Electronics - Quartus II - Installing ModelSim-Altera Starter Edition

Simulation in HDL system is essential.

One calls that EDA for Electronic Design Automation.

It's like a debugger for a software program.

In this tutorial, we're going to see how to install ModelSim-Altera Starter Edition 10.1d simulation tool.

The Quartus II version used in this tutorial is the 13.0.1 Web Edition.

Difference between ModelSim and ModelSim-Altera

To be honest is not so easy to understand what are differences between ModelSim simulation tools.

It's necessary to understand that ModelSim is different from ModelSim-Altera.


ModelSim is a Mentor Graphics' product, itself split into two editions:

  • ModelSim Personal Edition (PE);
  • ModelSim Special Edition (SE).

For more information, you could check that on the official Mentor Graphics's website: http://www.mentor.com/

The ModelSim Special Edition is sometimes changed by ModelSim Student Edition.


The ModelSim-Altera simulation tool has less performance than the Mentor Graphics' one. It's modified by Altera and comes also with two editions:

  • ModelSim-Altera Starter Edition (MSSE);
  • ModelSim-Altera Edition (MSAE).

The two differences between ModelSim-Altera Starter Edition and ModelSim-Altera Edition are that simulation performance are best with MSAE and with the MSSE you cannot compile more than 10,000 lines of code.

There's of course another difference: MSSE is free, MSAE is paid.

If you're a beginner, don't worry you won't see any difference between both.

That's why we're using the ModelSim-Altera Starter Edition simulation tool in this tutorial.


Installation isn't difficult.

If you haven't already it, you just would have to download it and click Next, Next, and so on: http://www.altera.com/products/software/quartus-ii/modelsim/qts-modelsim-index.html

After installing it, there are two things important to set before starting using ModelSim-Altera Starter Edition.

Selecting the right ModelSim tool

From your Quartus software: Assignments > Settings... > EDA Tool Settings.

In the tab on the right, there is a table > in the EDA tools table, select at crossroads of Tool Type Simulation row and the Tool Name column > ModelSim-Altera from the dropbox.

Then choose from the Format(s) column >VHDL, Verilog or SystemVerilog, depending on your Hardware Description Language.

Finish by clicking OK.

Setting path

To avoid this error:

Cannot launch the ModelSim-Altera software because you did not specify the path to the executables of the ModelSim-Altera software.

From your Quartus software: Tools > Options... > General > EDA Tool Options.

On the right, there is a tab with location of executable for few software.

Be careful, there are two different simulation tool, ModelSim and ModelSim-Altera.

Choose the second and browse until the modelsim.exe executable that there is where you have installed it, for example, on Windows OS, it could be:

  • C:\soft\fpga\altera\quartus\13.0sp1\modelsim_ase\win32aloem

With Linux it's the same, except the final directory name:

  • /soft/fpga/altera/quartus/13.0sp1/modelsim_ase/linuxaloem

Then click OK.

Now your ModelSim-Altera Starter Edition simulation tool is ready to be used.


The most difficult was to understand what was each version.

The rest was quite easy.

Well done, you've made it. laugh



Thank You so much!


hi everyone,
I tried typing what said up there but did not work, however i figured it out. This is what i did:
1. at the very top of my Quartus II window there is an address that reads: C:/altera/14.1/ (the name of my file.)
2.following the instructions above I got to the tools>>options>>EDA tool options and on the "modelsim-altera" slot I wrote the address>>
C:/altera/14.1/modelsim_ase/win32aloem .
(notice the forward slash)
3. run it again.


thank you . i search a long time why my rtl simulation doesn't work !!!


Thank you for sharing! this was so useful :)


Nice info... thank you very much!!


Everything is working, Thanks for the info - I just wanted to make a comment about Compilation. We need to compile again after browsing win32aloem and clicking Ok. I forgot it for the first time & it should be quite obvious.


Everything is working, Thanks!

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