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 Graphic cards that work with VMDirectPath/ passthrough 
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Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2011 6:32 am
Posts: 23
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Post Graphic cards that work with VMDirectPath/ passthrough
Hello,

I have an Intel DQ45CB motherboard with VT-d enabled in the BIOS (details are in my signature) and could successfully install vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi 4.1) and Debian Squeeze 64-bit as guest OS. This mobo has an integrated graphic adapter, and now I want to add an external PCIe x16 graphic card to the mobo and pass it through to the guest OS.

When an external graphic card is enabled on this mobo, the internal one is unfortunately disabled, but I hope that this will not pose a big problem. Else, please let me know, thanks.

I understood that passing through is done using VMDirectPath, but I was not yet able to find a resource about which PCIe graphic cards support this. Well, this Whitebox HCL webpage mentions only very few (ATI Radeon) and this or this none at all.

I would like to use this external graphic card for playing (older) games (pre-2008) :oops: under Windows XP Home 32-bit guest OS, so my expectations for the performance are not so hot (but it should be better than the integrated adapter, of course).

Before I go buying just some PCIe x16 graphic card without any hints in advance that chances are good that it works for VMDirectPath, it would be great if somebody could share his thoughts on this. Thank you very much.

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Kind regards,
vmuser


MoBo: Intel DQ45CB (BIOS v129, VT-d enabled)
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 FC-LGA4 "Wolfdale" (has VT-d) @ 3.00 GHz
RAM: 4 GB
HDD: 2x 1 TB Samsung Spinpoint F3 (in AHCI mode)

Virtu.: free vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi 4.1 U1)


Last edited by vmuser on Fri Aug 12, 2011 7:10 am, edited 1 time in total.



Wed Aug 10, 2011 7:01 am
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Joined: Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:13 pm
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Post Re: PCIe x16 graphic card that works with VMDirectPath?
Take a look at this thread - http://communities.vmware.com/message/1692737. They have a chart near the end of what's working.

But to answer your one question you would need both graphic cards working.

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Dave Mishchenko
VMware vExpert 2009-2013
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Now available - VMware ESXi: Planning, Implementation, and Security
Also available - vSphere Quick Start Guide


Thu Aug 11, 2011 11:27 am
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Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2011 6:32 am
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Post Graphic cards that work with VMDirectPath/ passthrough
Dear Dave,

thanks for pointing me to that valuable thread.

In several instances there are both positive and negative reports re. the same card model.
I have summarized what they had reported so far (as of 12-Aug-2011) below:

Reports that these worked (DXVA probably not checked):

Reports that these worked partially:

Reports that these did not work (above may be reports that they worked):

Regarding DXVA, I would like to quote from that post:
Quote:
There is an in-depth discussion here that revolves around a utility called DXVA-checker, available here.


Re. my other question, did I understand your answer correctly, that I would need to have two external add-on cards, not just one, because the on-board card gets switched off?

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Kind regards,
vmuser


MoBo: Intel DQ45CB (BIOS v129, VT-d enabled)
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 FC-LGA4 "Wolfdale" (has VT-d) @ 3.00 GHz
RAM: 4 GB
HDD: 2x 1 TB Samsung Spinpoint F3 (in AHCI mode)

Virtu.: free vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi 4.1 U1)


Fri Aug 12, 2011 1:56 am
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Joined: Thu Jun 30, 2011 8:18 pm
Posts: 5
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Post Re: PCIe x16 graphic card that works with VMDirectPath?
Are you positive the on-board video is disabled, or does the system just prioritize the one installed in the x16 slot? Granted most of my experience is with Dell, but there is usually an option in the BIOS setup where you can tell the system what graphics adapter to make primary.

When you boot up with the x16 card installed, and then in the vSphere client go to Advanced Configuration and edit the list of passthrough devices, do you not see your on-board video adapter listed along with the x16 one?

Seems odd to me that the mobo would totally disable the onboard video and not give you the opportunity to modify that behavior but I guess stranger things have happened.

And I don't think it is strictly true that you must have both on-board and PCIe graphics adapters working in order to be successful with VMDirectPath. In fact if you follow that thread I think there were success reports from at least one person who did pass through his primary adapter and as a result lost the ESXi console display. Obviously not ideal, but if you do all your management from vSphere client or via SSH then I don't think it's the end of the world.

I'm one of the guys who got the HD 3450 working successfully. I want to pick up a 5450 next to see if I can get that working, because let's face it, the 3450 is pretty anemic at this point. Still, it was pretty amazing seeing it work.

Good luck!


Fri Aug 12, 2011 7:14 am
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Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2011 6:32 am
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Post Re: Graphic cards that work with VMDirectPath/ passthrough
Hi!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I assumed that the mobo/ BIOS disables the on-board graphic card, because that is stated in the Intel DQ45CB mobo manual/ tech spec. However, I have indeed seen in the BIOS that one can toggle the primary priority of the cards, so it would be really great if the on-board one would still be active.
Since I do not yet have an add-on card, I could not test this and do not know how this looks in the vSphere Hypervisor management console.
I was also looking for the Radeon 5450, which is from last year, has DirectX 11 and shader model 5, i.e. still pretty new. I guess that it would completely suffice my needs.
The stupid thing about the vSphere Hypervisor is that when the machine is running now, I cannot use the connected LCD for other things, because it just shows that yellow+black console where I cannot even manage the VM guests. For that purpose I need to fire up a Windows machine. Or have I overseen something here? (sorry, VMs are pretty new to me and this may be a little bit OT in this thread)

Good luck to you, too, with the new card and have a nice weekend.

