This tutorial explains how get your NVIDIA graphics card working with for deep learning.

Table of contents

Hardware Requirements

Before you start, you’ll want to make sure that your graphics card is properly installed and compatible with CUDA.

  • To find your graphics card, type nvidia-smi
  • If you’re on Windows, you can use a tool like Speccy.

Then, make sure it is on this list:

See where you are

Sometimes you’ll get stuck somewhere in the middle, unsure of what actually installed correctly. You don’t want to start from the beginning because you don’t want to have multiple versions conflicting, but you don’t know what you need to do next. That’s why I want to start this off with some ways for you to figure out exactly where you are in the process first.

Are GPUs Installed

type nvidia-smi and see if everything there is as you expect

julius@julius-MS-7B09:~/git$ nvidia-smi
Tue Feb  2 15:05:43 2021       
| NVIDIA-SMI 460.32.03    Driver Version: 460.32.03    CUDA Version: 11.2     |
| GPU  Name        Persistence-M| Bus-Id        Disp.A | Volatile Uncorr. ECC |
| Fan  Temp  Perf  Pwr:Usage/Cap|         Memory-Usage | GPU-Util  Compute M. |
|                               |                      |               MIG M. |
|   0  GeForce RTX 208...  Off  | 00000000:0A:00.0 Off |                  N/A |
|  0%   31C    P8     8W / 260W |      5MiB / 11019MiB |      0%      Default |
|                               |                      |                  N/A |
|   1  GeForce RTX 208...  Off  | 00000000:42:00.0  On |                  N/A |
| 41%   36C    P5    21W / 260W |    632MiB / 11016MiB |     27%      Default |
|                               |                      |                  N/A |
| Processes:                                                                  |
|  GPU   GI   CI        PID   Type   Process name                  GPU Memory |
|        ID   ID                                                   Usage      |
|    0   N/A  N/A      1255      G   /usr/lib/xorg/Xorg                  4MiB |
|    1   N/A  N/A      1255      G   /usr/lib/xorg/Xorg                350MiB |
|    1   N/A  N/A      1687      G   /usr/bin/gnome-shell               84MiB |
|    1   N/A  N/A     45805      G   ...gAAAAAAAAA --shared-files       95MiB |
|    1   N/A  N/A     46570      G   ...gAAAAAAAAA --shared-files       99MiB |

Note: The CUDA Version displayed isn’t there isn’t necessarily the version you have. It’s the highest version that your driver can support.

Can TensorFlow Detect GPUs

Here’s a good one-liner for this:

python -c "import tensorflow as tf; print('tf version:', tf.__version__); print('Num GPU devices: ', len(tf.config.list_physical_devices('GPU')))"

If it says Num GPU devices: 0 then your GPUs are not being recognized.


One of the most common problems is version incompatibility, so we’ll dig into that.


Version incompatibility is probably the biggest source of problems This is a big deal in all this.

CUDA and Tensorflow and cuDNN

Before you go any further, you should have a target. You should be clear on exactly which version of everything you’re trying to install. To help you find out, TensorFlow maintains this chart with the latest compatibility information.

CUDA version

cat /usr/local/cuda/version.txt

You can see what versions of CUDA are avilable:

conda search cudatoolkit

You can also find your version by opening a command prompt and enter nvcc -V

(tf) julius@julius-MS-7B09:~/git$ nvcc --version
nvcc: NVIDIA (R) Cuda compiler driver
Copyright (c) 2005-2019 NVIDIA Corporation
Built on Sun_Jul_28_19:07:16_PDT_2019
Cuda compilation tools, release 10.1, V10.1.243

cuDNN version

It’s probably here:

cat /usr/local/cuda/include/cudnn.h | grep CUDNN_MAJOR -A 2

But if you’re not sure you can check here: cat $(whereis cudnn.h) | grep CUDNN_MAJOR -A 2

cat $(whereis cuda)/include/cudnn.h | grep CUDNN_MAJOR -A 2


If you’re on Windows you should be able to find them here: C:\Program Files\NVIDIA GPU Computing Toolkit\CUDA\v10.1\include

You can also type this: where cudnn*

Instructions with Anaconda

This is my recommendation

Install Anaconda like normal. It’s a little annoying on Windows because of how paths work. If you are on Windows, don’t add it to the path environment in the setup window

What you’ll do is open Anaconda3 from the Start menu and …

Although tensorflow-gpu and tensorflow is a distinction of version <= 1.15, the distinction matters quite a lot here. If you do conda create -n tf tensorflow it will not create a GPU version, even though it installs a 2.X version of Tensorflow. You’ll need to use conda create -n tf tensorflow-gpu to get the GPU version.

Tensorflow and CUDA compatibility

Make sure you check what version of CUDA to install. The latest version will not necessarily be supported by TensorFlow.

Check here for the version:

To check your driver version you can go to GEForce Experience and click on “Drivers” Install the most recent NVIDIA Driver:

Then install the CUDA Toolkit: If you want an older version, you can go here: After you input your operation system information, you have the option of downloading either the network or local installer. Either will work. “ The Network Installer allows you to download only the files you need. The Local Installer is a stand-alone installer with a large initial download.”

Here’s an example extraction path: C:\Users\Julius\AppData\Local\Temp\CUDA

OK, now let’s see if that worked by running nvcc --version

Using these sites:

Then to upgrade it, pip install tensorflow --upgrade

You can download the wheels from here:

CUDA on Ubuntu

You should be able to install on a debian-based Linux with sudo apt install nvidia-cuda-toolkit

Now you should be able to see it when you check your CUDA version (nvcc --version)


The main page only has the current version, which is 8.1 at that time of writing:

You can find the latest version of cuDNN here. However, you’ll probably need a version from the cuDNN archive.

