DeSmuME Tutorial

By Alejandro Rodriguez. Last revised Oct 25, 2016.


About DeSmuME

This tutorial is to help you with DeSmuME for Windows. DeSmuME is the #1 emulator for the Nintendo DS! It has the usual bundle of features we expect from an emulator. It especially offers some good options for working with the DS's dual screens on a single computer monitor. Its game compatibility is not great, but adequate and continually improving.

*If you would like to download DeSmuME, I have it in my emulators page.

64-bit and 32-bit versions

When you go to download DeSmuME, the first thing you're going to see is two versions: 64-bit and 32-bit. So what is that and which version do you download? I won't drown you with technical jargon. In short: these are types of Windows systems. 64-bit is newer and faster, and 32-bit is older and slower. If you have 64-bit Windows, you need to download the 64-bit version of DeSmuME. And vice versa with 32-bit.

Not sure if you have 64-bit or 32-bit Windows? Here's how you can check:

Searching for '64-bit' to find the technical specs window
  1. On the bottom left where you see Search the web and Windows, do a search for “64-bit”.
  2. You'll see this come up: “See if you have a 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows”. Click it.
  3. You'll arrive here . Look for “System type”. If it says “64-bit operating system” then you're using 64-bit Windows. If it says “32-bit operating system” then you're using 32-bit Windows.

Using Windows XP? Here are directions for that .


DeSmuME is a standalone program so it does not have an install wizard. Installation is simple: just extract DeSmuME from its zip file. Not sure how to extract zip files? Here's a video tutorial showing you how: how to unzip files on Windows.

IMPORTANT! DeSmuME must be placed in a common folder on your computer. I recommend Documents, Downloads, or create a folder on your desktop. If you place DeSmuME somewhere else on your main C drive, then you may be restricting it to read-only access. Doing so prevents DeSmuME from saving anything.

To open DeSmuME, double-click on DeSmuME's EXE or “x32” for the 32-bit version.

Setting up the keyboard or gamepad

Click on Config > Control Config, as shown here . You'll end up here:

DeSmuME's Controller Configuration

These are the keyboard keys currently set to the different buttons of the virtual Nintendo DS gamepad. To reconfigure a button to another keyboard key or a gamepad button, just click on it (notice the green highlight) and press the new keyboard key or gamepad button. There's no auto-configuration so if you want to reconfigure all buttons you need to do it one at a time.

Loading a game

DeSmuME's folder has a folder called “Roms.” I recommend tossing your games in this folder, but you don't have to. Keep in mind that DeSmuME supports loading ROMs in all the popular compression formats: ZIP, RAR, 7Z, GZ. In particular, 7Z is the most popular format ROM sites like to use for distributing Nintendo DS ROMs. So you don't need to extract the ROM prior to using it with DeSmuME.

To load a game:

Loading a game in DeSmuME
  1. Click on File > Open ROM, or press Ctrl+O.
  2. The “Open” window will pop up with the “Roms” folder in view. From this window click on the game you want to play, then click Open - as shown here .
  3. The game will begin playing immediately.

LCD layouts

Given the nature of the Nintendo DS having two screens, that can make Nintendo DS emulation a bit awkward. Fortunately, DeSmuME gives you options. You can change the arrangement of the second screen. You can even hide it so you can blow up the main screen. View examples below.

The different LCD layouts

You can change the LCD layout by going to View > LCDs layout, as shown below:

Rearranging the LCD layout

Given that all modern monitors are widescreen, your best bet would be to change the layout to Horizontal.

Full screen

Press Alt+Enter to enter full screen. Press Alt+Enter again to go back to window mode. Note that you can't use the top menu in full screen mode; you'd need to return to window mode to access it.

Magnification filter (screen filters)

Magnification filters enhance graphics to make them look better than the real thing! You can access this feature by clicking on View > Magnification Filter, then select a filter - as shown here .

3D enhancement

The Nintendo DS is great with 2D games. But when it comes to 3D games, the graphics look nasty. The author of DeSmuME has yet to come up with a solution for this. Other people have taken it upon themselves to do it for them.

Enter “DeSmuME X432R.” This is a modified version of DeSmuME that renders 3D graphics in a higher resolution. See below for a screen shot comparison.

Comparison between regular DeSmuME and X432R

Neat, huh? You can download this special version of DeSmuME from my emulators page. However, there is a catch. DeSmuME X432R is not kept up-to-date. Currently, it's based on a build of DeSmuME from April 2015. DeSmuME has always been an excellent emulator. I don't think you would be having any big problems using a version that old.

Here's how to enable high-resolution 3D in DeSmuME X432R:

  1. First, enlarge the screen. Go to View > Window Size and select either 2x, 3x, or 4x - as shown below.
    Enlarging the screen
  2. Next, go to Config > High-Resolution 3D Renderer and select either X2, X3, or X4 - as shown below. For example, if you selected a 3x Window Size then you should select the X3 renderer.
    Selecting a high-resolution 3D renderer
  3. When you enable these high-res 3D graphics you may experience lag. This is a resource demanding feature that requires a fast computer. If, for example, you're experiencing lag with X3, try using X2 instead.

