Dolphin will run on Windows (>= XP), Linux and OS X (>= Lion, Snow Leopard is not supported anymore after Dolphin 3.5). Generally speaking, you will run games faster and with less issues on Windows over all others. Windows 7 x64 is recommended.
There are going to be a lot of processors that can fit into these categories. Listed here is just one popular CPU that some people may have for each category, other processors of similar performance can be replaced with the ones mentioned here.
Bad: The Intel Pentium 4 is not going to get the job done. While it technically will run games, they will never be fast enough to play at enjoyable speeds. This processor wouldn't be worth using at all.
Average: The AMD Athlon X2 6000+ is not going to be the CPU of choice to run Dolphin with, but it will work. You can expect a few games to be playable with this CPU, but the vast majority are not going to run at acceptable speeds.
Good: The AMD Phenom II x4 955 is not going to be the best processor to go with if you're looking to play the most games at playable speeds, but you're going to be able to play more games at faster speeds over the Athlon, so this CPU is a much better choice.
Excellent: The Intel i5-2500k is going to be a really good choice for Dolphin. You're still not going to be able to play all games at full speed, but you will have the best overall experience with this CPU over the others mentioned. This CPU or better is recommended.
Note: Game speed is dependent on the game, Dolphin revision, Dolphin settings and your hardware components. The CPU is the most important factor in deciding which hardware to use with Dolphin. Generally, the better your processor is, the better your overall performance will be.
Just like the CPU section, there are going to be a lot of video cards that can fit into these categories. Listed here is just one popular video card that some people may have for each category, other video cards of similar performance can be replaced with the ones mentioned here.
Bad: The Intel Integrated Graphics Chips are not a good choice for Dolphin. Most old Intel graphic chips simply will not work at all. Others will be slow, produce graphic errors or restrict the user from running games at high Internal Resolutions. Although the Intel HD2000/3000/4000 graphic chips will work at low resolutions, Intel graphics are generally not recommended.
Average: The ATI HD3650 is not a good choice if you're looking to run games with high graphic settings. You should expect to run most games at 1x-1.5x Internal Resolution.
Good: The Nvidia 8800GT is a good choice for 2.5x-3x Internal Resolution in most games. This video card will generally be fine.
Excellent: The AMD HD6850 is going to be a really good choice for Dolphin. This video card will allow you to run games as fast as your processor will allow while not losing any game speed at 4x Internal Resolution. This video card or better is recommended.
Note: Generally, the better your processor is, the better your overall performance will be. Having a good video card is important for maintaining good speed with high graphic settings.
2GB or more is recommended. RAM speed or the amount of RAM generally has no affect on emulation speed.
The latest stable version of Dolphin is the best choice to start with: works with a lot of games and well tested. Use it unless you find an issue in a game which is fixed by a more recent development version.
Each Dolphin version is available in 3 variants:
To check if your operating system is compatible with 64 bits applications, open the Start Menu, right click on Computer and select the Properties option. A window should appear, showing "64-bit operating system" as the System type if your Windows version can run Dolphin x64.
If you are using a development build, extract the files from the archive to a folder on your computer instead of running Dolphin directly from inside the archive.
If you are getting this error with a stable build, try to reinstall the application. Check that your antivirus software hasn't placed files in quarantine or deleted some of the files Dolphin needs.
You need to install the Microsoft Visual C++ 2010 Redistributable package from Microsoft.
You need to install the DirectX runtime from Microsoft.
This type of error usually only happens when trying to run a 64 bit Dolphin build, with 32 bit builds working perfectly fine. When people see one of the error messages about vcomp100.dll or xinput1_3.dll missing they often download 32 bit builds of these files from the internet and expect them to work fine with 64 bit applications.
If you're suffering from this issue, make sure to delete any manually downloaded DLL files which are stored in your system paths and in the path where the Dolphin binary is stored and reinstall them with the proper runtime installers instead. Refer to the two questions above for further information.
Install the SCP DS3 Driver Package to get Windows to recognize your controller as a bluetooth device. It can then be used in the Dolphin GCPad and Emulated Wiimote configuration.
Make sure that the emulated Gamecube port 2 is configured as a Standard Controller in the Gamecube tab of the main configuration window. If the pad still does not work, check that your game can actually use a second Gamecube controller.
