Monday, July 6, 2009

Setup a C/C++ Environment in Windows

Unix operating systems have been around for a long time, and one great feature they have had for years, was the ease of setting up a programming environment. However, Windows has pretty much caught up with the recent addition of Eclipse C/C++ IDE. All it takes now is the installation of 2 or 3 programs.

How to setup a C/C++ programming environment in Windows

First download and install the latest version of MinGW

I suggest taking the easy route and download the "Automated MinGW Installer" it is just a .exe that does everything for you. This link should bring you to the correct place, you just need to search in the long list of downloads for "Automated MinGW Installer" and get the latest version (i.e. MinGW-5.1.4.exe).

By installing this package you will now have the essential compiling commands that most Unix developers/programmers know and love (i.e. gcc and g++). MinGW will also provide their implementation of "make" called mingw32-make.exe. Also MinGW will provide you with essential library/header files and others that you probably have never heard of.

The Second and last step to setting up your environment is to download and install Eclipse C/C++ IDE and/or MSYS.

MSYS can be found in the same link above. Look for "MSYS Base System" and download the most recent version (there should be an exe that you can download). After specifying the install location and finishing the primary installation, the installer will bring up a cmd prompt window and will ask you some questions. It will want to know if you have MinGW installed and what path it was installed at (by default it should be in c:/MinGW, but just double check that is where the folder resides). The installer will update some path variables and will link the evironment to your MinGW install. After it has finished you will have a perfectly healthy MSYS install that works just like a basic unix environment.

Some notes about MSYS unix environment. You will notice that if you issue the command "pwd" after launch the program, it will output /home/, where is your username in windows. The root path "/" is really a folder in the MSYS install directory. For example if my user is "Administrator", pwd would output /home/Administrator which in the windows environment means C:\msys\1.0\home\Administrator. As a result you cannot access your windows filesystem by ordinary means. If you want to access code that is somewhere else on your windows partition you will need to place it in this folder.

Another note, all commands in MSYS will show up as .exe files however you can omit the .exe file extention in the command and MSYS will automatically translate it.

If you prefer a more graphic programming environment you can install Eclipse IDE. Just head over to:

And download an install the "Eclipse IDE for C/C++ Developers". There isn't really an installation to this program, just run the .jar in the folder and start your project. If everything was installed properly Eclipse should automatically select MinGW in your project options, giving your complete C/C++ programming environment.


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