Save states

Save states is a feature that saves the exact spot you are in any game. You can use this feature manually by going into the File menu or by quick keyboard shortcuts.

Using the save state feature via the File menu

DeSmuME offers two ways to use save states. You have quick saves and save state files.

Quick saves

If you want instant gratification, quick saves are the instant saving you want.

  • Capturing a quick save: To capture a quick save go to File > Save State and choose a slot. DeSmuME lets you save up to 10 different saves (10 different slots). The keyboard shortcut for saving a quick save in slot 1 is Shift+F1.
  • Loading a quick save: To load a quick save that you previously saved, go to File > Load State and choose the slot of the save you want to load (if you remember which one it is). The keyboard shortcut for loading a quick save from slot 1 is F1.

Save state files

These saves require an extra step but allow you to save a state as a file with a custom name.

  • Capturing a save state: To capture a save state go to File > Save State As. Type in a name for the save then click Save or press the Enter key.
  • Loading a save state: To load a save state that you previously saved, go to File > Load State From. Select the save you want to load. Note that DeSmuME can only load DeSmuME save states; not save states from other emulators. Also, it can only load a save state from a specific ROM. For example, if you have the North American version of Final Fantasy IV and you try to load a save state from the UK version, it won't work.

Q: I get save state errors!

First, let's go through the checklist:

  • Is this save state from another emulator other than DeSmuME? If yes, that's why it's not working. DeSmuME only accepts DeSmuME save states.
  • Are you trying to load a save state from a different game or different region of a game? If yes, that's why it's not working. If you captured a save state from North American Final Fantasy IV, it will only work with North American Final Fantasy IV.

Are you good on the above bullet points? The only fix for save state errors is to make sure you're using the latest version of DeSmuME. Older versions of DeSmuME were prone to give errors with save states. DeSmuME is normally good at loading save states from older versions of DeSmuME. The newest DeSmuME may reject save states from really old versions of DeSmuME.

Fast forward

Fast forward is the feature that speeds up the game. To access it, press the Tab key. Hold it down and let go until you want the fast forwarding to end.

If you want a permanent way to enable fast forward, you can do so by pressing the “+” key several times. This will increase the frame rate. Pressing “-” will lower the frame rate back to normal speed.

Capturing screen shots

While a game is open, just press Ctrl+F12 to capture a screen shot. If you want to give the screen shot a custom filename, press F12 instead. You can also access these function via the File menu .

DeSmuME will save the screen shot as a PNG and toss it in the “Screenshots” folder. Note that it will save the screen shot in its original 1x1 size and use the vertical LCD layout.

*In need of a graphics editor to edit screen shots? Here are The Best Free Photo Editors.

Recording AVI movies

Want to upload your own Nintendo DS gameplay videos to YouTube? Well, DeSmuME will let you capture them! Here's how you do it:

  1. Play a game up to the point you want to start recording.
  2. Go to File > Record AVI.
  3. DeSmuME will prompt you with the Save As window . Where I have the red outline, enter the name you would like for your movie clip, then click Save.
  4. DeSmuME will prompt you with the Video Compression window . Leave it as “Full Frames (Uncompressed)” and click OK.
  5. The recording begins. DeSmuME will be running a bit sluggish. Don't worry! That doesn't mean your movie will come out the same way. When you're ready to stop the recording, go to File > Stop AVI.
  6. That's it! :) When you play your movie, you'll see that DeSmuME rendered it in its 1x1 size and with the vertical LCD layout.

Converting AVI movies

YouTube won't have a problem playing your video after you upload it. But, yet if you want to edit your AVI recording in a video editor, it might be rejected and not work. In that case, just convert your AVI recording to a more compatible format such as MP4. A great, free video converter is Miro Video Converter. With Miro, all you need to do is drag the AVI over to it, select Format > Video > MP4, and click Convert.

Finding ROMs

In my links page, I have some good links to sites where you can download ROMs. If you want to try to find more sites than what's in my collection of links, just Google around. For example, if you want to download New Super Mario Bros just Google “download new super mario bros nds”.

Q: Can I transfer my saves to another emulator?

DeSmuME lets you save your game in two ways:

  1. State States: DeSmuME's save states are exclusive to DeSmuME so they cannot be transferred to other Nintendo DS emulators.
  2. Saved RAM: This is the internal save in games. They have a DSV file extension. View this for a clearer picture . DSV files can be transferred to other Nintendo DS emulators that also use the DSV format.

Q: DeSmuME isn't saving anything!

If you're using DeSmuME for the first time and you're finding that you have all these problems:

  1. Save states aren't working. You save a state, then when you try to reload it nothing happens.
  2. When you save your game at a save point and close/re-open DeSmuME, you find that the save is lost.
  3. Emulator configurations that you changed such as adding a magnification filter aren't saved. When you close/re-open DeSmuME, you have to make those configuration changes again.

Then your problem is that you currently have DeSmuME in a read-only location on your computer. You must move DeSmuME to a more common location such as Documents, Downloads, or a folder on your desktop.