VMware WDDM Display Driver on Server 2008 (&R2) Guests

VMware Tools provides many of the needed drivers for a guest OS, such as for video performance. The console of any virtual machine is sluggish without these tools, with the results being a “choppy” mouse feel. However, an annoyance on Windows 2008 (&R2) guests is that even with VMware Tools installed, the video performance is poor. As an alternative, RDP can be utilized to gain access to the virtual machine, however, the console is nearly a requirement at times (such as initial configuration, or troubleshooting a guest that is having network issues).

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If you need a copy of the wddm_video drivers, I have made them available in a zip file. Click here to download.

The Default Video Driver

The first step is to figure out what video driver is loaded on the guest. Using a Windows 2008 R2 Enterprise guest as an example, the current video driver is the “Standard VGA Graphics Adapter.”

Although this driver functions on a Windows guest in a VMware environment, it does not provide any of the performance required in the console. Looking at a Windows 2003 R2 Enterprise guest, the driver is listed as “VMware SVGA II” and provides a smooth performance.

Thus, the issue is that in Windows 2008 the default driver is still active, instead of the VMware driver. This is a simple fix.

The WDDM Display Driver

Per the VMware KB Article “WDDM and XPDM graphics driver support with ESX 4.x, Workstation 7.0, and Fusion 3.0”, the WDDM driver for hardware version 7 is supported, but not installed.

Windows guest operating systems on ESX 4.x
WDDM driver
requires HW v. 7
Windows 7
Supported and installed by default
Windows Server 2008 R2 *
Supported but not installed by default
Windows Server 2008
Supported but not installed by default
Windows Vista
Supported but not installed by default

The asterisk next to Windows Server 2008 R2 states that “Unless there is an explicit requirement for enhanced graphics, the preferred driver for Windows Server 2008 R2 is the Microsoft-provided VESA driver.” Apparently there were a number of issues where the old XPDM driver was being loaded prior to ESX 4.0 u1.

Additionally, the path to the driver is listed. Per the article:

To install a WDDM or XPDM driver go to Control Panel > Device Manager of the installed Windows operating system. To locate the drivers, browse to C:Program FilesCommon FilesVMwareDriverswddm_video on the hard disk.

Update the Display Adapters Driver

The first step is to update the display adapter driver to the VMware WDDM (SVGA) driver. Expand the “Display Adapters” tree and right click on the “Standard VGA Graphics Adapter” entry. Choose “Update Driver Software…”

Next, choose “Browse my computer for driver software”.

In the “Search for driver software in this location” box, type:

C:Program FilesCommon FilesVMwareDriverswddm_video

And click Next.

After a brief install, a successful install message should appear.

Note: The server will require a restart to take advantage of the new driver.

The new VMware SVGA 3D driver is installed and functioning properly.


I’ve been running the WDDM driver for quite some time on my Windows 2008 R2 guests without issue. After a month of problem free usage, I’ve upgraded my gold image template of Server 2008 R2 to include this driver. I’d like to find a way to automate the upgrade of the driver via VMware Tools and a command script, but have been unable to do so at this time.

I also invite you to check out Chris Colotti’s blog, which verifies that this method improves performance for a vCloud environment as well.