There are two ways of emulating audio in Dolphin. DSP HLE is fast but has some accuracy issues causing glitched sounds, crackling and other audio problems. DSP LLE is slower and requires a powerful CPU but has near-perfect audio emulation.
Please note that DSP LLE requires you to dump some ROMs from your console. The Dolphin Wiki page for DSP LLE contains the information you need to dump the DSP ROMs.
The Dolphin development team is also working on a new version of DSP HLE with less accuracy issues. Versions starting from 3.5-78 fix a lot of Gamecube audio issues with DSP HLE. Versions starting with 3.5-1154 further improved the changes and applied them to Wii games. Most games have very good audio with DSP HLE from that point on.
This is a known issue happening only on Mac OSX computers with certain nVidia GPUs. It was corrected by the GLSL merger in 3.5-1025, so use a development version of 3.5-1025 or later to fix the problem.
The build instructions are available on the Dolphin Google Code wiki:
First of all, builds are compiled for every development version of Dolphin and are available on the download page. Some of the very unstable work in Dolphin is done in branches, which are separate from the mainline. This website also contains a list of the branches with development builds available.
All of the Git commits are also available on Google Code where you can comment on each change as well as vote it +1 or -1.
Most of the Dolphin developers read the "Development discussion" forum. Posting a thread there might be a good idea to get some feedback from developers but also from users.
Dolphin developers also communicate via IRC, which is better for instant discussion than a forum. Join us on
#dolphin-emu @ irc.freenode.net.
Even if your idea is very good, note that developers are doing their work on Dolphin on their free time and don't necessarily have the time to implement everything people suggest. If you can, implementing a first draft of your idea might be a good way to get developers attention.
CPUs do not work that way.
Every core on a CPU runs in parallel. Two tasks can run very well in parallel if they don't need to communicate often or to run at the exact same speed. For example, compressing files can be run on separate cores because compressing one file and compressing another file are two completely independent tasks, which do not need to communicate.
In Dolphin, the only demanding tasks that can run well in parallel are the CPU, the GPU and the DSP. Breaking up any of these tasks into smaller tasks just to run it on more cores is very likely to make the program slower. That's why Dolphin only runs on 3 cores and won't use all of your 4 or 6 cores CPU.
While it's true the Gamecube and Wii hardware is a lot slower than what you need to emulate the console using Dolphin, the hardware found in these consoles is also very different from what you can find in a gaming PC. For example:
Instead of an Intel or AMD x86 CPU, Gamecube and Wii use an IBM PowerPC CPU. Games are programmed for this CPU: when emulating, every basic instruction a game runs needs to be translated to something a PC can execute. Depending on the instruction, this can take from 2x to 100x clock cycles, which explains why you need more than a 486MHz CPU to emulate a Gamecube.
The RAM in these consoles is SRAM, smaller but faster than the SDRAM used in a PC. It is also shared between CPU and GPU, which makes operations like texture uploads (CPU memory to GPU memory) or framebuffer copies (GPU memory to CPU memory) a lot less demanding than they are on a PC.
The GPU is not using shaders: every graphics effect and every computation done by the game is executed directly by the hardware without an intermediate programming language. This does not match how a PC GPU works at all. Dolphin uses shaders on the PC GPU to translate what the GC GPU can do directly in hardware, causing it to run a lot slower.
This list is not exhaustive but should give you a good idea of what exactly makes emulation require a powerful computer.
Short answer: You don't. Buy games and dump them with a Wii.
Long answer: Downloading commercial games is illegal and thus strongly frowned upon by the Dolphin developers. To prevent legal issues, this includes gray areas like downloading games which you purchased earlier. You don't necessarily need to own a gaming console by yourself because you can buy a game disc and dump them with a friend's console. On the other hand, copying a friend's game dump is considered illegal again.
For dumping games with a Wii, you'll want to install the homebrew channel and run an application like CleanRip.
Dolphin supports playing games dumped in the following formats:
Note that WBFS and CISO are lossy compression formats: they remove some of the unused information stored on the discs to make files smaller. As such, we recommend you try dumping your games as GCM/ISO if you get issues using a WBFS dump.