Compilation and basic usage

If you are already familiar with older versions of GADGET or with AREPO, you will feel quickly at home in compiling and working with GADGET-4, since the code follows very similar usage concepts. However, GADGET-4 is now a C++ code, and has a more elaborate build concept that in particular attempts to prevent basic forms of code rot. This makes the build process slightly more advanced, as described below.

Compilation requirements

GADGET-4 needs the following non-standard libraries for compilation:

  1. mpi: The `Message Passing Interface' (version 3.0 or higher). Many vendor supplied versions exist, in addition to excellent open source implementations, e.g. MPICH, or OpenMPI

  2. gsl: The GNU scientific library. This open-source package can be obtained at GADGET-4 only needs this library for a few very simple cosmological integrations at start-up.

  3. fftw3: The `Fastest Fourier Transform in the West'. This open-source package can be obtained at Note that the MPI-capable version of FFTW-3 is not explicitly required (it makes no difference whether it is available or not as GADGET-4 implements its own communication routines when MPI is used). FFTW is only needed for simulations that use the TreePM algorithm, or if power spectra are estimated, or cosmological ICs are created.

  4. hdf5: The `Hierarchical Data Format' (available at This library is needed when one wants to read or write snapshot files in HDF5 format. It is highly recommended to use HDF5 instead of the plain binary output format that can be used as an alternative and still available for historical reasons.

  5. hwloc : The `hardware locality library' is useful for allowing the code to probe the processor topology it is running on and enable a pinning to individual cores. This library is optional and only required if the IMPOSE_PINNING flag is set. Note that many MPI libraries nowadays in any cases enable pinning by default.

  6. vectorclass : This is a C++ library that the code utilizes when explicit vectorization via the AVX instruction set is enabled in the SPH compute kernels. This is then implemented with the vectorclass library by Agner Fog. For simplicity, the source code of this library (which takes the form of C++ header files) is included in the GADGET-4 distribution in directory src/vectorclass. Note that potential updates and bug fixed in this library require a corresponding update of this subdirectory.

Compilation of GADGET-4 needs a working C++ compiler, supporting at least the C++11 standard. For GNU gcc, this means version 4.x or later. The code also makes use of GNU-Make and Python as part of its build process. Those should hence be available as well.

Building the code

After obtaining GADGET-4 from the code repository, you will find a bunch of subdirectories as well as few further files for the build system in the top-level directory. The most important subdirectory is src/ , which contains the actual source code files, distributed into subdirectories according to the functionality of each file.

The GADGET-4 code is controlled and configured by two different files, one containing compile-time options, and one listing runtime parameters. The default name for the file with compile-time options is , and the meaning of the different options specified there is explained in a special section of this manual. The run-time options of GADGET-4 are controlled by a parameter file, and are described also in a separate section of this documentation.

One possible way to create the file needed for compilation is to make a copy of and then modify it as needed by commenting in or commenting out the desired options. Given the length of this template file, better overview is provided by assembling only the enabled options in a file (which can also be gleaned from a previous GADGET-4 run). Another option is to use one of the files that come with the example problems, and modify it if needed. The code uses the GNU make utility for controlling the build process, which is specified by the file Makefile. Typing make will attempt to build the executable Gadget4 (hint: using make -j X, where X is some number of threads, the build process can be carried much faster in parallel on multi-core machines). It is also possible to override the default names for the configuration file and the executable by specifying them as parameters for this command, for example as make EXEC=Gadget4new. Also, one may pass a directory to make, for example in the form make DIR=mysim/newmodels/runA, and then the configuration file contained in this directory will be used, the build process will be carried out there, and the executable appears there as well. This can be very useful to build and run different code configurations from a common code base without risking to accidentally mix up the executables. Each simulation should be organized into a different subdirectory in this case, with configuration file and executable being placed into the same subdirectory.

Often, one needs to specify (possibly non-standard) locations of the libraries required by GADGET-4, or the name of the compiler and the settings of compiler flags to be used in order to build the code. To make the selection of the target system and changes between different compiler setups relatively simple, these settings have been largely decoupled from the Makefile , i.e. the Makefile itself should usually not be changed in any significant way. Only if you want to add additional source files to the code or introduce a new target computer system a small change is needed there.

