- Apple Macintosh: Psychtoolbox is developed and tested under the latest versions of Mac OSX (currently 10.4.11, resp. 10.5.8, resp. 10.6.2). We encourage users to use the latest version of OSX ( Exception: Owners of a NVidia Geforce 8xxx series and later graphics cards that want to do dual-display stereo work or use frame-sequential stereo presentation should avoid Mac OS 10.5.3 to 10.5.8! These systems suffer serious graphics related bugs in that modes of operation and are not recommended! ). Generally, we have found that keeping up to date with the latest OS provides better performance. The current toolbox releases are not supported under OSX 10.3 or earlier anymore! The last version that worked on that OS can be downloaded by specifying the special 'flavor' parameter 'Psychtoolbox-3.0.8-PreTiger' in our downloader script. As the PowerPC platform is no longer supported by Apple and many other software and hardware vendors, e.g., Mathworks, we will reduce our level of support as well. Basic functionality of Psychtoolbox will continue to work as long as we have access to PowerPC machines for testing and maintenance. New exotic features which would require extensive extra work on our side for the PowerPC platform will not be supported on PowerPC in future Psychtoolbox releases.
- Windows: Psychtoolbox-3 runs under Microsoft Windows 2000 and Windows XP as well as Windows Vista and Windows-7. We do aim to keep the toolbox working under these and future versions of Windows, but full support for all features is a lower priority for us than OSX as OSX is our main development and testing platform. As of 1. December 2009, Windows Vista and Windows-7 have been tested for basic compatibility with PTB-3. Precision of sound presentation hasn't been tested at all due to lack of suitable testing equipment. Test of visual stimulus presentation on 3 test setups showed somewhat mixed results, especially dual display presentation and presentation timing were rather disappointing. We are aware that over 1300 people do run the toolbox under Vista or Windows-7 and we didn't receive many reports of trouble so far, but we can't recommend it at all for dual-display stereo stimulus presentation or for tasks with a need for high visual timing precision. For some caveats wrt. Vista and later see our FAQ entry about Vista and Windows-7. All in all you are off worse with Vista or Windows-7 instead of XP with Psychtoolbox, so there is no reason to switch to it. Vista et al. seem to provide less performance than XP while at the same time posing higher hardware requirements.
- Linux: There is also support for the GNU/Linux operating system on Intel PCs in combination with Matlab 7.x or GNU/Octave 3.2.x. Due to our limited resources, we currently can only provide very limited support for this version. We are interested in feedback, and would welcome contributions from someone who wants to help develop this version. We aim to improve Linux support in the future to make it the platform of choice for psychophysics with Psychtoolbox. Significant improvements are to be expected in 2011. Currently Psychtoolbox is tested for compatibility with Ubuntu Linux 10.04 LTS and 10.10, so this - or any compatible derivative - is the platform of choice if you want to start as a newbie and search for a painless first-contact with Psychtoolbox on Linux. The NeuroDebian project is an effort to provide especially easy access to neur0-science related software on the Debian and Ubuntu Linux distributions and Psychtoolbox will be included into this project soon.
- Recommended: The latest 32 bit version of Matlab or GNU/Octave. PTB-3 is developed and tested for compatibility with the latest 32-bit version of Matlab, as well as with our main development platform V7.4 (R2007a). We normally only fix bugs that affect running with version 7.4 or later. Even so, most functions still work in Matlab 6.5 and later under Mac OSX and Windows. Matlab versions prior to V6.5 are no longer supported by current PTB versions. Our installer will redirect you to an old and outdated version of PTB (from December 2010) whose basic functions may still work with older versions if you use a pre-V6.5 Matlab, but in case of any trouble or bugs, you will be on your own with such an ancient Matlab version.
- Mac OS: Matlab version R2010b and later will not work with the current 32-bit Psychtoolbox! R2010b and later are pure 64-bit Matlab's which can't run any 32-bit toolboxes anymore. There is no known workaround, except sticking to older versions of Matlab. Parallel installation of multiple versions of Matlab along each other is easy, so this should be mostly an inconvenience for now, not a major showstopper.
- Windows: If you use Matlab version 7.4 (Release 2007a) or later, you may need to install some Microsoft Visual C runtime libraries to make it work, specifically the vcredist_x86.exe but our installer should give you instructions on how to do that if neccessary. Some old and rather obscure / obsolete MEX files that used to be bundled for Matlab releases prior to 7.4 are no longer supported - they are not really needed anymore. Matlab versions 6.5 to 7.3 should also mostly work, although use of relatively old Matlabs will probably cause some of our M files to abort if they make use of features only present in Matlab 7.x. This is often fixable by a bit of hacking though.
- Linux: Currently only Matlab 7.4 and later, as well as GNU/Octave 3.2.x are supported, but other Matlabs of the 7.x series may work as well.
- 64-bit support: Running under Matlab or Octave in 64 bit mode is not yet supported. A 64-bit Matlab installation can be run in a 32-bit mode by starting it with a command line switch: matlab.exe -win32 will start 32 bit Matlab on Windows, matlab -glnx86 will start 32 bit Matlab on Linux. Installation of a 32 bit Matlab in parallel to a 64 bit Matlab is optional, so you may need to run your Matlab installation disk again if the 32 bit mode is not immediately functional on your 64 bit system. We aim to provide 64-bit Matlab / Octave support for Psychtoolbox by the end of 2011. This is a time-consuming effort and some operating system platforms may have (at least partially) working support earlier, but we can't make any guarantees about the progress of 64 bit support. Unfortunately the Apple OS is the most painful platform to port to 64-bit, so it will likely take the longest of all supported systems. This is due to some questionable, mostly "politically" motivated technical design decisions of Apple's management, thanks for that!
