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INSTALL file for Faiss (Fair AI Similarity Search)

Install via Conda

The easiest way to install FAISS is from anaconda. We regularly push stable releases to conda channel. FAISS conda package is built with conda gcc, depends on libgcc, mkl and numpy package shipped in conda in runtime.

Currently we support faiss-cpu on both Linux and OSX platforms. We also provide faiss-gpu compiled with CUDA8.0/CUDA9.0/CUDA9.1 on Linux systems.

You can easily install it by

# CPU version only
conda install faiss-cpu -c pytorch
# Make sure you have CUDA installed before installing faiss-gpu, otherwise it falls back to CPU version
conda install faiss-gpu -c pytorch # [DEFAULT]For CUDA8.0
conda install faiss-gpu cuda90 -c pytorch # For CUDA9.0
conda install faiss-gpu cuda91 -c pytorch # For CUDA9.1
# cuda90/cuda91 shown above is a feature, it doesn't install CUDA for you.

Compile from source

The Faiss compilation works in 3 steps, from easiest to most involved:

  1. compile the C++ core and examples

  2. compile the Python interface

  3. compile GPU part

Steps 2 and 3 depend on 1, but they are otherwise independent.

Alternatively, all 3 steps above can be run by building a Docker image (see section "Docker instructions" below).

Alternatively, steps 1 and 3 can be built via the cmake scripts (see below).

It is also possible to build a pure C interface. This optional process is described separately (please see the C interface installation file)

General compilation instructions

Faiss has been tested only on x86_64 machines on Linux and Mac OS.

Faiss is compiled via a Makefile. The system-dependent configuration of the Makefile is in an include file, The variables in must be set by hand.

Faiss requires a C++ compiler that understands:

  • the Intel intrinsics for SSE instructions
  • the GCC intrinsic for the popcount instruction
  • basic OpenMP

There are a few models for in the example_makefiles/ subdirectory. Copy the relevant one for your system and adjust to your needs. There are also indications for specific configurations in the troubleshooting section of the wiki.

Faiss comes as a .a archive, that can be linked with executables or dynamic libraries (useful for the Python wrapper).

Step 1: Compiling the C++ Faiss

TL;DR: ./configure && make && make install

The CPU version of Faiss is written in C++11.


The only variables that need to be configured for the C++ Faiss are the BLAS/Lapack flags (a linear aglebra software package). It needs a flag telling whether BLAS/Lapack uses 32 or 64 bit integers and the linking flags. Faiss uses the Fortran 77 interface of BLAS/Lapack and thus does not need an include path.

There are several BLAS implementations, depending on the OS and machine. To have reasonable performance, the BLAS library should be multithreaded. See the example's for hints and examples on how to set the flags, or simply run the configure script:


To check that the link flags are correct, and verify whether the implementation uses 32 or 64 bit integers, you can

make misc/test_blas

and run


Building faiss

Once the proper BLAS flags are set, the library should compile smoothly by running


Then, in order to install the library and the headers, run

make install

Testing Faiss

A basic usage example is in


it makes a small index, stores it and performs some searches. A normal runtime is around 20s. With a fast machine and Intel MKL's BLAS it runs in 2.5s.

To run the whole test suite:

make test

A real-life benchmark

A bit longer example runs and evaluates Faiss on the SIFT1M dataset. To run it, please download the ANN_SIFT1M dataset from

and unzip it to the subdirectory sift1M at the root of the source directory for this repository.

Then compile and run the following (after ensuring you have installed faiss):

make demos

This is a demonstration of the high-level auto-tuning API. You can try setting a different index_key to find the indexing structure that gives the best performance.

Step 2: Compiling the Python interface

The Python interface is compiled with

make py

If you want to compile it for another python version than the default Python 2.7, in particular Python 3, the PYTHONCFLAGS must be adjusted in, see the examples.

How it works

The Python interface is provided via SWIG (Simple Wrapper and Interface Generator) and an additional level of manual wrappers (in python/

SWIG generates two wrapper files: a Python file (python/ and a C++ file that must be compiled to a dynamic library (python/ These files are included in the repository, so running swig is only required when the C++ headers of Faiss are changed.

The C++ compilation to the dynamic library requires to set:

  • SHAREDFLAGS: system-specific flags to generate a dynamic library

  • PYTHONCFLAGS: include flags for Python

See the example's on how to set the flags.

Testing the Python wrapper

Often, a successful compile does not mean that the library works, because missing symbols are detected only at runtime. You should be able to load the Faiss dynamic library:

python -c "import faiss"

In case of failure, it reports the first missing symbol. To see all missing symbols (on Linux), use

ldd -r

Sometimes, problems (eg with BLAS libraries) appear only when actually calling a BLAS function. A simple way to check this

python -c "import faiss, numpy
faiss.Kmeans(10, 20).train(numpy.random.rand(1000, 10).astype('float32'))

Real-life test

The following script extends the demo_sift1M test to several types of indexes. This must be run from the root of the source directory for this repository:

mkdir tmp             # graphs of the output will be written here
PYTHONPATH=. python demos/

It will cycle through a few types of indexes and find optimal operating points. You can play around with the types of indexes.

