Getting Started with dSPACE – Guiding you Into a New Territory

Len Gasior, Product Support Engineer, dSPACE Inc.

You have acquired your first dSPACE system or have been tasked with using one and have little to no clue on how to get started? You are looking at this box with dSPACE written on it and you’re probably thinking: “Now what?”

This blog is intended to help you accelerate your learning curve when operating a dSPACE real-time system (for all systems after dSPACE Release 2017-B).

To get started, you have to understand that you have a very sophisticated and powerful system at your disposal and a unique opportunity to create new technologies. You are probably anxious to get your new system up and running. This blog describes the software framework for your dSPACE development and testing environment. This is an abridged description to our more in-depth documentation that can be accessed once the software is installed.

Although there may be certain nuances for setting up and using specific configurations of dSPACE systems, the provided basics apply to all. 

Real-Time System Primer

Before we lay out a framework, it is important to understand the difference between a real-time system and a non-real-time system, often referred to as an offline system.

In a nutshell, a real-time system is one that must process information and produce a response within a specified time, consistently, or else risk consequences, including failure. A real-time system must deliver results at a speed that corresponds to the system dynamics and requirements of the controller or controlled system. It supports the development and testing of embedded software in a real-time environment by carrying out a response within the set time … usually within microseconds.

With an offline system, the execution rate of the model is dictated by the operating system based on available computational resources and task priorities. Predetermined tasks are carried out before runtime. They are generally based on such things as execution time, deadline, task parameters, etc. Adding new tasks or changing task parameters is more difficult with this type of system. This is why, in essence, you are using a dSPACE real-time system – to develop and test embedded software. 

Software Setup and Usage Framework

The steps outlined below assume you are using a single-user license (dongle license) (as opposed to a floating network license) and take into account the following:

You are starting with a PC with no dSPACE software installed and have license keys available.

The host PC you want to use meets the system requirements for using our software. Review the requirements at the following link:  

You have full administrative privileges for the PC on which you want to install the software. 

1. Software Installation

The first stage in setting up your PC to work with your dSPACE system is software installation.

Below, you will find an overview of the installation workflow and a brief description of each of the steps required to complete this phase. 

Obtain dSPACE software
Software can be obtained from dSPACE as a DVD or directly download from our website. To obtain a DVD copy, just contact your dSPACE Account Manager. To download material from the website, you must set up a mydSPACE account. A mydSPACE account also gives you access to registered user content, such as updates, patches, or customer webinars (after confirmation by dSPACE). If you have not already done so, you can register for a mydSPACE account at this link:   

dSPACE software is available for download from the following link:

Install third party software
As part of setting up your dSPACE system, you must confirm that the dSPACE releases you are using are compatible with your MATLAB release and operating system. You can check our compatibility tables at the following link:

Install software
When the above components are in place, you can begin software installation by running the appropriate setup program (dSPACE_MasterSetup.exe).

To guide you through the installation process, it is suggested that you review the software installation video from the link below:

For a more detailed description of the software installation process, you can download a PDF from the following link:

Additionally, frequently asked questions related to the installation can be found here:

License activation
To work with the installed software product, you must activate the license. Review the steps for activation, software decryption, and requirements for your scenario. Refer to this link for details: 

If necessary, you can add older Releases of dSPACE software to your PC. For more information, refer to 

2. Documentation

Help Icon as seen in ControlDesk 6.2

dSPACE documentation contains user guides, tutorials, pinouts, and datasheets on the software and hardware. You will be able to find most of the details on the requirements for using the system with your application. The user documentation can be accessed via F1 and/or the Help button.

You can also access the documentation at the path below on your PC, based on the installed release:

  • 2017-B and newer: C:\Program Files\Common Files\dSPACE\Help 201X-X
  • 2017-A to 2016-B: C:\Program Files\Common Files\dSPACE\HelpDesk 201X-X
  • 2016-A and older: C:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\dSPACE\HelpDesk 201X-X

At the path above, you will find a folder which contains PDFs of the documentation and a HelpDesk.exe that you can launch to access the information from the Help utility.  

3. dSPACE System Test Run

With the successful installation of dSPACE software, you are ready to give the dSPACE system a test drive as the last stage in your setup. To test drive the system, there are demo applications at your disposal.

Running a demo application will confirm the operation of the software and hardware at a base level. If you ever have to check for the proper functioning of the dSPACE or assist with troubleshooting, running a demo is a good place to start.

Please note that before you can run a demo application on your dSPACE platform, you must make sure that your host PC is physically connected to the dSPACE system with the correct cables and interface boards. In addition, the dSPACE system must be registered at the PC so that it can be accessed by the dSPACE software application (i.e., AutomationDesk, ControlDesk, ConfigurationDesk tools). Details specific to each hardware family can be found in the documentation.

Based on the software you have acquired (i.e. ControlDesk, AutomationDesk, etc.), launch the application and run a demo.

For example, in ControlDesk go to:

 File > Open > Projects & Experiments > <platform, i.e., DS1005, DS1006 etc.> > <platform demo> 

Opening a ControlDesk 6.2 Demo

Make sure the dSPACE system is registered. In ControlDesk, click Start Measurement on the home ribbon to confirm successful operation.

Furthermore, we provide numerous MATLAB/Simulink demo models that provide implementation examples of many I/O features available on a dSPACE system. These models for our various platforms can be found at the following path on your PC:

C:\Program Files\dSPACE RCPHIL 201X-X\Demos

Once the software is installed and you have successfully run a demo application, you are well on your way to using your dSPACE real-time system. Several training classes are available to aid you further. And if you run into a set-up or operational issue, do not hesitate to reach out to your dSPACE Product Support Team ( 


If you prefer self-learning at your own pace, documentation is available for everything required to use the system in a simplified manner. However, if you’re looking to expedite your learning curve, dSPACE offers a wide range of training classes:

dSPACE Support

If you have an issue with your dSPACE system, you can reach the support team at

If you attempt to contact us, please have the following information ready to help us assist you:

  1. Contact information
  2. License information
  3. Company name
  4. Phone number
  5. Description of the problem

There you have it, folks. Described above you have a dSPACE software setup framework and extras to get you going in the right direction. You are well on the path to developing and testing the latest ideas and concepts for your embedded system.


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