You can also find the release notes on old versions of cuDNN.


You’ll need to get cuDNN. The guide is here.

On Windows the procedure is similar. Download and unzip the files.

For me, they download into a folder like C:\Users\Julius\Downloads\cudnn-10.1-windows10-x64-v7.6.5.32

Then you have to copy files:

Copy the following files into the CUDA Toolkit directory.

Going from here:

  • C:\Users\HMISYS\Downloads\cudnn-8.0-windows7-x64-v6.0\cuda\lib\x64

to here:

  • C:\Program Files\NVIDIA GPU Computing Toolkit\CUDA\v8.0

Copy the following files into the CUDA Toolkit directory.

  • Copy \cuda\bin\cudnn64_7.dll to C:\Program Files\NVIDIA GPU Computing Toolkit\CUDA\v9.0\bin.
  • Copy \cuda\ include\cudnn.h to C:\Program Files\NVIDIA GPU Computing Toolkit\CUDA\v9.0\include.
  • Copy \cuda\lib\x64\cudnn.lib to C:\Program Files\NVIDIA GPU Computing Toolkit\CUDA\v9.0\lib\x64.

Make sure you get the version right. You can cd to C:\Program Files\NVIDIA GPU Computing Toolkit\CUDA and the use dir to see what versions you have (it should match what you previously saw).

After extracting the files, here’s my install path: C:\Users\Julius\Downloads\cudnn-10.1-windows10-x64-v7.6.5.32

For these to work you’ll probably need to run as administrator

Then, from your install path, you’ll want to:

copy cuda\bin\cudnn*.dll "C:\Program Files\NVIDIA GPU Computing Toolkit\CUDA\v10.1\bin" copy cuda\include\cudnn*.h "C:\Program Files\NVIDIA GPU Computing Toolkit\CUDA\v10.1\include" copy cuda\lib\x64\cudnn*.lib "C:\Program Files\NVIDIA GPU Computing Toolkit\CUDA\v10.1\lib\x64"

Make sure your destination is right too: C:\Program Files\NVIDIA GPU Computing Toolkit\CUDA\v10.1\bin


Once you’ve downloaded the correct version, it will probably be in a Download folder, somewhere like /home/julius/Downloads

You’ll need to extract it with something like this: tar -xzvf cudnn-10.1-linux-x64-v7.6.5.32.tgz

Then you’ll need to copy the files like so:

$ sudo cp cuda/include/cudnn*.h /usr/local/cuda/include
$ sudo cp cuda/lib64/libcudnn* /usr/local/cuda/lib64

Then change the permissions like so:

$ sudo chmod a+r /usr/local/cuda/include/cudnn*.h /usr/local/cuda/lib64/libcudnn*


On Unix machines, you’ll need to add these to your .bashrc:

export CUDA_HOME=/usr/local/cuda
export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=$LD_LIBRARY_PATH:/usr/local/cuda/lib64:/usr/local/cuda/extras/CUPTI/lib64
export INCLUDE=/usr/local/cuda/include

Test if Tensorflow is working on the GPU

You can see all your physical devices like so:

import tensorflow as tf

and you can limit them to the GPU:

print("Num GPUs Available: ", len(tf.config.experimental.list_physical_devices('GPU')))


Make sure you have gcc: gcc --version

You can also look at CUDNN with PyTorch



Still stuck

If you’re still stuck at the end, you can try:

python -c "import tensorflow as tf; print('tf version:', tf.version); tf.config.list_physical_devices()"

This should give you an error message that you can Google.

python -c "import tensorflow as tf; print('Num GPUs Available: ', len(tf.config.experimental.list_physical_devices('GPU')))"

print("Num GPUs Available: ", len(tf.config.experimental.list_physical_devices('GPU')))

Check whether devices are availble

from tensorflow.python.client import device_lib

What to do if they are not?

if it says 110 that means 11.X, so if the latest is 11.2 that’s fine.

Unzip it

<installpath>\cuda\bin\cudnn*.dll to C:\Program Files\NVIDIA GPU Computing Toolkit\CUDA\vx.x\bin

If you downloaded it to Downloads, after you extract it

C:\Program Files\NVIDIA GPU Computing Toolkit\CUDA\v11.2

it will look like this

cp C:\Users\Julius\Downloads C:\Program Files\NVIDIA GPU Computing Toolkit\CUDA\v11.2

It’ll extract to C:\Users\Julius\Downloads\cudnn-11.2-windows-x64-v8.1.1.33

`copy C:\Users\Julius\Downloads\cudnn-11.2-windows-x64-v8.1.1.33\cuda\bin\cudnn*.dll "C:\Program Files\NVIDIA GPU Computing Toolkit\CUDA\v11.2\bin"`

`copy C:\Users\Julius\Downloads\cudnn-11.2-windows-x64-v8.1.1.33\cuda\include\cudnn*.h "C:\Program Files\NVIDIA GPU Computing Toolkit\CUDA\v11.2\include"`

`copy C:\Users\Julius\Downloads\cudnn-11.2-windows-x64-v8.1.1.33\cuda\lib\x64\cudnn*.lib "C:\Program Files\NVIDIA GPU Computing Toolkit\CUDA\v11.2\lib\x64"`

Then set your environment variables

  • Do the system variables not the user ones
  • This might already be done but ensure that it is

Other Possible Problems

Verify that there aren’t conflicting drivers (Linux only)

verify you have CUDA-enabled GPU:

You should see something saying “NVIDIA” when you do:

lspci | grep -i nvidia

But you shouldn’t see anything from:

lsmod | grep nouveau

If you do, you’ll need to remove it