Instructions for Windows and Mac users v5

The minimum computer specification for installing the DataSHIELD training environment is:

  • Ideally 12GB+ of RAM. Each VM is allocated 4GB RAM, and some needs to be left over for other applications.
  • Reasonably powerful processor (for example: Intel i5 or i7).
  • 4GB space on the hard disk.
  • Administrator rights on the computer. If you do not have administrator rights to install software on your computer contact your IT support to get the following installed on your machine.

Download and install VirtualBox

  • Download VirtualBox from here
  • Double click on the downloaded executable file and click Next and Yes to install the default settings.

Download and install the training Opal servers

Download the Opal servers (synthetic data are included)

These Opal servers are 1-2 Gb in size and may take some time to download.

  • Right click and open each of the Opal training servers in a new window.

  • Select the download button and click download anyway .

You may see a network error warning, this is because the file is too big to preview in Google Drive. To continue, press the download button.

Import the training Opal servers into VirtualBox

  • To install each training Opal servers select File from the top menu and then Import Appliance... , browse to each training Opal server file and install.
  • When you are finished, the VirtualBox main interface should show the two Opal servers (Note: The version 'v2' may be different).

Configure the network

Importing the Opal servers should create the correct settings, however please check your settings match those below.

Setting up the VirtualBox network adapter

  • On the VirtualBox top menu go to the tab File and select Preferences... , this opens up a VirtualBox settings window.
  • Inside that window and under the tab Host-only Networks click on Network and then click on the screw driver icon on the right which says Edit host-only network (Space) when you hover on it.

  • Under the Adapter tab set:
    IPv4 address:
    IPv4 Network Mask:

  • Under DHCP Server tab make sure that Enable server is unchecked. Select OK to save the settings.

Starting the Opal Servers

Snapshot the Opal Servers 

Why take snapshots?

Using the current version of Virtual Box and the current version of Opal, we have found that on some platforms if you close down and power off the VM server in the usual way (by right clicking on the server and following the instructions, or by using the Machine menu) Opal halts incorrectly and prevents the VM from booting up correctly the next time. It is essential to take a snapshot of the pristine server when it is first imported (before you first start it up). Then you can always use that snapshot to start the VM correctly (with Opal working).

  • Before starting the Opal servers it is very useful to take a snapshot of each Opal server. This enables you to roll-back the Opal servers to a pristine state, without needing to delete them and repeat the process above to re-import them. To take a snapshot:
  • first open VirtualBox and click on a server. 
  • Click the button in the top right that says Snapshots

  • Take a snapshot of the server by clicking the leftmost camera icon:

  • Repeat for each Opal server.

You can customise the names of snapshots and take as many as you like to save different states of the Opal server. For example, you could take Snapshot 1 straight after importing the Opal server, and then later Snapshot 2 after uploading some of your own simulated data.

Start the Opal Servers

To start an Opal server just open VirtualBox click on a server and click on the green arrow that says Start (or just double click on the Opal server name).

Depending on how powerful your computer is, the Opal servers may take a few minutes to boot and for Opal to start.

  • If you are presented with more than one Operating System in the black 'Oracle VM VirtualBox' window select the first option by pressing enter on your keyboard.

The Opal web interface

  • Check whether Opal has been started by going to the Opal web interface by opening a web browser and typing the ip address of the VM, followed by the port number.

For example: to access the web interface for dstesting-100 and dstesting-101, go to: 

Because these VMs are internal to your computer, there is no need for encryption so port :8080 is safe, in addition you should be able to login to the local servers even if you have no internet access.

Trouble logging into Opal web interface

Try using port 8443 > https:/  and  https:/ .You will get a warning when connecting to 8443 because the SSL certificate is self-signed. 

  • Opal is running and ready if the opal login screens is available. You do not need to login; just check that a login webpage is available. 

If at this point your Opal server(s) are not working, right click on an Opal server name and select Settings . Select System and enable I/O APIC and disable Hardware Clock in UTC time . Restart the Opal servers

  •  Should you require logging into the Opal web interface e.g. to upload your own data etc:
Opal web interface login details
username: administrator
password: datashield_test&

Install DataSHIELD client packages

Install R and Rstudio

  • Download and install Rstudio Desktop Open Source edition.

Install the DataSHIELD client package (in R or R Studio)

  • Install DataSHIELD dependencies
install.packages('RCurl', dependencies = TRUE)
install.packages('rjson', dependencies = TRUE)
install.packages('fields', dependencies = TRUE)
  • Install the  opal  and  datashieldclient  R packages by typing into R:
install.packages('opal', repos='', type='source')
install.packages('dsBaseClient', repos='', type='source')

If you get the message ERROR: dependencies ... are not available for package 'xxxxxxxxxxxxxx' you will need to install the packages (opal ,  dsBaseClient) one at a time e.g.

install.packages('opal', repos='', type='source')
install.packages('dsBaseClient', repos='', type='source')

DataSHIELD client manuals

Update the DataSHIELD server side packages

Shutting down the Opal Servers

If no changes to Opal servers (e.g. for general users)

When you have finished your analysis, to shutdown the Opal server:

  • click the cross at the top right of the window. This will give you a list of options for how to shutdown the machine:

  •  select  Power off the machine and check the box marked  Restore current snapshot .

This will revert the Opal server to the state it was in when the snapshot was taken.

Any changes you have made since this point, such as uploading data or updating server-side packages will be lost. 
If you wish to preserve changes made to the Opal training server follow Instructions if changes are made to Opal servers below.

If changes are made to Opal servers (e.g. for developers) 

To shutdown the Opal server without losing any changes you have made to uploaded data or server-side DataSHIELD packages:

  • from the Opal training server command line log into the Opal using:
Username: user
password: password
  • type the shutdown signal into the command line:
Opal shut down
sudo poweroff
  • Once the Opal training server has shutdown take a snapshot in order to preserve the changes made to the VM
  • Repeat for each Opal server

Further instructions are available for the advanced uses of the DataSHIELD training environment:

You are now fully set up. To start using the DataSHIELD training environment sit our Tutorial for DataSHIELD users. The tutorial teaches you the basics of DataSHIELD including how to:

  • login
  • run commands to:
    • generate descriptive statistics
    • subset tables and vectors
    • fit some regression models

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