Glass in a VM? Sort of…

One of the things that a lot of people have asked us about, both inside and outside of Microsoft, is whether or not we're going to support Glass running in a VM.  So here's the scoop:  the answer is 'sort of'.

Here's how it breaks down:

Virtual PC and Virtual Server both emulate the same graphics adapter - an S3 Trio32/64 which is (if I'm not mistaken) 1996-era hardware.  Back in good ol' 96, there wasn't a great deal of processing power built into graphics adapters; certainly not as much as there is now.  As such, any card of that era - including the card that we emulate - will not be able to render any of the Glass effects.  Also, there are no plans to modify Virtual PC or Virtual Server to emulate a different graphics adapter.  In short, the S3 is where it's at, as long as "it" doesn't refer to anything graphically spectacular.

But fear not.

There's an interesting little trick that you can perform to get Glass in a VM.  Sort of.  One of the coolest features of Vista that has been introduced in the February CTP is Desktop Composition Remoting (or Avalon Remoting).  Generally speaking, this will allow some of the uber-cool Desktop Compositing effects to be rendered over Remote Desktop.  And yes, cats and kittens, this includes Glass.

To get it working, you'll need

  • Windows Vista installed on the machine you're remoting into (the VM)
  • Windows Vista installed on the machine you're remoting from (the host, for example)
  • The Vista build on both machines must be the same to have any reasonable expectation of this working correctly.
  • The machine you're remoting from must have a graphics adapter that is capable of, and IS CURRENTLY running Glass.  If it can't support Glass, you're out of luck.
  • Network connectivity between the two computers.

On the VM, enable Remote Desktop (Remember to set the port exception in the firewall...)
From the Host, launch the Remote Desktop Client and enter the name or IP address of the VM.  If you'd like to adjust the window size, color depth, or experience level, go ahead.
Click Connect, and log in. 

The Remote Desktop session will launch, and the VM's desktop will be drawn with the DWM effects.

So, strictly speaking, no - Glass does not work in a VM, but it's possible to make it look like it does with a little bit of pixie dust from Remote Desktop team.

Comments (29)
  1. I now have the latest public build of Vista (5308) and am going to install it in Virtual PC. Hopefully…

  2. Joe-Bob Bumpkins says:

    How about using VMWare?!?  A way better program and way better than anything M$ will ever make..

  3. Mike Kolitz says:

    Actually, these instructions are pretty much virtualization-platform-agnostic.  As long as you can get a network connection to your guest OS, these instructions will work.

    I don’t use VMWare, so I’m not qualified to give instructions on how to use it.  But thanks for the constructive criticism.  Do you have any specific complaints?

  4. says:

    Interesting. Somewhat off topic but related, I do hope you folks are making sure that the non-glass experience is going to at least be better than XP?  I’m seeing a lot of folks blogging about how the current incarnation is pretty weak in that respect and that seems like a major problem for MS given how many enterprises will likely want to run it that way either because they don’t want to invest in higher end graphics cards and/or can’t update them (i.e. laptops). For those folks, a step back visually from even XP, isn’t going to blow their hair back. Thoughts?

  5. Mike Kolitz says:

    I’m not on the User Experience or Shell team, so I can’t give any sort of official response.

    My personal feelings are along the same lines as yours – I’d like to see something more than what’s in the current builds.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but something >= XP’s interface would be nice.

    I feel that the current theme is a little bit more professional looking than the XP theme, though.

    Speaking of which, I wish we’d bring back the Professional/Watercolor theme that we used during the XP(Whistler) beta.  I liked that one 🙂

  6. Tyler Rosolowski says:

    Constructive criticism VMWare verses Virtual Server?

    VMWare is free.

    And it’s a more mature product. It can also take Ghost, and Virtual Server images.

  7. TheNetAvenger says:

    VMWare is free?

    Um, not quite. VMWare Workstation is $189/199 and Virtual PC is $99 and $199 for the Enterprise version.