- Apple Quicktime: Psychtoolbox needs Quicktime 7 on OSX and on Windows for movie playback. We recommend staying up to date with the latest releases for best performance and for security reasons. There have been so far two reports that the most recent Quicktime versions don't work well - or at all - with 64-bit versions of the Windows operating system. Quicktime version 7.1.6 is known to work without trouble on 64-bit Windows though. At least on 32-bit versions of Windows-7, Quicktime version 7.6.5 is known to work correctly.
- For video capture support on Windows you'll normally use the builtin ARVideo capture engine, which uses Windows DirectShow videocapture framework for well working video capture with most video devices on Windows.
- For video capture support on Windows with the alternative, Mac OS compatible Quicktime Sequencegrabber engine, you'd need to install a Quicktime video digitizer component. The free WinVDIG is known to work for USB webcams and standard consumer DV cameras with Firewire connectors and Psychtoolbox has been tested with some version of that plugin. Another (untested) option is the VDIG from AbstractPlane, which costs a small bit of money, but presumably comes with commercial support. Please note that Quicktime video capture capabilities on MS-Windows are very basic and limited, probably only useable for projects with low demands, so you'll usually go for the DirectShow option instead.
Basic hardware requirements:
- Power-Macs: Any PowerPC based Macintosh computer capable of running Mac OSX 10.4 or later. However, as Power-Macs are a dying platform which will go extinct eventually, we won't add fancy and complex new features for Power-Macs anymore if doing so would require us to do significant extra work. Basic functionality will continue to work as long as we have access to Power-Mac computers for basic development and testing.
- Intel-Macs: Any Intel-based Macintosh computer. For the most up to date infos on Intel Macintosh support, click this link.
- Matlab V7.4 (Release 2007a) and later fully support Intel Macs. The current PTB-3 works flawlessly with it, so we recommend this for productive use.
- Old Matlab 7.x versions for Power PC based Macintosh computers are known to run successfully in the Rosetta software emulation mode when started from a terminal window with the matlab -nojvm switch. They will run without any graphical user interface, however, and any Java based functions (e.g., GetChar) are disabled.
- Intel PCs: Any Intel-compatible PC that is capable of running the 32/64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows 2000/XP/Vista/Windows7 or GNU/Linux.
Graphics hardware requirements:
Basic Psychtoolbox functions should work on any OpenGL 1.2 capable graphics card with at least 16 MB of video ram (VRAM). Fast stimulus drawing and use of the more advanced features requires recent graphics hardware. In general you should not try to save money on the gfx-adapter, as performance of your stimulus script and the types of stimuli you can create with ease will depend much more on the horsepower and features of your gfx-adapter than on the horsepower of your cpu.
If you buy a new computer and want to be on the safe side, make sure to get a recent Direct3D-10 or Direct3D-11 capable (also known as OpenGL-3 capable, or ShaderModel 4 compliant) graphics card from NVidia or AMD/ATI. Almost all cards of the NVidia GeForce 8 series and later (e.g., 8600, 8800, 9600, 9800, GTX 280 etc.), as well as all cards of the ATI Radeon HD series and later (HD 2400, 2600, 3000 series, 4000 series etc.) and their corresponding counterparts from the NVidia Quadro series and ATI FireGL / FirePro line of cards are technically state of the art and Psychtoolbox can take full advantage of their features.
Follow this link to our graphics hardware requirements page for more detailed information and recommendations for graphics hardware.
Users of Intel-based Macs should be aware that some Macs (e.g., Intel MacBook) use a built-in Intel GMA graphics adaptor. The gfx-cards of the GMA-950 series are known to have very low graphics performance and a very restricted feature set. They are cheap and sub-standard by any definition. See e.g., this Wikipedia article for further information. While the Intel GMA X3100 series and later are also Direct3D-10 compliant in theory, in practice they suffer from a few limitations, and the quality and performance of their driver support is unclear and untested by us. They may or may not work well for your purpose, but chosing a NVidia or ATI part has historically proven to be a safer bet.
The same holds true for most products of Matrox and S3. As Matrox and S3 seem to have mostly retreated from the 3D graphics market, most of their products are not a good choice for OpenGL based applications like Psychtoolbox. Even the products that nominally claim to support hardware accelerated OpenGL, have a pretty limited feature set and performance, and the quality of their 3D drivers leaves something to be desired. If you're searching for a good graphics card for pure 2D imaging (non OpenGL , non PTB etc.), multi-display office work or medical imaging, they are a good choice though.
For dual display work (e.g, binocular stereo stimulation), we recommend using dual-head gfx-adapters (i.e. one card with two output connectors) instead of multiple separate adapters. We expect dual-head single-card performance to be higher and the likelihood of gfx-driver bugs to be lower. Note, too, that stereo work may benefit from the display synchrony provided by the dual-head cards. Synchrony is usually hard to achieve with separate cards. We also recommend mostly avoiding Mac OSX for dual display realtime stimulus presentation, as Apple seems to be mostly incapable of and uninterested in implementing decent support for high performance, tear-free dual display support. For rather static stimuli or use as a control monitor, OSX may be good enough.