This is facilitated through the concept of a system type (which is the target computer combined with compiler settings), which is selected through the environment variable SYSTYPE, or by the file Makefile.systype. The simplest way to create the file Makefile.systype is to copy it from Template-Makefile.systype, and then comment in/out the desired type. For the selected symbolic name of the target system type, there should then be a short section in the Makefile that includes usually two makefile stubs from the folder buildsystem/ which specify the paths to the different libraries if they are not in standard locations, and determine the compiler name(s) and compiler options that should be used. Once this is all set-up properly, you can then switch to a different compiler setting by toggling one line in Makefile.systype. Also, if you set the environment variable SYSTYPE in your login-script (.profile, .bashrc, etc.) on your target computer (recommended for convenience), you will normally not have to deal with the file Makefile.systype at all and can compile right away.

To summarize, if you want to set-up GADGET-4 for compilation on a new, not yet defined computer system, you have to go through the following steps:

  • Make sure that the needed libraries are available, either by compiling them yourself (they can all be installed in user space if needed) or by loading the right modules on systems that support the module-environment.

  • Add a new symbolic name for your computer system to Template-Makefile.systype (this file is meant to keep a record of all defined machine types), and then select this name through the SYSTYPE environment variable or through the file Makefile.systype.

  • In the file Makefile, create an if-clause in the "define available Systems" section, in which you include two short files from the buildsystem directory that define path names to the libraries that you need (i.e. if not in default locations), and that specify the compiler and its flags that you want to select. Follow the provided examples to create your own versions of these files, as needed. The reason why this information is normally not directly included in an if-clause in the Makefile (which would be possible too) is to avoid repetition of identical information in the Makefile (for example, because the same settings for the gcc compiler may be used on many different target systems). Instead, the same small sub-file from buildsystem/ can be included for many different target systems.

We note that many compile-time options are introduced with #ifdef / #endif statements in the code in order to encapsulate the corresponding code extensions and allow them to be fully disabled (i.e.~to be completely eliminated from the compiled code). This is done for performance and memory reasons, which for us take precedence over the detrimental impact on readability/clarity of the code brought about by such compiler pragmas. Another, more problematic side effect of using such compile-time symbols is however that typos in specifying any of them may go easily undetected. To provide protection against this, the code automatically runs a python-based check script over the source code as part of the build process that will complain if any undefined or misspelled compile time symbols are listed in, or, conversely, if (new) symbols in the source code are present that are neither defined nor briefly explained in This checking mechanism can be disabled if desired by using make build instead of make, but we strongly advise against this. Also, it is possible to deliberately exempt a symbol from the checking procedure. This is needed, for example, for header-file guards, and those symbols should be added to the file defines_extra.

As a further extension of these checks, we have also added functionality that demands that all compile-time and run-time options are actually documented. To this end, if you add a new compile time option yourself, this needs to be documented in documentation/, and if you add a new run-time parameter, it needs to be documented in documentation/, otherwise the code will refuse to compile and complain accordingly. Similarly, documented options that do no longer exist in the code will lead to error messages when compiling. This checking of the documentation can be disabled by using make build instead of make, but as pointed out above, this constitutes bad practice and should not be done.

Finally, note that the GADGET-4 code is now written in the C++ language, and the source files can only be compiled with a C++ compiler. While many useful and advanced features of the C++ language are used (like templating and operator overloading), because GADGET-4 evolved from an older code base in C, it effectively represents in many places a mixture of C++ and C-styles of coding.

Starting the code

To start a simulation, invoke the executable with a command like

mpirun -np 32  ./Gadget4  param.txt

This will start the simulation using 32 MPI ranks, and with simulation parameters as specified in the parameter file (see below) of name param.txt. Note that on some systems, the command to launch parallel execution may have a different name or syntax (e.g mpiexec, srun, poe, etc). Consult the man-pages or the local support if in doubt.

The code does not need to be recompiled for a different number of processors, or for a different problem size. It is also possible to run GADGET-4 with a single processor only. In this case, the leading mpirun -np 1 can normally be omitted, and GADGET-4 will behave like a serial code. It is still necessary to have MPI installed, though, because even then the code will make some calls to the MPI library (but none that actually do non-trivial communications). There is no restriction for the processor number to be a power of two, even though these partition sizes are slightly preferred, because they allow the most efficient communication schemes. However, in regimes where the code works well in terms of scalability, the communication times should is subdominant anyhow, so this is not an important consideration in practice.

