This page contains special developmental early "alpha" test builds of NAMD 3.0 intended to provide very early testing access to the NAMD user and developer communities.

The new NAMD 3.0 single-node GPU acceleration feature
provides up to 2x the performance of prior versions
for appropriate MD simulations on modern GPUs.

An exciting NAMD 3.0 feature being developed is a single-node, single-GPU, GPU-resident computation mode that can speed up simulations up to two times for modern GPU architectures (Volta, Turing, upcoming).

This new NAMD simulation mode maximizes performance of small- to moderate-sized molecular dynamics simulations suitable for the computational capabilities of a single GPU-accelerated compute node, by virtue of new GPU-specific streamlined code paths that offload the integrator and rigid bond constraints to the GPU, while bypassing and thereby eliminating CPU activities and associated overheads that would otherwise slow down these simulations. With current developmental test builds of NAMD 3.0 alpha, the new code paths can provide a 2x performance gain compared to previous versions of NAMD running the same simulation on the same hardware.

What MD Simulations Are Well-Suited to NAMD 3.0 Alpha Versions?

This scheme is intended for small to medium systems (10 thousand to 1 million atoms). For larger simulations, you should stick to the regular integration scheme, e.g., as used in NAMD 2.x.

This scheme is intended for modern GPUs, and it might slow your simulation down if you are not running on a Volta or Turing GPU! If your GPU is older, we recommend that you stick to NAMD 2.x.

At present, this is a SINGLE-GPU offloading scheme. Multi-GPU acceleration of a single-replicate is still part of ongoing work.

The single-node version of NAMD 3.0 has almost everything offloaded to the GPU, so large CPU core counts are NOT necessary to get good performance. We recommend running NAMD with a low +p count, maybe 2-4 depending on system size, especially if the user plans on running multiple replica simulations within a node.

NAMD contains a lot of code! We currently don't have corresponding GPU code for everything that the original CPU is capable of handling. The consequence is that some features are still not supported, and others are supported but don't gain much performance (yet). Most of the supported features are related to equilibrium simulations, but some biasing schemes are upcoming.

The essential feature support includes:

  • Constant energy
  • Constant temperature with Langevin damping
  • Constant temperature with stochastic velocity rescaling
  • Constant pressure with Langevin piston
  • Particle-mesh Ewald (PME) for long-range electrostatics
  • Rigid bond constraints
  • Multiple time stepping

The advanced feature support includes:

  • Multi-copy simulation (e.g. replica-exchange)
  • External electric field

NAMD 3.0 Simulation Parameter Changes:

Adding the following keyword to your NAMD configuration file enables the single-node GPU-resident integration scheme required for high performance:

  • CUDASOAintegrate on

To attain good performance, it is very important to set the margin performance tuning parameters. (defaulting in NAMD 2.x to 0). If margin is left UNDEFINED in the simulation configuration file with CUDASOAintegrate enabled, NAMD will automatically set it as follows:

  • margin 4

Beginning with NAMD 3.0 alpha 4, it is no longer necessary to set stepsPerCycle or pairlistsPerCycle, as NAMD 3.0 alpha4 and later versions automatically adjust these values on-the-fly at runtime. (defaulting in NAMD 2.x to 20, 2, respectively). In addition, frequent output will limit performance. Most importantly, outputEnergies (defaulting in NAMD 2.x to 1) should be set much higher, e.g., 400.

Notes on minimization with NAMD 3.0 :

Due to the way minimization algorithms are implemented in NAMD (primarily CPU-based) and the way that NAMD performas spatial decomposition of the molecular system into patches, minimization and dynamics should be performed in two separate NAMD runs. This ensures that NAMD will recompute the patch decomposition for dynamics optimally, yielding the best overall performance for the production part of the simulation. Beyond this the CUDASOAintegrate parameter must be set to off, to allow the CPU minimization code path to be used correctly, as shown below:

  • CUDASOAintegrate off

This code is still evolving and test builds will be updated frequently. Stay tuned!

NAMD 3.0 Alpha Versions For Download:

For more information about NAMD and support inquiries:

For general NAMD information, see the main NAMD home page

For your convenience, NAMD has been ported to and will be installed on the machines at the NSF-sponsored national supercomputing centers. If you are planning substantial simulation work of an academic nature you should apply for these resources. Benchmarks for your proposal are available at

The Theoretical and Computational Biophysics Group encourages NAMD users to be closely involved in the development process through reporting bugs, contributing fixes, periodical surveys and via other means. Questions or comments may be directed to

We are eager to hear from you, and thank you for using our software!