7-Step Guide for Small Language Models on Local CPUs

Sakshi Khanna 05 Dec, 2023 • 3 min read


In natural language processing, language models have undergone a transformative journey. While attention often gravitates towards colossal models like GPT-3, the practicality and accessibility of small language models should not be underestimated. This article is a comprehensive guide to understanding the significance of small language models and provides a detailed walkthrough on how to run them on a local CPU.

Small Language Models
Source: Scribble Data

Understanding Language Models

Definition of a Language Model

At its essence, a language model is a system designed to comprehend and generate human-like language. In the expansive field of data science, these models play a pivotal role in tasks such as chatbots, content generation, sentiment analysis, and question-answering.

Different Types of Language Models

Small language models, despite their diminutive size, offer distinct advantages. They are efficient, swift in computation, customizable for domain-specific tasks, and uphold data privacy by operating sans external servers.

Use Cases of Language Models in Data Science

The versatility manifests in various data science applications. Their application spans real-time tasks with high daily traffic and caters to the intricacies of domain-specific requirements.

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Steps to Running a Small Language Model on a Local CPU

Step 1: Setting up the Environment

The foundation of successfully running a language model on a local CPU lies in establishing the right environment. This involves the installation of necessary libraries and dependencies. Python-based libraries like TensorFlow and PyTorch are popular, providing pre-built tools for machine learning and deep learning.

Tools and Software Required

  • Python
  • TensorFlow
  • PyTorch

Let’s use Python’s virtual env for this purpose:

pip install virtualenv

virtualenv myenv

source myenv/bin/activate  # For Unix/Linux

.\myenv\Scripts\activate  # For Windows

Step 2: Choosing the Right Language Model

Choosing an appropriate model involves considering computational power, speed, and customization factors. Smaller models like DistilBERT or GPT-2 are more suitable for a local CPU.


pip install transformers

from transformers import DistilBertTokenizer, DistilBertModel

tokenizer = DistilBertTokenizer.from_pretrained('distilbert-base-uncased')

model = DistilBertModel.from_pretrained('distilbert-base-uncased')

Step 3: Downloading the Language Model

Pre-trained models can be sourced from platforms like Hugging Face. This step emphasizes the importance of maintaining data privacy and integrity during downloading.

Sources to Download:[Hugging Face](https://huggingface.co/models)

Step 4: Loading the Language Model

Utilizing libraries like ctransformers, load the pre-trained model into the environment. Attention to detail during the loading process helps in mitigating common issues.

Step 5: Preprocessing the Data

Data preprocessing is a critical step in enhancing model performance. You need to understand its importance and use the appropriate techniques tailored to the specific task.

Step 6: Running the Language Model

Execute by following a set of defined steps. During this phase, it is crucial to troubleshoot and address common issues that may arise.

Step 7: Evaluating the Model’s Performance

Evaluate the performance to ensure it aligns with the desired standards. Techniques such as fine-tuning can be employed to achieve high-performance outcomes.


In conclusion, this article has presented a comprehensive guide on the intricacies of running small language models on a local CPU. This cost-effective approach unlocks the door to a myriad of language processing applications. However, it is essential to address potential challenges by regularly saving checkpoints during training, optimizing code and data pipelines for efficient memory usage, and considering scaling options for future projects.

Potential Challenges and Solutions

  1. Regularly save checkpoints during training.
  2. Optimize code and data pipelines for efficient memory usage.
  3. Consider GPU acceleration or cloud-based resources for scaling.

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Sakshi Khanna 05 Dec 2023

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