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 everything around us becoming digitalized, it’s difficult to function without the most needed modern tool – a secure and reliable personal computer.

Needless to say, in today’s world, people take computer security quite seriously, and seeing “a foreign” file installed on your device is like seeing a stranger in your backyard.

Vulkan Run Time Libraries, or also known as VulkanRT, is a cross-platform API that often gets uninstalled by users who aren’t sure what it is or misinterpret it as potential malware.

Is this because Vulkan is usually installed without permission, or is it really harmful as some think? Find out in the guide below.

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What Is Vulkan Run Time Libraries?

As stated in the official 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 getting into the details about 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’s An Application Programming Interface? (API)

We use APIs every day, even though most of us aren’t aware of that. 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 understand the concept.

You walk into a restaurant to order food. You are the hungry customer and the team of cooks is who prepares the delicious meals. But, you can’t communicate with the kitchen personnel on your own since they are far away and you have no access to the area they work in.

Luckily, 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 our case the kitchen, and comes back with a result, in our case your meal.

However, if the waitress is slow-moving and easily forgets the orders, the final result the client gets will be of poor quality. In our case, a cold dish or a wrong meal.

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

If you want to learn 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, its history, and use cases.

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

If you’ve heard about Vulkan, chances are you’ve heard about AMD’s Mantle API Technology as well. 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, or 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 slightly better insight and access to information about the way AMD’s software communicates with their graphics processors (GPUs).  

With this offer on the table, developers could build games that are really well optimized and perform better on systems where the CPU is a bottleneck, as well as balance the workload for multi-core processors, ultimately increasing the frame rate and delivering optimal gaming experience to the users.

Unfortunately, there weren’t many games utilizing this technology besides a few popular titles such as Battlefield 4, and it wasn’t supported by NVIDIA GPUs, so eventually, AMD stopped all support for it.

But, despite this being a sad end to something the community loved, AMD’s actions 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 to keep it installed on your PC or not.

Vulkan’s Functionality And Benefits Of Using It

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

Most importantly, 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 more performance in-game, and if Vulkan reduces the number of draw calls, it means it’s doing its job successfully.

So, by using a GPU that supports Vulkan and installing the right drivers for it, 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 mostly for gaming, and storage space is not an issue at the moment, we suggest keeping Vulkan Run Time Libraries installed on your PC. Vulkan and the files associated with it are not a security threat and your system can only benefit by 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 being a part of it, here are some of the ways it could’ve gotten there “without your permission”.

  • You recently updated your graphics card drivers (it could’ve happened automatically). 
  • You or someone else using your PC downloaded a game that utilizes Vulkan, and as a part of the installation it ended up on your system as well.
  • You downloaded a client such as Steam or Epic games, which are both companies that stand behind the development of Vulkan.

Despite most PC users heavily disagreeing with such “sneaky” unpermitted installs, it’s somewhat justified when Vulkan is in question.

This is because explaining to each user what Vulkan is and why they might need it can be quite tricky. And, if someone fails to understand the concept behind it, they will decline the prompt, ultimately leading to worse in-game performance or some games not running at all.

If you, despite knowing the benefits of Vulkan, wish to uninstall it, you can do that by opening your list of apps & features, selecting it from the list, and clicking uninstall. It’s the same as removing any other installed program on your PC.

Conclusion

Now you know more about Vulkan, its history, and how you can benefit by having it installed on your PC.

The reason some think this software is malware is that it’s almost always included in packages that the “average PC user” often downloads, such as NVIDIA GPU drivers. So, it can surprise those who were unaware of what was included in the installation when they see it on their system’s list of installed apps.

It’s a healthy mindset to believe each unpermitted install is both a privacy and security threat, but rest assured that Vulkan is by no means 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.