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At UBC, we make extensive use of Altera tools and technology. On this page, you will find instructions on how to download and install the Altera software tools on your own computer. There are also some basic tutorials to get you started using the software as quickly as possible.

Downloading Altera Software

The Altera Quartus II version 13.0sp1 software is located here. Alternatively, a large matrix of past versions is located here. There are a number of different tools and versions that you can download and use -- these are described below. Do NOT install a newer version than 13.0sp1. Newer versions DO NOT support DE1 or DE2 boards.

This page was last updated 5 September 2014.

  1. Quartus II. The initial software to compile VHDL/Verilog into a bitstream that can configure the DE1 and DE2 boards. The Web Edition is free. Consult the list below to see which version is being used in your course. For the rest of the tools below, always download the same version (same row) that matches that Quartus version.
    • Don't be alarmed if your course is using an older version of Quartus. In the world of real-life engineering tools, this is often done because the older versions have known bugs and workarounds, which will make your life easier. You can waste a lot of time, and risk the success of the project, if you encounter unknown bugs with unknown solutions.
    EECE 259, 353, 355
    Quartus II Web Edition 13.0 SP1
    EECE 381
    Check with the instructor
    Note 1
    If taking both 353 and 381 together, check with instructor(s).
    Note 2
    The acronym SP means Service Pack. If you are asked to download 13.0 SP1, you should click the link named SP1 in the same row as 13.0.
    Note 3
    Subscription Edition vs Web Edition. You can read about the differences between these editions here. You are using the Web Edition on your own computer (free). The Subscription Edition is installed on the UBC lab computers.
  2. Quartus Device Support Files. There are two different ways to download Quartus II: as a single large file (about 4.4GB), or as individual files (1.5GB for Quartus II, and 0.6GB for Cyclone II/III/IV Device Support). When you download individual files, be sure to download the proper device database(s) before you begin the Quartus installation. Download as many databases as you need. (For more information, read the 'Installing Altera Software' section below.) The DE1 and DE2 boards use Cyclone II.
  3. ModelSim-Altera. This is the advanced VHDL/Verilog simulator. For home use, you want the Starter Edition, which is free.
    EECE 355
    You are not using ModelSim. A simple simulator and waveform editor, called QSim, is built-in to some versions of Quartus II. If it is missing (eg, in 11.0), it can be installed separately. Read about it here.
    EECE 259, 353
    Choose the version of ModelSim that matches your Quartus II distribution (eg, 10.1d for 13.0 SP1).
    EECE 381
    You might be using ModelSim. Check with your instructor.
  4. Nios II Embedded Design Suite (EDS). This is the C compiler and Integrated Development Environment (IDE -- a combined editor and compiler) for programming Altera's Nios II processor. The latest versions of Quartus II (12.1 or higher) already includes this software. However, for older versions of Quartus II (eg, prior to 11.0), you must download this separately.
    EECE 353, 355
    You are using the Nios II EDS.
    EECE 381
    You may be using the Nios II EDS. Check with the instructor.
  5. Altera University Program Software. This is a set of Verilog/VHDL files for the DE1/DE2 boards, as well as an easy-to-use C compiler and debugger interface for Nios II.
    • Download the University Program Installer from here. Be sure to select the version that matches your Quartus II distribution.
    EECE 259
    You are not using the University Program tools.
    EECE 353, 355
    You will be using the University Program tools, please install them.
    EECE 381
    You may be using the University Program tools. Check with the instructor.
  6. Quartus II Programmer. This program will upload a .sof or .pof file to your DE1/DE2 board. This tool is already included as part of Quartus II, so don't install it again. However, this is useful as a standalone programmer if your laptop has insufficient space to install the full Quartus II. Here is the latest version.
    The stand-alone programmer is optional. It is useful on computers with limited disk space that do not have a full Quartus II installation.
  7. USB-Blaster Device Driver. This device driver is essential so that Altera software can communicate with your DE1 or DE2 board. Normally, this comes bundled with Quartus II. However, if you are using Windows 7 (or later) with Quartus II versions prior to 10.0, you must separately download a copy of the USB Blaster driver from Quartus II version 10.0 or above. Further details. Here are general install instructions and Windows 7 instructions.
    The USB-Blaster device driver is required to program your DE2 boards. You probably don't have to download it, because it is always bundled with Quartus II. However, it is necessary to download separately if you are using an older version of Quartus II with a recent version of Windows, or if you are trying to install the Quartus II Programmer on a computer without a full Quartus installation.