    The only part of VMWare that is free, is that if you have someone preconfigure an OS Image in the Workstation, then you can use the free Player to run the OS. However, it is only a player, so any modifications to the OS Image settings are locked, and you cannot install or create an OS Image without the Workstation Version.

    I think both products are good technologies and have had good luck running both.

    As this article states though, if you use the new RDP of Vista, you can get Glass effects through the Remote Desktop Interface, and it should also be faster than running the Vista installation in the native VMWare or Virtual PC interface.

    RDP in Vista incorporates WPF technologies in addition to the older XP RDP technologies, so vector, WPF 3D applications and even things like Glass effects can be passed to the remote interface. Also as more application move to WPF, even elaborate applications doing some stunning visual effects will be able to be ran remotely faster than current applications can be ran via Remote Desktop in XP now.

    Take Care,


  8. Kam VedBrat says:

    Mike Kolitz posted some instructions on how to get Aero to run in a VM by using remote desktop to connect…

  9. Norman Diamond says:

    VMware Server is free, as was stated.  VMware has said it will remain free after it comes out of beta.  It has slightly less functionality than both the mature non-free Workstation and various versioned Server products.

    I’ve found two show-stoppers with the beta.  One I reported to them.  They’re soliciting bug reports with the beta, not charging money for them.  But I have the impression that after VMware Server gets out of beta, users will not be able to submit bug reports unless they pay a fee to do so, same as customers of a certain other software maker.  Well, if you don’t submit bug reports in such a case, you’ll still get what you paid for.

    The second show-stopper I found with the VMware server beta is that Vista February CTP 64-bit could not be persuaded to install.  Even when I create the virtual hard drive as IDE instead of SCSI, no matter whether I partition it as a 16GB C drive or as a 1GB C partition plus 15GB D partition, the Vista installer agrees to partition it, agrees to format the partitions, and (after a reboot) starts copying files for the install.  But in the middle of copying, it decides that there’s no suitable local disk to continue copying to, and the install stops.  This one I didn’t report to VMware yet.

    I also experimented with a virtual Windows XP x64 under VMware server.  That one, in the virtual environment, saw both 64-bit cores of the AMD X2.  No show-stoppers there.  Microsoft has posted publicly that Virtual Server R2 and Virtual PC will not get service packs to expose both cores in the virtual environment, so Microsoft seems to have had its fill of constructive criticism on that point.

    I still need to reinstall Virtual Server R2 though, and see if Vista February CTP x64 will install in that environment for me as it did for Mr. Kolitz.

  10. Mike Kolitz says:

    Norman – You won’t be able to get the x64 build of the Feb CTP to install in Virtual Server R2.  VSr2 supports 32 and 64-bit hosts, but only 32-bit guests.

    Re: multiple cores in VPC/VS, that’s true.  The guests in our virtualization solutions will only see one processor with one core (for now).  With VSr2, you can schedule CPU utilization against multiple cores, but the guest will only expose a single proc.

    I haven’t tried installing Vista in any VMWare products, but you might want to try increasing the size of your virtual disk.  At the moment, Vista requires a lot of space be available on the destination drive, and that number might be higher in 64-bit builds as opposed to 32-bit builds.  

  11. Norman Diamond says:

    > try increasing the size of your virtual disk.

    OK, I’ll probably try next weekend.  But please note that the installer itself said it needed a 12GB disk.  If the virtual disk was smaller than 12GB then the installer gave a clear message which looked accurate (though you say it wasn’t) and it wouldn’t start.  If the virtual disk was bigger (16GB in my case) then the installer started but didn’t run for long before quitting.  Looks like the installer needs adjusting too.

    Hmm, I wonder if VMware already knew!  The new VM creation wizard recommended a 24GB virtual disk, but I was putting it in a real 20GB partition that already contained a 3GB ISO image of some MSDN download.  Will start over with a bigger real partition.

