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Company / developer Wind River Systems
OS family Real-time operating systems
Working state Current
Initial release 1987; 27 years ago (1987)
Latest release 6.9 / February 2011; 3 years ago (2011-02)
Marketing target Embedded systems
Supported platforms x86, x86-64, MIPS, PowerPC, SH-4, ARM, SPARC Version 8 (V8)
Kernel type Monolithic
License EULA
Official website www.windriver.com/products/vxworks

VxWorks is a real-time operating system developed as proprietary software by Wind River Systems of Alameda, California, USA. First released in 1987, VxWorks is designed for use in embedded systems.


VxWorks started as a set of enhancements to a simple real-time operating system called VRTX[1] sold by Ready Systems (later becoming a Mentor Graphics product in 1995).[2][3] At the time, VRTX lacked features such as a file system or an integrated development environment. Wind River created VxWorks to turn the VRTX kernel into a full embedded operating system and development environment. The VxWorks name is believed to be a pun on VRTX ("VRTX Works") according to founder David Wilner.

Initially, Wind River had an agreement to sell VRTX with VxWorks. However, in 1987, anticipating the termination of its reseller contract, Wind River developed its own kernel (written by an intern named John Fogelin) to replace VRTX within VxWorks.[4]

Intel acquired Wind River Systems on July 17, 2009.[5]


VxWorks is designed for use in embedded systems.

Some of the features of the current OS are:


VxWorks has been ported to a number of platforms and now runs on practically any modern CPU that is used in the embedded market. This includes the x86 family, MIPS, PowerPC (and BAE RAD), Freescale ColdFire, Intel i960, SPARC, Fujitsu FR-V, SH-4 and the closely related family of ARM, StrongARM and xScale CPUs.


As is common in embedded system development, cross-compiling is used with VxWorks. Development is done on a "host" system where an integrated development environment (IDE), including the editor, compiler toolchain, debugger, and emulator can be used. Software is then compiled to run on the "target" system. This allows the developer to work with powerful development tools while targeting more limited hardware.

The Tornado IDE was used for VxWorks 5.x[8] and was replaced by the Eclipse-based Workbench IDE for VxWorks 6.x.[9][10] Workbench is also the IDE for the Wind River Linux[11] and On-Chip Debugging[12] product lines.

Notable uses[edit]

The Thuraya SO-2510 satellite phone runs VxWorks
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter uses VxWorks
The Clementine (spacecraft) used VxWorks

Notable products which use VxWorks as the onboard operating system include:

Transport systems[edit]


Several spacecraft have used VxWorks as the onboard OS:

Clementine launched in 1994 running VxWorks 5.1 on a MIPS-based CPU responsible for the Star Tracker and image processing algorithms. The use of a commercial RTOS on board a spacecraft was considered experimental at the time.

Robots and programmable controllers[edit]

Networking and communication components[edit]

Printers, copiers and image processing[edit]

Other devices[edit]


In August 2010, security researcher HD Moore uncovered[24] a vulnerability in systems running VxWorks that affected numerous vendors.[25] CERT published advisories for VU#362332[26] and VU#840249[27] on August 2, 2010, both flaws in systems running the VxWorks operating system, where the debug tools were left installed, or the default password encryption was used. HD Moore has since published an exploit module for Metasploit, which enables security professionals to verify the security of their systems.[28]


  1. ^ "Embedded Systems Glossary: V". www.netrino.com. Netrino, LLC. Retrieved 20 September 2010. 
  2. ^ Ready/Microtec merger expected Business Exchange November 15, 1993
  3. ^ "SEC filing". Secinfo.com. January 19, 1996. Retrieved 2011-11-18. 
  4. ^ Lord of the Toasters, Wired (magazine) interview with Jerry Fiddler, September 1998
  5. ^ "Intel Successfully Completes Wind River Acquisition". 2009-07-17. Retrieved 2009-07-22. [dead link]
  6. ^ "Wind River Releases 64-Bit VxWorks RTOS". Windriver.com. Retrieved 2011-11-18. 
  7. ^ http://get.posixcertified.ieee.org/cert_prodlist.tpl
  8. ^ "Wind River VxWorks 5.x Page". Windriver.com. Retrieved 2011-11-18. 
  9. ^ "Wind River VxWorks 6.x Page". Windriver.com. Retrieved 2011-11-18. .
  10. ^ "Workbench Product Note" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-11-18. 
  11. ^ "Wind River Linux Main Page". Windriver.com. 2007-03-29. Retrieved 2011-11-18. 
  12. ^ "Wind River OCD Main Page". Windriver.com. Retrieved 2011-11-18. 
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
  15. ^ The Software Behind the Mars Phoenix Lander
  16. ^ a b "Wind River Powers Mars Exploration Rovers--Continues Legacy as Technology Provider for NASA's Space Exploration". Wind River Systems. 2003-06-06. Retrieved 2009-08-28. 
  17. ^ Mike Deliman's Windriver Employee Blog
  18. ^ "Wind River’s VxWorks Powers Mars Science Laboratory Rover, Curiosity". Virtual Strategy Magazine. 6 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-20. 
  19. ^ http://www.spacex.com/sites/spacex/files/pdf/DragonLabFactSheet.pdf
  20. ^ "ABB Robotics and vxworks". Abb.com. Retrieved 2011-11-18. 
  21. ^ http://digital.ni.com/public.nsf/allkb/35F1FD98520D6E0E8625783A005AF557
  22. ^ [2]
  23. ^ "Wind River Introduces Software Platform for Medical Devices Complete with Compliance Documentation". 
  24. ^ Shiny Old VxWorks Vulnerabilities
  25. ^ eWeek: VxWorks Vulnerabilities Impact Numerous Vendors
  26. ^ http://www.kb.cert.org/vuls/id/362332
  27. ^ http://www.kb.cert.org/vuls/id/840249
  28. ^ Metasploit wdbrpc_version module

External links[edit]