Video drivers for a 2008 R2 VM

This week I was installing a 2008 R2 VM again on ESX4.x.  I noticed that the Video driver was the windows based driver, and not a VMware SVGA II driver like I am used to seeing.

Microsoft Drivers
VMware SVGA II Driver (XPDM)






What I did was manually install the driver from c:\program files\common files\vmware\drivers\video\, and then after the reboot, it would show like the picture on the right, with the VMware SVGA II driver.  After doing some digging, I found out this was not supported, at least not in 2008 R2! In fact, running with the VMware SVGA II drivers can actually cause black screens and poor mouse performance according to VMware KB 1011709.

Its easy to forget the 2008 R2 isn’t just a simple upgrade to 2008, but almost a different OS. According to VMware KB 1016770, no VMware video driver is installed by default for 2008 R2, and it is recommended to use the microsoft driver unless you need enhanced graphics; otherwise there is another option! The VMware WDDM SVGA 3D driver (only supported on Virtual Hardware version 7).

VMware WDDM Driver

Below is a chart from KB 1016770 that shows what is installed by default, and what is supported:

Windows guest operating systems on ESX 4.x
WDDM driver
requires HW v. 7
XPDM driver
minimum of HW v. 4
Windows 7
Supported and installed by default Not supported
Windows Server 2008 R2
Supported but not installed by default Not supported
Windows Server 2008
Supported but not installed by default
Installed by default
Windows Vista
Supported but not installed by default Installed by default

So, in thinking that VMware tools was for some reason not installing the video drivers (Server 2008 it does install automatically), it turns out it was working perfectly.

Here are the locations of the drivers on the 2008 VMs (R2 or not)

WDDM: c:\program files\common files\vmware\drivers\wddm_video
XPDM: c:\program files\common files\vmware\drivers\video

As an interesting side note, in ESX the WDDM drivers are never installed by default – However, in VMware Workstation 7, the WDDM drivers are installed by default for all four of the above operating systems, and the XPDM drivers are optional for Server 2008 (not R2) and Vista.

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