When you create or edit a virtual machine, you can configure 3D graphics to take advantage of Windows AERO, CAD, Google Earth, and other 3D design, modeling, and multimedia applications. Before you enable 3D graphics, become familiar with the available options and requirements.

You can enable 3D on virtual machines that have Windows desktop or Linux guest operating systems. Not all guests support 3D graphics. To verify 3D support for a guest operating system, see the VMware Compatibility Guide at http://www.vmware.com/resources/compatibility.


VMware supports AMD and NVIDIA graphics cards. See the vendor website for supported cards. To use the graphics card or GPU hardware, download the appropriate VMware graphics driver from the vendor website.

  • Go to the NVIDIA website for information about the VMware graphics driver for your NVIDIA graphics card.
  • Go to the AMD website for information about the VMware graphics driver for your AMD graphics card.
Linux distributions must have a 3.2 or later kernel. If 3D is not available on a Linux guest, verify that the driver is available in the Linux kernel. If it is not available, upgrade to a more recent Linux distribution. The location of the kernel depends on whether the distribution is based on deb or rpm.
Table 1. Linux Driver Location
VMware Linux Guest Kernel Drivers Debian Format RPM Format
vmwgfx.ko dpkg -S vmwgfx.ko rpm -qf vmwgfx.ko
vmwgfx_dri.so dpkg -S vmwgfx_dri rpm -qf vmwgfx_dri
vmware_drv.so dpkg -S vmware_drv rpm -qf vmware_drv
libxatracker.so.1 dpkg -S libxatracker rpm -qf libxatracker

3D Rendering Options

You can select the 3D rendering options for each virtual machine to be Hardware, Software, or Automatic.

Table 2. 3D Rendering Options
Rendering Option Description
Hardware The virtual machine must have access to a physical GPU. If the GPU is not available, the virtual machine cannot power on.
Software The virtual machine's virtual device uses a software renderer and will not attempt to use a GPU, even if one is present.
Automatic The default setting. The virtual device selects whether to use a physical GPU or software-based rendering. If a GPU is available on the system and has the resources required by the virtual machine, the virtual machine uses the GPU. Otherwise software rendering is used.

How Enabling 3D Graphics Affects the Virtual Machine

You can use vMotion to migrate virtual machines that have 3D graphics enabled. If the 3D Renderer is set to Automatic, virtual machines use either the GPU on the destination host or a software renderer, depending on GPU availability. To migrate virtual machines with the 3D Renderer set to Hardware, the destination host must have a GPU.

You can set a group of virtual machines to use only Hardware rendering. For example, if you have virtual machines that run CAD applications or have other complex engineering capabilities, you might require that those virtual machines have persistent high-quality 3D capability present. When you migrate such virtual machines, the destination host must also have GPU capability. If the host does not have GPU, the migration cannot proceed. To migrate such virtual machines, you must turn them off and change the renderer setting to Automatic.