When more than one MPI-rank is used, the code will use a hybrid communication scheme in which data stored by different MPI processes on the same compute node are accessed directly via shared-memory. The code automatically detects groups of MPI ranks running on the same node. If more than one node is in use, at least one MPI process on each node is set aside for asynchronously serving incoming communication requests from other nodes (if only a single shared-memory is used, this is not done). This means that multi-node jobs must have a minimum of two MPI ranks on each node. Today's machines offer typically many more cores per node than 2, and their full power is made available to GADGET-4 if one MPI rank is placed on every core.

At least one MPI communication rank needs to be set aside for every 64 ranks on a shared memory node in multi-node jobs. If the number of MPI ranks per shared memory node is larger than 64, one therefore needs to specify the NUMBER_OF_MPI_LISTENERS_PER_NODE=X option, with X larger than 1 (which is the default).

While GADGET-4 is running, it will print out many log-messages that inform about the present steps taken by the code. When you start a simulation interactively, these log-messages will appear on the screen, but you can also redirect them to a file. For production runs on a cluster controlled by a queuing system, you will usually have to put the above start-up command of GADGET-4 into a batch script-file that is submitted to the queuing system. In this case, the standard output of GADGET-4 is usually automatically piped into a file.

For example, assuming that the batch system SLURM is in use, a batch-script similar to

#SBATCH --time=24:00:00
#SBATCH --nodes=2
#SBATCH --ntasks-per-node=40
#SBATCH --job-name SB128

echo "Running on hosts: $SLURM_NODELIST"
echo "Running on $SLURM_NNODES nodes."
echo "Running on $SLURM_NPROCS processors."
echo "Current working directory is `pwd`"

mpiexec -np  $SLURM_NPROCS  ./Gadget4 param.txt 

could be used to start a job with 2 nodes with 40 MPI ranks each (i.e. using 80 cores in total). Here a semi-automatic setting of the appropriate value of the total number of cores through SLURM environment variables has been used. Note that in this example, GADGET-4 will only use 78 MPI processes for the computational work, because on each node one process will be set aside by the code purely for communication purposes.

Interrupting a run

Often, a single submission to a queue system will not provide enough CPU-time to finish the computation of a large production simulation. Therefore, a running simulation can be interrupted after every timestep, and resumed at the very same place later on. If the CPU-time limit is specified correctly in the parameter file, the code will interrupt itself automatically before the CPU-time limit is reached, and write a set of restart-files. Actually, each processor writes its own restart file. These restart-files can be used to resume the simulation conveniently (see below) at the point where it was interrupted.

Sometimes you might want to interrupt the code manually with the possibility to continue it later on without losing any of the calculations. This can be achieved by generating a file named stop in the output-directory of a simulation, e.g.

echo > /u/vrs/myoutput/stop

The code will then write a restart-file and terminate itself after the current timestep has been completed, and the file stop will be erased automatically. If a simulation reaches the specified CPU-time limit, it creates a file cont in the output directory (besides the restart files). This can be used in a job batch script to detect that a run has ended gracefully and is hence ready for continuation, at which point the script may submit another job for continuation. Modern queuing systems also allow job dependencies, which can be used to submit a chain of jobs that are executed sequentially, but only of the previous job finishes with an OK status. In case a run crashes for some reason, the file cont is absent and hence a restart should not be initiated until the cause for the problem has been investigated and removed. Note that restart files are also generated when the last timestep of a simulation has been completed and the final time has been reached. They can be used if one later wants to extend the simulated timespan beyond the original final time.

One can also instruct the code to write restart files in regular intervals (see parameterfile description) without stopping the simulation. This is meant to protect against system failures or code problems in long-running simulations. If such a thing happens, one can then resume the run from the most recent set of restart files, which limits the amount of lost time. Furthermore, whenever a new set of restart files is written, the old set is first renamed into a set of backup restart files. Hence, if a system failure occurs while the new restart files are written, the old set of files still exits and is valid, and can hence be used for resuming the run. To this end, one needs to rename the backup versions of the restart files and give them the standard name again, followed by resuming the run with the restart option (see below).

Restarting a run

Restarting from restart-files

To resume a run from restart-files, start the code with an optional flag 1 after the name of the parameterfile, in the form

mpirun -np 32  ./Gadget4  param.txt  1

This will continue the simulation with the set of restart files in the output-directory, with the latter being specified in the parameterfile. Restarting in this fashion is transparent to the code, i.e. the simulation behaves after the restart exactly as if it had not been interrupted to begin with. Strictly speaking this is only true if the PRESERVE_SHMEM_BINARY_INVARIANCE option is activated. This prevents that sums of partial forces may be computed for certain particles in different order when a run is repeated due to varying machine weather. While mathematically equivalent, this will introduce differences in floating point round-off that can be quickly amplified in regimes of non-linear evolution.

