How to Install GNS3 Step by Step Explained

This tutorial explains how to install GNS3 network simulator software on Windows. Learn how to perform a customized installation of GNS3 on Windows.

GNS3 works in the server/client model. GNS3 client provides a GUI-based environment to create and test network topologies. GNS3 server stores and run all virtual devices you use in the network topologies. To use GNS3, you need both GNS3 client and GNS3 server.

You have three options to install and configure GNS3 server. You can configure the local system as GNS3 server, you can create a virtual machine on the local system and configure it as GNS3 server, or you can use a remote machine or a cloud account to install and configure GNS3 server on it. We will discuss these options in detail in the next part of this tutorial.

Downloading GNS3

You can download GNS3 and GNS3-VM from the following webpage.

GNS3 is the client part and compulsory. GNS3-VM is the server part and optional. It is required when you want to install the GNS3 server on a virtual machine.

download GNS3

Installing GNS3 on Windows

After downloading GNS3 and GNS3-VM (if you want to install GNS3 server on a virtual machine), open the folder that contains the downloaded files.

gns3 installation file

Double click the GNS3 client installation file.

Depending on UAC (User access control) settings, Windows may prompt for confirmation. If it prompts, click the Yes button to confirm the installation. Upon confirmation, the installation process starts in a wizard.

The first screen of the wizard shows a welcome message and a suggestion to close other applications before starting the installation of GNS3. It’s only a suggestion, not a requirement. You can install GNS3 while other applications are running, but in that case, you have to restart the system before you can use it.

Click the Next button to start the installation.

start gns3 installation

The next screen shows the license agreement. Click the "I Agree" option to accept the license agreement.

license agreement

The next screen allows us to customize the Start Menu Folder name. By default, the wizard uses GNS3 as the start menu folder name. If you want to use something else, set the new name. If you want to use the default name, no action is required here.

Make your choice and click the Next button.

start menu name

GNS3 installation package contains several additional tools and components. The following table provides a brief description of these tools.

Component Type Description
WinPCAP Required It connects GNS3 to the host computer's network. It allows the nodes emulated/simulated on GNS3 to communicate with nodes available outside the GNS3.
Npcap Optional It is the replacement of WinPCAP. Based on the version of Windows, select either Npcap or WinPCAP. If you are installing GNS3 on Windows 10 or higher, select Npcap. If you are installing GNS3 on a previous version of Windows, select WinPCAP.
Wireshark Recommended It is used to capture and view data packets exchanged between nodes.
Dynamips Required It is used to run GNS3 from the host system.
QEMU 3.1.0 and 0.11.0 Optional It is used to create a virtual computer and to run GNS3 from that virtual computer. If you want to run GNS3 from a virtual computer, you should use GNS3VM instead of this component.
VPCS Recommended It is used to create a lightweight virtual PC that supports basic testing and troubleshooting commands such as ping and traceroute.
cpulimit Optional It is an add-on to the QEMU component. It is used to limit QEMU using 100% CPU of the host computer.
GNS3 Required It is the core component of GNS3. It installs and runs GNS3 on the computer.
TightVNC Recommended It is a VNC client tool. It is used to connect to appliance graphical user interfaces.
Solar-Putty Recommended It is the default console application of GNS3.
Virt-viewer Optional It is an add-on component of QEMU. It provides an alternative display for the QEMU desktop.
HAXM Optional It is used for hardware acceleration. It is available only if the host system uses Intel CPU.

Depending on how will you install the GNS3 server, you need to select components and tools here.

If you will install the GNS3 server on the local system without a virtual machine, select the following components and tools.

GNS3, Dynamips, Cpulimit, Npcap (if you have Windows10 or higher) or WinPCAP ( if you have an earlier version of Windows), SolarPutty

If you will install the GNS3 server inside a virtual machine on the local system, select the following components and tools.

GNS3, Npcap, Wireshark, Dynamipc, VPCS, Cpulimit, TightVNC Viewer, SolarPutty

component selection

The next screen allows us to customize the installation folder location. By default, the wizard installs GNS3 in the Windows partition\Program Files\GNS3 folder. If you want to install GNS3 in another folder, update the folder location.

Keep the default location or select the appropriate folder location and click the "Install" button to start the installation

installation directory

The installation process checks the dependencies of core GNS3. If it needs any additional package or library, the installation process downloads and installs that package or library.


After installing core GNS3, the installation process installs the additional selected components.

installing core gns3

WinPCAP, Npcap, Wireshark, TightVNC, and SolarPutty are third-party tools. If you have selected third-party tools, the installation wizard will download and install them now.

A third-party tool may ask you to accept its license agreement or provide additional information. For example, you need to accept the license agreement of Npcap and provide your email ID to SolarPutty (if you want to receive promotional content).

The following image shows the installation of Npcap.

ncap license agreement

The following image shows the email requirement popup of SolarPutty.

SolorPutty email needs

After installing all selected components, the wizard shows a promotional offer from SolarWinds. SolarWinds makes software for network testing and troubleshooting. It also supports the GNS3 project. It offers a free standard toolset to GNS3 users. This toolset contains a lot of network testing and troubleshooting tools.

You don't need this tool kit to practice CCNA/CCNP exam topics. SolarWinds provides this tool kit only to registered users. To install this tool kit, you have to create a free account at SolarWinds's website.

If you want to install this toolset, select the Yes option otherwise select the No option. Select your option, and click the Next button.

solarwinds toolset

On the last screen of the installation process, the wizard offers an option to start GNS3 just after the installation. By default, this option is selected. If you don’t want to run GNS3 just after the installation, uncheck this option.

Click the Finish button to close the installation wizard.

finish installation

If GNS3 starts and presents a Setup wizard, it verifies you have successfully installed GNS3. When GNS3 starts the first time, it presents the Setup wizard. This wizard allows us to configure and install the GNS3 server. We will configure the GNS3 server in the next part of this tutorial.

setup wizard

Video version

This tutorial is also available in video format on our YouTube channel.

Watch This video on YouTube

That's all for this tutorial. In this tutorial, we learned how to perform a customized installation of GNS3-all-one (client). In the next tutorial, we will learn how to install and configure GNS-VM (server).

ComputerNetworkingNotes CCNA Study Guide How to Install GNS3 Step by Step Explained