Another one of those TensorFlow install Guide


I think there is something so interesting about how difficult it is to install TensorFlow, while there is an impressive amount of effort being done to make it work, and make it easier. This guide is not a comprehensive guide, but simply is made by myself out of pure interest. I try to point out some philosophical things in this guide too, which is meant partly as a criticism of design decisions, common sources of errors.

The compatibility problem

This is outright what causes the problem in most installations. Because you don’t know what are the possible routes, you often go down a difficult route (build from source, works with downgraded versions) or even worse, an impossible route.

It really pays off trying to investigate whether your installation route will work painlessly with some compatibility charts.

  • This StackOverflow question offers one lovely chart, parts of it can also be found on TF site
  • The most limiting part in your TensorFlow installation will be actually your Cuda compute capability and the supperted driver version of your video card. That is effectively the only part which can be pushed with just investing more money. Here is the compatibility table

Layout of the installation

graph LR

Thus, I would advise the following. Determine the CUDA compute capability version and work from backwards.

The key to a good TensorFlow installation is also rigour and testing. Every step if your installation can be tested.

  • The compiler can be tested usually with gcc --version
  • nvcc can be tested with nvcc --version and building the deviceQuery file
  • Python can be tested with python --version
  • TensorFlow is the most difficult test, because even if the GPU is detected, it might just randomly fail at all sorts of places.

In terms of the operating system, Ubuntu will be better supported, but the CUDA part of the installation on Windows is a significantly less bumpy journey in my experience.


TensorFlow according to my knowledge only works on 64-bit architectures. So if you have 32-bit install, you should toss it immediately, you don’t want to realise that you have spent six hours installing something that is useless.


This is a commonly ommitted step from some installation guides, but it is actually quite helpful. Check the headers on Ubuntu using,

uname -r

If they are not installed, just do the following:

sudo apt-get install linux-headers-$(uname -r)


There are various methods to install the NVIDIA driver required. I would say that there was no two time the same method worked for me.

2020-03-31: The NVIDIA CUDA official install method with the run file didn’t work, what worked is the following:

ubuntu-drivers devices

Then I can get the right apt get version

sudo apt install nvidia-drivers-440

the relevant PPA might need to be added, but I’m not entirely sure about that.

The official Nvidia drivers are at


The standard compiler for Linux distributions will be gcc, for Windows you typically never want to install only a compiler, rather you want to get the Visual C++ Studio Build tools.

It is important in my experience to get the 2017 version. For example, when you build from source, Bazel will use your compiler, and it might throw you errors if you are not using the right versions.

cuDNN and CUDA failing on Linux

Because you don’t know usually what CUDA or cuDNN version you are supposed to use most of the time, you often get the following error message:

ImportError: libcudnn.Version: cannot open shared object file: No such file or director

Yes, this indicates most of the time that you have installed the wrong version if you have a different number of CuDNN. It is also possible that the terminal you are running from haven’t loaded the environment variables yet. Typically, you should source them then using,

source ~/.bashrc

Maybe it also good to check if the environment variables are right:


Several occasions you can find typos, so it just might be also doing something like,


and checking there are no complaints.

Related StackOverflow issue

Tensorflow package installing

If you are one of the lucky ones, then you just have to do

pip install tensorflow-gpu

That wiil identify which wheel is appropriate for your OS and python version if there is. If there is not, it will return an error message.

If you need GPU acceleration, NEVER do

pip install tensorflow

If you are not lucky, then you need a different package, and there is little help on it, apart on the page

The general command you will need is

pip install

But you might need to change the following things accordingly:

  • 1.14.0 needs to be rewritten to the version that you want
  • linux needs to be rewritten to your own OS (linux/windows)
  • Python version matters too (cp36/cp27/cp24)
  • linux_x86_64, win_amd_64

Building from source

In order to build from source, you should really be cautious about the version of Bazel that you are using. The command


will try to help you in that, and will not let you proceed usually, if you are missing something. This is a good place to be superpunctual about the versions, because effectively this is the place where everything gets linked together.

The build process itself can freeze your computer, because it is using a lot of RAM. The TensorFlow guide recommends the local ram resources flag in this case, like:

-bazel build --local_ram_resources=2048 --config=opt --config=cuda //tensorflow/tools/pip_package:build_pip_package

However, in older version of Bazel, this was not a separate flag.

bazel build --config=opt --config=cuda //tensorflow/tools/pip_package:build_pip_package --local_resources=2048,2,1

The above command does the job, but it also needs the amount of cores and workers to be specified. If you have only a single core, you need to 2 to 1 in the command above.

My favourite bugs

Overwriting the video card driver

This is the most amusing part! While every GPU will require its own driver and NVIDIA knows that, the Ubuntu installation script will relentlessly try to update the driver itself during the Ubuntu installation.

Dual video card problems

There are very little resources on this actually, but my first Tensorflow installation had a dual Intel-Nvidia videocard in it, and it was awful to get it working. After I finally managed to do it, I recorded it for myself, and now I share, in hope that it helps a lot of people,

sudo apt-get purge libvdpau-va-gl1 bumblebee* nvidia*
# Driver
sudo apt-get install nvidia-384 nvidia-settings nvidia-prime

With certain older TensorFlow versions, [I have also found] ( that multi-gpu training does not work well.

I hope you found some useful tips for yourself, and if there is something that is not in the official TensorFlow guide, or you think it is worth to share, do write me an e-mail and I will think about an appropriate way to include it in this article!