Installing Altera Software

You should install Altera software in the order listed above in the download section. Below, we will give any additional hints on installing each tool.

  1. Before installing Quartus II, be sure you have enough free disk space. Depending upon the version, you could need 20GB or more free space before beginning. The Quartus II installation file is highly compressed -- you need space to store 3 copies: (a) the original download, (b) a decompressed copy created at the start of the install process, and (c) the installation copy . You can recover space by deleting the downloaded file afterwards.
  2. Hint: downloading Quartus II can take quite a while (it is several GB). If you have an Ethernet cable, you can plug your laptop into the Ethernet ports in the "Undergraduate Project/Study Rooms" (UPS rooms) and get up to gigabit speeds (without affecting your quota at home).
  3. If you have downloaded separate files for ModelSim and Device Support, make sure they are in the same directory and the downloads are finished before executing the Quartus II installer. This allows the installer to recognize these files and install everything in one pass. Otherwise, you can install device support separately by running Quartus II, navigating to the Tools menu, and selecting the last item in the menu (eg, Install Device Support).
  4. When installing Quartus II, you should try to stick with all of the default options. To save disk space, you may choose "Custom" instead of "Complete" and then choose to keep only "Cyclone II" but no other devices.
  5. To install the USB-Blaster Cable Device Driver, you need to plug in the DE1/DE2 board into your computer and turn it on. When prompted, you will have to direct Windows to find the device driver on your hard disk. You should give it the location of the device driver, which is probably something like C:\Altera\12.0sp1\quartus\drivers\usb-blaster.
  6. Install the rest of your Altera tools to the same disk (e.g., all on C:, or all on D:). This should also be the disk you use for your source files (VHDL, C, etc.). To avoid potential trouble down the road, avoid using long pathnames and avoid using spaces in folder names.

Licensing Quartus II

At UBC, we have licenses to the full versions of the Altera software. The lab computers will have the full Subscription Edition of Quartus installed, and these require the license to be properly set up. The subscription edition has a larger database of FPGA chips that are supported, and allows you to do some more advanced things. You can read about the differences between these editions here.

In Quartus II, go to Tools and select License Setup... at the bottom. Then, set the 'License file:' field as follows:

  • for undergraduate teaching
  • for graduate research and teaching

In response, the 'Current License' box should read Full License under 'License Type:'.

On your own laptops and home computers, the 'License file:' entry should be left blank. In response, the 'Current License' box should read Web Edition under 'License Type:'.

Even though you have the web edition on your own computer, you can access most of the features of the Subscription Edition when you are at UBC. First, you must be connected with an Ethernet wire in the departmental UPS rooms. Then, set the license fields as above with your Web Edition software. This unlocks extra features (eg, compiling a Nios II processor design into a stand-alone programming file), but it cannot make up for any missing files (eg, missing databases for additional FPGA chips).

If you cannot generate .sof/.pof files, you probably do not have the license configured properly. In particular, generating a stand-alone design with a Nios II/s or Nios II/f processor requires a license. (The much slower Nios II/e does not need a license.) That is, if your design uses a Nios II/s or II/f processor and you run Quartus II without a license, you cannot generate a .pof file, only a restricted .sof file which is either time-limited or must remain USB-tethered to operate.

Microsoft Windows 8 Warning

If you are using Windows 8 with Quartus 13.0sp1, you may encounter the following error when you launch a Cygwin command shell:

  • find_fast_cwd: WARNING: Couldn't compute FAST_CWD pointer.

This error occurred in versions of Quartus II 13.0sp1 released prior to the summer of 2014. The error is caused by an older version of the Cygwin tools being bundled with Quartus. However, over the summer of 2014, Altera was supposed to have patched Quartus 13.0sp1 to include a newer version of Cygwin that is compatible with Windows 8. If you installed 13.0sp1 last year on your computer, you may find it worthwhile to re-download and re-install it this year as there will be other small bug fixes as well. However, even if you encounter this warning, you can probably ignore it (we haven't found it causing any problems except the warning).