Building ATLAS

Today I attempted to build ATLAS (Automatically Tuned Linear Algebra Software), an optimised linear algebra package which finely tunes itself to your system during the build process. While ATLAS is available through many package managers, these non-optimised builds miss out on much of the benefit of using this library.

I found building ATLAS to be more involved than many other related packages like LAPACK, however with a little perserverance it was achievable.

Disable CPU Throttling

During its extensive tuning in the build process, ATLAS needs to perform a lot of profiling. For this precise profiling to work requires the disabling of CPU throttling, the process whereby modern CPUs reduce their clock frequency while idle to save power.

I was able to achieve this on my system (running Arch Linux on a computer with twin Intel(R) Xeon(R) E5-2630s) through use of the cpupower package. First, install the package:

sudo pacman -S cpupower

and then assign the “performance” power governor:

sudo cpupower frequency-set -g performance

This unfortunately did not work by itself on my processors due to an apparent problem with the intel_pstate power governor. To resolve this, restart the computer with the additional kernel parameter intel_pstate=disable, and then execute

sudo modprobe acpi-cpufreq

to enable the generic governors. Set the performance governor as above, then proceed with building ATLAS.

Avoiding Hyperthreading

For reasons they are more adept to explain, the ATLAS authors strongly discourage the use of hyperthreading. To disover the IDs of unique cores on my sytem, I discovered the great likwid package. To install it:

git clone
cd likwid
sudo make install

Use the likwid-topology command to print, among other information, a table of all the hyperthreads and their mappings to physical sockets and cores. This allowed me to determine that threads 0-11 (out of 0-23) would map on to unique cores.


We are now ready to build ATLAS itself. Download both it and the latest LAPACK release, unpack ATLAS and create a build directory. To build the software, first run the configure command in the build directory:

cd build
/path/to/ATLAS/configure \
    --with-netlib-lapack-tarfile=/path/to/downloaded/lapack-x.x.x.tgz \
    --force-tids="NTHREAD T0 T1 T2 .. TN-1" \
    -D c -DPentiumCPS=MHZ \
    -v 2

The first argument points to the LAPACK tarball you downloaded, the second lists the IDs of the unique threads from the step above, the next two arguments make the build system use a more accurate timer during tuning (replace MHZ with your clock speed in MHz, and do not use these options if the build will be competing for resources), and the final argument sets the maximum level of verbosity.

Once the configuration is complete, run the build with


When complete, consider running the tests:

make check   # Test serial routines
make ptcheck # Test parallel routines
make time    # Compare performance against a reference

and if desired, install to the system location with:

sudo make install