USRP Hardware Driver and USRP Manual  Version:
UHD and USRP Manual
Compat Numbers

In many cases, the UHD software suite includes parts of software or FPGA which need to work together over, e.g., a network connection or other type of link. To make sure that interfaces are matching, we use compatibility numbers (compat numbers) to indicate versions of various subsystems. This way, checks can be performed a-priori to verify if two separate pieces of software can communicate without error.

There are many subsystems within UHD, including the FPGA codebase, MPM, and various modules within the UHD library itself.

Example: When a USRP X310 is being used with UHD, several compat number checks are being performed under the hood. First, the FPGA has a compat version which is compared with the one that UHD expects. Similarly, the ZPU firmware code also has such a compat number. If any of those numbers mismatch, UHD will refuse to communicate with the X310, and initializing a session is impossible. Only updating the FPGA will fix this issue. If both compat numbers match, then the RFNoC subsystem is accessed. It, also, has a general compat number, and can have another compat number for each RFNoC block. If any of those fail, usage of the X310 is typically also not possible. In that case, the common remedy is to update the FPGA on the device to match the one that UHD expects. Typically, this requires running uhd_images_downloader to obtain the correct set of images, and then running uhd_image_loader to copy the FPGA image onto the device. After rebooting the device, all compat numbers will match up and UHD will be able to communicate with the device.

Major and Minor Compat Numbers

In many cases, the compat number consists of a major part and a minor part. The difference between those numbers is that a major compat number mismatch will always lead to a failure, whereas as minor compat number mismatches only lead to failure when there is potential for UHD to rely on features that aren't yet supported by the device.


  • The X310 has an FPGA compat number of 30, and UHD expects a compat number of 31: This will fail. Any mismatch of major compat numbers will not work.
  • The X310 FPGA has a major compat number of 30 and a minor compat number of 2. UHD expects a major compat number of 30 and a minor compat number of 1: This will work. This just means that the FPGA has added features in a backward-compatible fashion, and UHD won't need them.
  • The X310 FPGA has a major compat number of 30 and a minor compat number of 0. UHD expects a major compat number of 30 and a minor compat number of 1: This will typically fail, but might work. Depending on how UHD is using the new features brought with minor compat number 1, it might not be able to continue. It's possible that the change is so minor that UHD can do without it and will conditionally use the new features, if available.

Compat numbers are typically represented as a tuple $MAJOR.$MINOR, e.g., 30.1.

B200-Series Compat Numbers

The B200-series USRPs have two compat number: One for the FPGA, and one for the FX3 firmware. If UHD fails to communicate with a B200 device because of compat number errors, it is typically sufficient to run uhd_images_downloader to download the images matching the UHD version. Since neither image is stored on the device persistently, it is not necessary to manually flash the images onto the device.

X300 and USRP2/N210 Series Compat Numbers

Like the B200 series, these devices have firmware and FPGA compat numbers. However, the firmware is executed on a softcore within the FPGA, and is thus baked into the FPGA image itself. If there are FPGA/firmware compat errors, the typical remedy is thus to run:

uhd_images_downloader # This will get the correct images
uhd_image_loader --args type=x300,addr= # This will flash the image

Note to change IP address (or resource) and type of the device accordingly.

The X300, as a generation-3 devices, also runs RFNoC blocks which have their own compat numbers (see RFNoC Components).

MPM Devices (N310, E320, X4x0)

See also The Module Peripheral Manager (MPM) Architecture.

All MPM devices have a three-way dependency:

  • UHD will communicate with MPM on the device, and they share a compat number
  • MPM itself will communicate with the FPGA, so MPM and the FPGA also share a compat number

Note that UHD does not directly communicate with the FPGA, unless it's with RFNoC blocks. There is thus no shared compat number between the FPGA and UHD, but RFNoC components will share their own compat numbers (see RFNoC Components).

A guaranteed way to match all compat numbers between an external host, the FPGA and MPM is to run (assuming an N300-series device, replace n3xx with a string that corresponds to your device, or leave it out to download all SD card images):

uhd_images_downloader -t sdimg -t n3xx # This will download a filesystem image

And then to install the new filesystem image onto the device (See the individual device manuals for details, or The Module Peripheral Manager (MPM) Architecture). Since the UHD session will load the filesystem, the compatibility between UHD and MPM is now given. The FPGA images and MPM are both stored on the same filesystem, so these are now also in sync.

Note: MPM has a get_mpm_compat_num() RPC call, which UHD uses to query its current compat number.

RFNoC Components

The most common mismatch is that between an RFNoC block on the FPGA, and its UHD block controller. There are two levels of compat numbers:

  • noc_shell has its own compat number, which is shared between all blocks and devices (i.e., for any given version of UHD, all RFNoC blocks, regardless on which device, will have the same noc_shell compat number).
  • Blocks itself may (but don't have to) have their own compat number. An example of this are the DDC/DUC blocks. Because of changes at the register level, software and FPGA for those blocks may no longer be compatible.

For users running default images, the solution to resolving a compat number error is to simply download a matching FPGA image and flash it onto the device, typically by running

uhd_image_loader --args type=$TYPE,addr=$ADDR

For users running their own custom FPGA images, the sequence is a bit more elaborate:

  1. Identify a commit on the FPGA repository that matches the version of UHD you are running. There are multiple ways to do this. If you're on a release tag, then the same release tag will exist on UHD and FPGA repositories. For untagged commits, the submodule pointer in UHD will point to a compatible version of the FPGA repository. For most moments in time, simply using HEAD of the same branch on the two repositories will also work, although this can't be guaranteed. If in doubt, check that the compat numbers in the source are identical.
  2. Rebase your modifications onto that commit of the FPGA repository, or, if your code is out-of-tree (which is the recommended workflow for RFNoC block developers), simply rebuild your blocks against said commit of the FPGA repository.

The newly built FPGA image will then work with your version of UHD.


Why is only one version of the compat number supported?

Theoretically, it could be possible that UHD detects the FPGA compat number, and then runs different code based on which version of the FPGA image it detects. However, this is typically not done, for the following reasons:

  • Consistency: UHD, MPM, RFNoC, and the FPGA image are typically considered all parts of the same source tree. Changes in compat numbers only happen when updates are installed. It thus makes sense to extend the update to all software components, instead of updating only parts of the system by itself (e.g., only update UHD, but not the FPGA).
  • Stability: In some cases, compat number changes are attached to bug fixes. By forcing an update of FPGA images, bug fixes are propagated more quickly. In some rare cases, compat numbers are changed only to force upgrades of FPGA images (i.e., compatibility itself was never affected), but this is a rare exception to the process.
  • Maintainability: Tracking multiple combinations of software and FPGA implementations increases the code base, and leads to more options for the introduction of bugs. Forcing the compat numbers to be identical reduces the number of code paths in the code, and improves code quality.

Why are there so many different compat numbers?

The software architecture of UHD and RFNoC are such that there is a lot of code that is shared between devices. For example, many RFNoC blocks can easily be ported between devices without any changes to the code. This means that a single compat number per device wouldn't be sufficient.

To keep things compartmentalized, and to avoid the meaning of compat numbers to bleed outside of their modules, there is one compat number for every pair of modules that do not run within the same process, for example:

  • Firmware and firmware control interface
  • RFNoC block and block controller
  • UHD and MPM
  • UHD and the X300 core register interface
  • MPM and the FPGA register space

...and so on. In most cases, updating the FPGA image is the solution to resolving compat number errors.