re-architected the OS framework with project Treble. Framework libraries and vendor libraries have a more strict and clear separation. Their dependencies are carefully scrutinized and only selected cases are allowed. This is enforced with linker namespaces.

/data/local/tmp is the preferred directory for automating native binary tests built using NDK toolchain. They should be allowed to access libraries like for their functionality. However, there was an issue with fully treblized Android 10 where /data/local/tmp did not have access to the linker namespaces needed by This should be fixed now. But as typically in the Android system, it takes a long time to see the fix getting propagated, if ever.

A known workaround is to symlink the vendor Vulkan implementation under /vendor/lib[64] as under /data/local/tmp and use LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/data/local/tmp when invoking IREE executables.

For Qualcomm Adreno GPUs, the vendor Vulkan implementation is at /vendor/lib[64]/hw/vulkan.*.so. So for example for Snapdragon 865:

adb shell ln -s /vendor/lib64/hw/ /data/local/tmp/

For ARM Mali GPUs, there is only one monolithic driver (/vendor/lib[64]/ for OpenGL and Vulkan and the Vulkan vendor driver (/vendor/lib[64]/hw/vulkan.*.so) is just a symlink to it. So for example:

adb shell ln -s /vendor/lib64/ /data/local/tmp/

SSH on Linux and X forwardinglink

Physical devices enumerated on NVIDIA drivers can be affected by the DISPLAY environment variable. If you are running under an SSH session to Linux or using chrome remote desktop and have problems with physical device enumeration, you probably want to check the DISPLAY environment and set it to point to a display at the server side, for example:

export DISPLAY=:0