When the code is started with the restart-flag, the parameterfile is parsed, but only some of the parameters are allowed to be changed, while any changes in the others will be ignored. Which parameters these are is explained in the section about the parameterfile, and if such a new value for a parameter is accepted this is also reflected in the log-files of the run.

It is important to not forget the 1 if you want to resume a run -- otherwise the simulation will restart from scratch, i.e. by reading in the initial conditions again! Also note that upon restarting from restart-files, the number of MPI ranks used for a simulation cannot be changed; if this is attempted an error message is issued. Note that restart files can not necessarily be transferred from one computer system to another one, or reused when the compiler is changed, because the layout and padding of structures stored in the binary restart files may then be different. Hence, if you want to continue a simulation with a different number of MPI ranks, on another computer architecture, or with a different compiler, restarting from a snapshot file is the method of choice. This will be discussed next.

Restarting from snapshot-files

There are two possibilities to restart a simulation from a previous snapshot file. In the first possibility, one simply adopts the snapshot file as new initial conditions. Note that this option requires changes in the parameterfile: You need to specify the snapshot-file as initial-conditions-file, you also need to set TimeBegin (see below) to the correct time corresponding to the snapshot-file. In addition, you should change the base filename for the snapshot files, since the counter for the outputs will start at 0 again, thereby possibly overwriting outputs you might already have obtained. Once this is done, you can continue/restart the run from the snapshot-file (without the optional 1).

An alternative to this somewhat contrived procedure is to restart the code with a flag equal to 2 after the name of the parameterfile, i.e. just like above for the restart from restart-files, but with the 1 replaced by 2 , and with an additional further parameter that specifies the number of the snapshot in the output file that you want to start from. The parameterfile normally needs not to be changed in this case, in particular, the code takes the new starting time from the snapshot file that is read. In addition, this also will cause any further snapshots that are generated to have higher sequence numbers than this starting number, i.e. the code will number all further snapshots starting with one plus the number of the snapshot that is used as input file. For example, the command for restarting from snapshot 7 would look as follows:

mpirun -np 32  ./Gadget4  param.txt  2 7

Note that the restart-from-snapshot-files option allows a change of the number of processors used for the simulation. This is not possible if you restart from restart-files. However, restarting from restart-files is always the preferred method to resume a simulation, because it is faster (various start-up calculations do not have to be done), and it minimises perturbations in the time integration scheme of a running simulation.

Starting postprocessing

It is also possible to apply certain postprocessing algorithms built into GADGET-4 to a snapshot file residing in the output directory. This works similarly to the restart from a snapshot file option in that one specifies both a start-up option and a snapshot number (as well as potentially further parameters). For example, to calculate a FOF/Subfind group catalogue for a snapshot file with the number 7, one could start the code as

mpirun -np 32  ./Gadget4  param.txt  3  7

because the 3 selects the group finding algorithm. If such a postprocessing option is selected, the code will not carry out any time evolution. Instead, the given snapshot is just read in, some postprocessing is done, the output is written to the output directory, and then the code ends. One can obtain a short list of the available postprocessing options when the code is started without any paramater. Other postprocessing options for example include the calculation of a matter power spectrum, the conversion of a snapshot file from one of the supported file formats to another, or the creation of cosmological initial conditions (the latter is then actually more of a preprocessing and not a postprocessing option).

The available postprocessing options are as follows:

RestartFlag Action
0 Read initial conditions and start simulation
1 Read restart files and resume simulation
2 Restart from specified snapshot dump and resume simulation
3 Run FOF and optionally SUBFIND
4 Calculate a matter power spectrum for specified snapshot number
5 Convert snapshot file to different format
6 Create cosmological initial conditions
7 Create descendant/progenitor information when merger tree is done in postprocessing
8 Arrange halos in merger trees, using all group catalogues up to given snapshot number
9 Carry out an I/O bandwidth test to determine best setting for the number of concurrent reads/writes
10 Rearrange particle-lightcone data in merger tree order
11 Rearrange most-bound snapshot data in merger tree order