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Building VTK on Windows using Visual Studio (from a zip/tar file)

Note: VTK uses the standard approach for building CMake based projects on Windows. If you are familiar with building projects on Windows using CMake then you can use your normal process. For information on other options such as msys, nmake, etc see the documentation associated with CMake.

Step 1 - Download VTK

Download VTK release you want from: [1] and unpack the archive (zip or tar.gz (Do NOT download the exe - this is not the VTK library.) ) into


You will probably want the latest one (highest version number) unless you have a specific reason to use an older one.

Step 2 - Download CMake

Download CMake. Choose the windows installer (cmake-x.y.z-win32.exe) and install it. Letting the cmake installer add itself to your path will make it easier but is not required.

Step 3 - Create a build folder

Create a folder


This is where we will store the compiled binaries

Note that Windows does not support path lengths longer than 260 characters so keeping this relatively short is a good idea.

Step 4 - Run CMake

Start CMake, provide the source codes and binaries paths to CMake. Then press the Configure button to let CMake read the CMakeLists.txt from the source path and configure the variables. In your case you should have:

Where is the source code: C:\MyProjects\VTK-src
Where to build the binaries: C:\MyProjects\VTK-bin

CMake may prompt you for what generator to use. Select the version of Visual Studio that matches what you have installed on your machine. Once CMake finishes Configuring you will see a number of options that can be turned on or off. Adjust as desired, configure and then generate.

Step 5 - Open the Visual Studio project

Start up visual studio and then open the VTK.sln in C:\MyProjects\VTK-bin and build it.

Step 6 - Install the project

Installation, the VTK dll will be in


therefore by default the system cannot find them. You have the choice in either copying the dll to


or change the environment variable PATH to include the path:


Be very careful if you have multiple VTK installed on your system that you are using the right one. It is strongly suggested that only one version of the VTK dll be on one system.

Step 7 - Manual building

When building your project if you don't use CMake, make sure that Additional Include Directories and Additional Library Directories (from within the Visual Studio interface) are pointing to the proper path of VTK-src

Installing VTK


  • It is assumed that you have already built VTK. If not refer to previous section on how to build VTK.


  1. Start CMake (CMakeSetup.exe).
  2. Configure VTK (select the correct binary directory in "Where to build the binaries").
  3. Select the proper path for "CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX". It should be something like : "C:/MY INSTALLATION/VTK"
  4. Click Configure
  5. Click "OK"
  6. Open Visual Studio, select the VTK.sln project from the binary directoy.
  7. Make sure that ALL_BUILD is the selected target. Build it. It should be a noop.
  8. Once this is done, select the "INSTALL" target. And build this target (eg. Right click on it, then Build this taget only). This will copy and the the correct permission for all the files needed to use VTK in the directory you have specified.

Visual Studio Solution Explorer