What Is Vulkan Run Time Libraries And Do You Need It?

Stumbled upon something called "Vulkan Run Time Libraries" and you're not sure what it is or if it is safe? Here's a guide that explains what it means.

With the world around us becoming increasingly digitized, it can be difficult to function without one of the most necessary modern tools: a secure and reliable personal computer.

Understandably, in today’s world, people take computer security very seriously. Finding an unknown file installed on your device can feel like seeing a stranger in your backyard.

Vulkan Run Time Libraries, also known as VulkanRT, is a cross-platform API that is often uninstalled by users who are unsure what it is or mistake it for malware.

Does this happen because Vulkan is usually installed without permission, or is it really harmful as some people think?

Find out in the guide below.

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What Is Vulkan Run Time Libraries?

As stated in its Wikipedia article, Vulkan is a low-overhead, cross-platform API, open standard for 3D graphics and computing. It is developed by The Khronos Group, an open, non-profit, member-driven consortium of multiple organizations.

Vulkan logo

Before diving into the details of what Vulkan does, it’s important to understand what an API is. If you are already well-informed on this subject, feel free to skip the section.

What Is An Application Programming Interface? (API)

We use APIs every day, although most of us aren’t aware of them. An API is what allows applications to communicate with each other. Each time we message someone on a social media platform or book a flight via our smartphone, an API makes that happen.

how APIs work
How API’s work.

Here’s a real-life example to better illustrate the concept.

You walk into a restaurant to order food. You are the hungry customer and the team of cooks is known for preparing delicious meals. However, you can’t communicate with the kitchen personnel directly, as you have no access to the area they work in.

Thankfully, the waitress acknowledges your request and comes to serve you. She’s the API. The API takes your request to the other system, server, or in this case the kitchen, and returns with a result, your meal.

However, if the waitress fails to convey your order properly, you will likely not receive the desired result. In this case, you might end up with the wrong meal.

This is why it’s crucial for APIs to improve continually as time goes by. An underperforming API can significantly reduce the quality of the final product.  

If you want to learn more about the history of the term API, this Wikipedia article is a great source of information.

Now, let’s get back to Vulcan Run Time Libraries, their history, and examples of their use.

What Is AMD Mantle And How Is It Related To Vulkan?

If you’ve heard about Vulkan, you have probably also heard of AMD’s Mantle API Technology. If not, here’s what you need to know.

Mantle is a technology released by one of the largest computer hardware manufacturers in the world, Advanced Micro Devices, also known as AMD. Mantle is also Vulkan’s predecessor.

AMD Mantle API
AMD Mantle API – Vulkan’s Predecessor.

The goal of this API was to grant developers improved insight and access to information about the way AMD’s software communicates with their graphics processors (GPUs).  

With this ability unlocked, developers could build games with better optimization and that perform better on systems where the CPU is a bottleneck. They could also balance the workload for multi-core processors, ultimately increasing the frame rate and delivering an optimal gaming experience to players.

Unfortunately, not many games utilized this technology, other than a few popular titles such as Battlefield 4. It was also unsupported by NVIDIA GPUs, so AMD eventually stopped all support for it.

Despite this being a sad end to something that many gamers loved, AMD’s innovations made the entire gaming industry better by sparking the idea for the creation of Vulkan.

Mantles influence over Vulkan
A Reddit user commenting on Mantle’s influence over Vulkan and the industry.

With all that being said, let’s take a look at the benefits of using Vulkan so you can decide whether or not to keep it installed on your PC.

Vulkan’s Functionality And Benefits Of Using It

Both Vulkan and Microsoft’s DirectX serve the same purpose. They reduce graphical driver overhead by simplifying protocol routes and reducing operation redundancies.

Most importantly, they both focus on reducing draw calls, a term used in the world of video game development to describe the request sent to the GPU to “draw” a certain object on the user’s screen.

Simply put, fewer draw calls means better performance in-game. If Vulkan reduces the number of draw calls, it is performing its role successfully.

So, by using a GPU that supports Vulkan and installing the appropriate drivers, your system will be able to reach new levels of performance, as stated in this official article from NVIDIA.

Vulkan performance improvements
A Steam user commenting on the Vulkan performance improvements.

If you use your PC primarily for gaming, and storage space is not currently an issue, we recommend keeping Vulkan Run Time Libraries installed on your PC. Vulkan and its associated files are not a security threat and your system will only benefit from having them installed.

I Didn’t Install Vulkan So Why Is It On My PC?

If you opened the list of installed programs on your system and found Vulkan, here are some of the ways it might have gotten there without your permission.

  • You recently updated your graphics card drivers (this could have happened automatically). 
  • You or someone else using your PC downloaded a game that utilizes Vulkan, and it was also installed as part of the installation.
  • You downloaded a client such as Steam or Epic games, which are both companies that endorse the development of Vulkan.

Despite many PC users disagreeing with these unpermitted installs, it’s somewhat justified in Vulkan’s case.

Explaining to each user what Vulkan is and why they might need it would be difficult. If someone failed to understand the concept behind it, they would probably decline the prompt, ultimately resulting in worse in-game performance or some games not running at all.

If despite knowing the benefits of Vulkan, you want to uninstall it, you can do this by opening your list of apps & features, selecting it in the list, and clicking uninstall. This works the same as removing any other installed program from your PC.

Conclusion

You now know more about Vulkan, its history, and how you can benefit from having it installed on your PC.

The reason some users think this software is malware is that it’s almost always included in packages that PC users routinely download, such as NVIDIA GPU drivers. As a result, it can surprise those who were unaware that it was included in the installation when they later find it in their system’s list of installed apps.

It’s good to be cautious and treat each unpermitted install as a potential privacy and security threat, but rest assured that Vulkan is in no way malware or a harmful file.

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Bojan Veselinovikj
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Bojan Veselinovikj

Bojan is a video-game developer and a tech enthusiast. Combining these two passions allow him to keep you informed on everything that's new in this fast-paced digital world.