  12. Vista 5308出来了,想必有很多朋友“垂涎”其美貌,想要近其芳泽。但是Vista毕竟还是Beta版,把它“明媒正娶”正式安装,似有不妥。如果您的内存足够大(1GB或者以上),那么强烈推荐将其安顿到虚拟机里。…

  13. Mike Kolitz has made some good posts about using the February CTP of Vista under Virtual PC / Virtual…

  14. Etienne says:

    Hey Mike,

    Quick Q, will the new Virtual PC Express that will be part of Vista support a better graphics card than the S3 and more than 8Meg of video memory.  Our current laptop/desktop run with 2G of memory surely we can assign 64meg of memory to the video card.  That will at least make it usuable to develop WPF apps.  Right now forget it.  We can’t even start Solitaire without rendering the VM very sluggish.

  15. Mike Kolitz says:

    Hi Etienne,

    No, Virtual PC Express will not change the type of video card that we emulate, or include a way to increase the video RAM for the emulated card.  

  16. In my post on getting Glass working for a Virtual Machine, I spent a little bit of time discussing the…

  17. Etienne says:

    Bummer that will be a real shame.  I’m pushing a lot development in virtual machines since I think it has so many pros but not being able to develop and test with all the eye candy features will be a bit of a let down.  Anyway thanks for the info.  



  18. Jonathan Horne says:

    am i imaging things… or did someone just troll this thread and forget the (obligatory) slam the microsoft operating system were talking about getting up and running.

    he should have pointed out how much better linux runs in vmware, then he would truly be smarter than all the rest of us.

  19. Jonathan says:

    Back on topic (kinda): I’ve always prefered using Remote Desktop to control my VPCs than using VMRC. You actually get the resolution to follow your windows, and you can use the excellent Remote Desktops MMC snap-in (in Server 2003 hosts). It also controls both virtual and physical machines in the same snap-in.

    Of course, you don’t get to see the BIOS bootup, or control it when the network goes down, but most of the time, it’s better. And now that I see it will support WPF, all the more…

  20. Norman Diamond says:

    > try increasing the size of your virtual disk.

    Done.  When installation into a virtual hard drive finished, the size used was around 13GB.  There is no clue about why the installer disagreed with itself about whether a 16GB partition was adequate or not, but a 24GB partition was adequate.  It looks like the VMware people really did know what size to recommend.

  21. Shawn Oster says:

    Hmm, Off-topic-ish but knowing that VPC will never be any better than it is now is a bit depressing.  We use VPC extensively in development, everyone runs Visual Studio & Borland Developer Studio inside a VM with the exact same configurations so we don’t have to worry about Bob’s machine that has the beta build of IE7 giving him different results than the rest of.  

    Given that even the most beefy machines in our office choke on Vista in a VM it seems development on Vista has just gone out the window.  Bummer.

    In this regard I do hope VMWare picks up the slack, I’d gladly pay $399 for VM software that can emulate a machine from this decade.

  22. Richard Gadsden says:

    I would think, given how much DirectX is involved, that the only approaches to running Glass under Vista are:

    1. DirectX pass-through (ie DirectX calls in the guest OS are translated into DirectX calls in the host OS).   Advantage: probably simpler to implement.  Disadvantages: reliant on both OSes having the same or compatible versions of DirectX.  No use at all for running non-Windows operating systems.

    2. GPU virtualisation.  Advantage: not reliant on a particular operating system, or a particular DirectX version.  Disadvantage: A pig on stilts to implement.  Indeed, likely to be so tricky that it will only work properly with hooks in the host OS.

    Don’t expect this to change in the near future, folks.

  23. David Totzke says:

    >> Disadvantage: A pig on stilts to implement.


    Thanks for the laugh Richard.

  24. kLAcK says:

    Hmm… not really much point considering I’ll have to install vista on my host pc anyway.

  25. Mike Kolitz says:

    It doesn’t actually have to be the host PC – it can be any PC on the same network as the VM is.  It can be a totally separate PC.

  26. I’ve got to say, I’ve been using Vista and Longhorn Server internally for a very long time now – pretty…

  27. Ca ne marche pas pour une raison technique très simple c’est que la carte graphique présente dans la…

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