Step 3: Compiling the GPU implementation

There is a GPU-specific Makefile in the gpu/ directory. It depends on the same ../ for system-specific variables. You need libfaiss.a from Step 1 for this to work.

The GPU version is a superset of the CPU version. In addition it requires the cuda compiler and related libraries (Cublas)

See the example makefile on how to set the flags.

The nvcc-specific flags to pass to the compiler, based on your desired compute capability. Only compute capability 3.5+ is supported. For example, we enable by default:

-gencode arch=compute_35,code="compute_35"
-gencode arch=compute_52,code="compute_52"
-gencode arch=compute_60,code="compute_60"

However, look at to determine what compute capability you need to use, and replace our gencode specifications with the one(s) you need.

Most other flags are related to the C++11 compiler used by nvcc to complile the actual C++ code. They are normally just transmitted by nvcc, except some of them that are not recognized and that should be escaped by prefixing them with -Xcompiler. Also link flags that are prefixed with -Wl, should be passed with -Xlinker.

Then compile with

cd gpu; make

You may want to add -j 10 to use 10 threads during compile.

Testing the GPU implementation

Compile the example with

cd gpu; make tests/demo_ivfpq_indexing_gpu

This produce the GPU code equivalent to the CPU demo_ivfpq_indexing. It also shows how to translate indexed from/to the GPU.

Compiling the Python interface with GPU support

Given step 2, adding support of the GPU from Python is quite straightforward. Run

cd python; make

The import is the same for the GPU version and the CPU-only version.

python -c "import faiss"

Faiss tries to load the GPU version first, and in case of failure, loads the CPU-only version. To investigate more closely the cause of a failure, you can run:

python -c "import _swigfaiss_gpu"

Python example with GPU support

The auto-tuning example above also runs on the GPU. Edit demos/ at line 100 with the values

keys_to_test = keys_gpu
use_gpu = True

and you can run

python demos/

to test the GPU code.

Docker instructions

For using GPU capabilities of Faiss, you'll need to run "nvidia-docker" rather than "docker". Make sure that docker ( and nvidia-docker ( are installed on your system

To build the "faiss" image, run

nvidia-docker build -t faiss .

or if you don't want/need to clone the sources, just run

nvidia-docker build -t faiss

If you want to run the tests during the docker build, uncomment the last 3 "RUN" steps in the Dockerfile. But you might want to run the tests by yourself, so just run

nvidia-docker run -ti --name faiss faiss bash

and run what you want. If you need a dataset (like sift1M), download it inside the created container, or better, mount a directory from the host

nvidia-docker run -ti --name faiss -v /my/host/data/folder/ann_dataset/sift/:/opt/faiss/sift1M faiss bash

How to use Faiss in your own projects


The makefile generates a static and a dynamic library

libfaiss.a (or libfaiss.dylib)

the executable should be linked to one of these. If you use the static version (.a), add the LDFLAGS used in the Makefile.

For binary-only distributions, the include files should be under a faiss/ directory, so that they can be included as

#include <faiss/IndexIVFPQ.h>
#include <faiss/gpu/GpuIndexFlat.h>


To import Faiss in your own Python project, you need the files  / /

to be visible in the PYTHONPATH or in the current directory. Then Faiss can be used in python with

import faiss

CMake build instructions:

Alternatively, Faiss can be built via the experimental cmake scripts. The installation process is similar to using Makefiles. After installing the necessary dependencies (OpenBLAS, OpenMP, and CUDA, if BUILD_WITH_GPU is enabled), the build process can be done by the following commands:

mkdir build
cd build
cmake ..
make      # use -j to enable parallel build

Notes for build on Mac: The native compiler on Mac does not support OpenMP. So to make it work on Mac, you have to install a new compiler using either Macports or Homebrew. For example, after installing the compiler g++-mp-6 from Macports (port install g++-mp-6), you need to set the two flags CMAKE_CXX_COMPILER and CMAKE_C_COMPILER:

cmake -DCMAKE_CXX_COMPILER=/opt/local/bin/g++-mp-6 -DCMAKE_C_COMPILER=/opt/local/bin/gcc-mp-6 ..

Similarly, you can use Homebrew to install clang++ (brew install llvm) and then set the two flags to /usr/local/opt/llvm/bin/clang++.

CMake supports the OpenBLAS and MKL implementations. CMake limitations: the python interface is NOT supported at this point.

Use Faiss as a 3rd-party library: Using Faiss as a 3rd-party lib via CMake is easy. If the parental project is also build via CMake, just add a line add_subdirectory(faiss) in CMake where faiss is the sub-folder name. To link Faiss to your application, use

add_executable(my_app my_app.cpp)
target_link_libraries(my_app gpufaise faiss)