_________________
Kind regards,
vmuser


MoBo: Intel DQ45CB (BIOS v129, VT-d enabled)
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 FC-LGA4 "Wolfdale" (has VT-d) @ 3.00 GHz
RAM: 4 GB
HDD: 2x 1 TB Samsung Spinpoint F3 (in AHCI mode)

Virtu.: free vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi 4.1 U1)


Fri Aug 12, 2011 8:44 am
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Joined: Thu Jun 30, 2011 8:18 pm
Posts: 5
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Post Re: Graphic cards that work with VMDirectPath/ passthrough
Nope you've got it right--the graphics card used by ESXi is semi-wasted because the ESXi console is so limited.

However, there are times you're glad it's there--like if your NICs aren't working or pulling an IP for whatever reason. But yeah as long as you've got good network connectivity you shouldn't need the regular ESXi console for anything (I leave a monitor connected but turn it off).

It's one of those bare-metal hypervisor things. Yes ESXi lacks a robust on-board console, but that also keeps its footprint small (which is why it can run off of a USB flash drive) and helps keep it hardened from attack. So it's a trade-off. I really wish we could manage ESXi using a web-based interface, but the windows vsphere client works well so can't complain too much (especially considering I'm able to use ESXi for free).

It will be interesting to see what improvements (if any) ESXi 5 brings to the table in terms of VMDirectPath. I hope that VMWare (and AMD and NVidia for that matter) are working on making passthrough easier and less finicky--because that is pretty much the last barrier to virtualization. Seems to me it ought to be a high priority for all the hypervisors out there.


Fri Aug 12, 2011 9:31 am
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Post Re: Graphic cards that work with VMDirectPath/ passthrough
When I had tried this (and it was a while back) ESXi would always grab one display, but I can say I ever tried to force a single card to be used for VMdirectpath.

If you try that and it creates problems for you, we can give you a hand to reverse the change.

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Dave Mishchenko
VMware vExpert 2009-2013
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Now available - VMware ESXi: Planning, Implementation, and Security
Also available - vSphere Quick Start Guide


Fri Aug 12, 2011 10:59 am
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Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2011 6:32 am
Posts: 23
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Post Re: Graphic cards that work with VMDirectPath/ passthrough
bookemdano wrote:
Nope you've got it right--the graphics card used by ESXi is semi-wasted because the ESXi console is so limited.
So as long as I have no extra add-on card for which PCIe passthrough works, I am stuck in a sense that I cannot use the LCD for the host machine. I hope that the Sapphire Radeon HD 5450 turns the trick.

I agree with you that a bare-metal hypervisor has those advantages you mentioned, of course. But maybe some GUI to manage the VMs would be better than being urged to use Windows for that (which I run via another free VM tool under OS X Macbook just for that purpose - isn't that crazy?).

Dave.Mishchenko wrote:
When I had tried this (and it was a while back) ESXi would always grab one display, but I can say I ever tried to force a single card to be used for VMdirectpath.
The hypervisor (under that Windows "VMware-viclient-all-4.1.0-345043.exe" tool) does not show the on-board Intel GMA, so I cannot try that.

Thanks once more to both of you for your helpful insights!

_________________
Kind regards,
vmuser


MoBo: Intel DQ45CB (BIOS v129, VT-d enabled)
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 FC-LGA4 "Wolfdale" (has VT-d) @ 3.00 GHz
RAM: 4 GB
HDD: 2x 1 TB Samsung Spinpoint F3 (in AHCI mode)

Virtu.: free vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi 4.1 U1)


Fri Aug 12, 2011 12:29 pm
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Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2011 6:32 am
Posts: 23
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Post Re: PCIe x16 graphic card that works with VMDirectPath?
bookemdano wrote:
Are you positive the on-board video is disabled, or does the system just prioritize the one installed in the x16 slot? Granted most of my experience is with Dell, but there is usually an option in the BIOS setup where you can tell the system what graphics adapter to make primary.

Above, I had written that it is disabled, because that is what I read in the Intel mobo manual.
However - good news (well let us see) - the new Sapphire Radeon HD 5450 that I have now attached could be added and runs in passthrough mode.

I have opened a separate thread "Radeon HD 5450 (1 GB DDR3 RAM) and passthrough" for that specific graphics card in case other users want to further discuss which other cards work with VMDirectPath in this thread here.

_________________
Kind regards,
vmuser


MoBo: Intel DQ45CB (BIOS v129, VT-d enabled)
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 FC-LGA4 "Wolfdale" (has VT-d) @ 3.00 GHz
RAM: 4 GB
HDD: 2x 1 TB Samsung Spinpoint F3 (in AHCI mode)

Virtu.: free vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi 4.1 U1)


Fri Aug 19, 2011 10:02 pm
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Joined: Fri Oct 21, 2011 1:59 pm
Posts: 13
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Post Re: Graphic cards that work with VMDirectPath/ passthrough
After seeing several posts saying Radeon HD 3450 works with VMDirectpath,
I grabbed a HD 3450 256M (with HDMI/DVI/VGA outputs) on eBay and tested with 32GB ESXi 5.1, no go. :(

My motherboard is ASROCK Z68 Extreme4 with i5 2400. Vt-d enabled in BIOS. I tried to plug the card into 3 different PCIEx16 slots and none of them worked.

The 2GB - 4GB Win7 VM always complained it can't grab an interrupt or "Hardware GPU resources are not available. The virtual machine will use software rendering." The VM did detected the 3450 card, but once it loaded the driver, it BSOD immediately.

Need some help here, thanks.

P.S. The card turn out to be made by Sapphire/PCPartner by getting info from GPU-Z.

adding pciHole.start = "1200" and pciHole.end = "2200" doesn't help either


Sat Sep 29, 2012 11:26 pm
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