Will Vista’s 3D effects work in a virtual machine?

This content is 18 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

As a Windows Vista beta tester who filed at least one bug report, I was recently given a complementary copy of Windows Vista Ultimate Edition (thanks Microsoft); however as I’ve been rationalising my PC infrastructure of late I only have a couple of PCs that could make full use of the visual effects in Vista – my Mac (which runs Mac OS X most of the time) and a 2.4GHz Pentium 4-based PC (which runs Windows Server 2003 and Virtual Server 2005 R2). Consequently I’ve been wondering if the best way to make use of my new Vista license (bearing in mind the restrictions of product activation should I later try to move it between PCs) would be in a virtual machine.

It seems not, as I checked with John Howard, who is a Microsoft Program Manager for Windows virtualisation (and was formerly an IT Pro Evangelist here in the UK) as to the likelihood of ever receiving suitable VM Additions or 3D device drivers within a Windows virtualisation product.

John kindly replied, pointing out that the S3Trio video adapter which is emulated within the Microsoft virtualisation products is nowhere near the level required to support Vista’s 3D graphics. He went on to add that there are no plans to change this within Virtual PC 2007 or Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1, nor in Windows Server Virtualization (which is seen as a server solution and therefore unlikely to require client-focused features such as 3D graphics).

John’s reply doesn’t fill me with hope and despite VMware’s current push into enterprise desktop virtualisation I’m not sure that their position would be any different. In the meantime, it looks as though 2D graphics will be the limit to those of us who are heavy users of virtualisation on the desktop.

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