This is A PREVIEW for NEST 3.0 and NOT an OFFICIAL RELEASE! Some functionality may not be available and information may be incomplete!

Install NEST

Standard installation

These installation instructions should work for most users who do not need custom configurations for their systems. If you want to compile NEST from source, check the Advanced installation section and Compilation Options.

Ubuntu users can install NEST via the PPA repository.

  1. Add the PPA repository for NEST and update apt:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nest-simulator/nest
sudo apt-get update
  1. Install NEST:

sudo apt-get install nest

Debian users can install NEST via the Ubuntu PPA repository.

  1. Create a new apt repository entry in /etc/apt/sources.list.d/nest-simulator-ubuntu-nest-XXX.list by:

    sudo apt install devscripts build-essential software-properties-common dpkg-dev
    sudo add-apt-repository --enable-source ppa:nest-simulator/nest
  2. Disable the binary package in the repository file created under /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ by commenting out the deb line, while keeping the deb-src line. It should look similar to this:

    #deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/nest-simulator/nest/ubuntu focal main
    deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/nest-simulator/nest/ubuntu focal main
  3. Import the PPA GPC key and rebuild the package:

    sudo apt-key adv --keyserver hkp://keyserver.ubuntu.com:80 \
                     --recv-keys 0CF7539642ABD23CBCA8D487F0B8B6C5EC02D7DD
    sudo apt update
    sudo apt source --build nest
  4. Install any missing dependencies, if apt tells you so. In addition, install:

    sudo apt install python3-all dh-python
  5. After installing the dependencies, enter sudo apt source --build nest again. When the build finished, look for lines like

    dpkg-deb: building package 'nest-dbgsym' in '../nest-dbgsym_2.20.0-0~202001311135~ubuntu20.04.1_amd64.deb'.
    dpkg-deb: building package 'nest' in '../nest_2.20.0-0~202001311135~ubuntu20.04.1_amd64.deb'.
    #dh binary
    dpkg-genbuildinfo --build=binary
    dpkg-genchanges --build=binary >../nest_2.20.0-0~202001311135~ubuntu20.04.1_amd64.changes

    and note down the full package name. In the above example this would be nest_2.20.0-0~202001311135~ubuntu20.04.1_amd64.deb, where the number 202001311135 and potentially the Ubuntu version number may be different.

  6. Install the ready Debian package after the rebuild:

    sudo dpkg --install nest-simulator-x.y.z~NUMBER~ubuntu20.04.1_amd64.deb

    The package name is taken from the result of the previous step. NUMBER and potentially the Ubuntu version might differ.

  7. Test the package:

    import nest

The NeuroFedora team has generously provided the latest versions of NEST on their platform. As that is available in the standard Fedora platform repositories, it can simply be installed using dnf:

sudo dnf install python3-nest

Find out more on the NeuroFedora site: https://neuro.fedoraproject.org.

  1. Install Homebrew on your Mac.

  2. Install NEST via:

brew install nest
  1. Create your conda environment and install NEST. Please refer to our Tips for installing NEST with conda.

    Without OpenMPI:

    conda create --name ENVNAME -c conda-forge nest-simulator

    With OpenMPI:

    conda create --name ENVNAME -c conda-forge nest-simulator=*=mpi_openmpi*

    The syntax for this install follows the pattern: nest-simulator=<version>=<build_string>. Build strings can be found by listing the available versions with

    conda search -c conda-forge nest-simulator

    or by browsing the conda forge file list (note there are multiple pages). For example, to install one of the 2.20.x versions with MPI support by OpenMPI, you would use the version specifier nest-simulator=2.20.*=*openmpi*. The Python dependency is automatically resolved if you add to the above command a version specifier for Python, for example python=3 or python=3.8. If the Python version and build identifier are left unspecified, conda will install the latest version compatible with all requested packages.

  2. Activate your environment:

    conda activate ENVNAME

In addition to native installations from ready-made packages, we provide containerized versions of NEST in several formats:

Docker provides an isolated container to run applications. The NEST Docker container includes a complete install of NEST and is set up so you can create, modify, and run Juptyer Notebooks and save them on your host machine. (See the Note below for alternative ways to use the Docker container.)

  1. If you do not have Docker installed, follow the Docker installation instructions for your system here: https://docs.docker.com/install/.

    If you are using Linux, we strongly recommend you also create a Docker group to manage Docker as a non-root user. See instructions on the Docker website: https://docs.docker.com/install/linux/linux-postinstall/

  2. Create a directory or change into a directory that you want to use for your Jupyter Notebooks.

mkdir my_nest_scripts
cd my_nest_scripts
  1. Run the Docker container. Replace the <version> with one of the latest NEST versions (e.g., 2.20.0) or use latest for the most recent build from the source code.

docker run --rm -e LOCAL_USER_ID=`id -u $USER` -v $(pwd):/opt/data -p 8080:8080 nestsim/nest:<version> notebook
  1. Once completed, a link to a Jupyter Notebook will be generated, as shown below. You can then copy and paste the link into your browser.

  2. You can now use the Jupyter Notebook as you normally would. Anything saved in the Notebook will be placed in the directory you started the Notebook from.

  3. You can shutdown the Notebook in the terminal by typing Ctrl-c twice. Once the Notebook is shutdown the container running NEST is removed.


You can check for updates to the Docker build by typing:

docker pull nestsim/nest:<version>


You can also create an instance of a terminal within the container itself and, for example, run Python scripts.

docker run --rm -it -e LOCAL_USER_ID=`id -u $USER` -v $(pwd):/opt/data -p 8080:8080 nestsim/nest:<version> /bin/bash

See the README to find out more, but note some functionality, such as DISPLAY, will not be available.

We have live media (.ova) if you want to run NEST in a virtual machine. This option is suitable for Windows users, since we don’t support NEST natively on Windows,

Download the live media here, and follow the instructions to set up the virutal machine .

Once NEST is installed, you can run it in Python, IPython, or Jupyter Notebook

For example, in the terminal type:


Once in Python you can type:

import nest

or as a stand alone application:


If installation was successful, you should see the NEST splash screen in the terminal:

import nest

Installation is now complete!

Advanced installation

If you need special configuration options or want to compile NEST yourself, follow these instructions.

Download the source code for the current release.

Follow instructions for Ubuntu/Debian Installation and take a look at our Compilation Options.

Get the latest developer version on GitHub. Fork NEST into your GitHub repository (see details on GitHub workflows here).

For further options on installing NEST on macOS, see Manual Installation on macOS for Macs.

Instructions for high performance computers provides some instructions for certain machines.