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My team developed an application involving 3D graphics (similar to a video game) for Windows. Our users have, without our knowledge, decided to try installing it on their Macs using Parallels, and are reporting several problems... it runs but the graphics are screwy amongst other things.

I didn't think you could run 3D graphics (Direct3D) through a virtual-machine so I'm impressed it runs at all, but I've always understood anything to do with graphics through a VM is likely to be flaky.

My question is, should it work or are we hampered by the special drivers and should not advise users to do this? It sounds like a support nightmare if we endorse it.

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

3D support within virtual machines is improving all the time, but by no means are the emulated graphics cards as good as real ones. Yes most of the 3D calls get passed through to the host driver but there is a layer between your application and the graphics card that may not be feature-complete.

Typically the feature set supported will be enough to run the most simple (and/or common) 3D tasks such as Aero on Windows or older simple 3D games but there may well be a lot of features that are either half-complete or have nothing more than stubs where features should be.

I would have to say that personally I would warn the customer that such a configuration is unintended, unsupported, and above all not necessarily reliable for what they are trying to do.

If you intend to support 3D in a VM then you will need to test pretty much all of the VM packages out there, and that could be a nightmare. VMWare, VirtualBox, Parallel and so on, each with several versions and their own quirky emulated graphics cards... You may even end up with people trying to run it on Qemu if you're not careful.

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This is specifically about Mac users trying to run our Windows application. What other tools other than Parallels are common on Mac? – Mr. Boy Jun 7 '11 at 8:17
According to alternativeto there are apparently lots of VM products that are similar. Each one would have their own quirks and issues and may or may not run your software well. As to how to tell which one supports which features your program is using, that would be ... interesting ... to say the least and I wouldn't know where to start. My advice: tell the customer they can try it on a VM, but you will not be able to guarantee or support it as you expect to be running on real hardware. – Mokubai Jun 7 '11 at 8:28
If your software has minimum specifications, Geforce 260 or above and so on, then tell them that a virtualised graphics card is not the same as the actual host graphics card. Or, I believe you can get them to run Bootcamp, which I believe effectively dual-boots a Mac with Windows and would give your software full access to the hardware at the cost of them needing to reboot to go between Windows and MacOS. I'm not a MacOS user so I've no real experience with Bootcamp – Mokubai Jun 7 '11 at 8:32
BootCamp does indeed work fine. As far as VM options, I thought Parallels was the 'standard' for typical Mac users who simply wanted to run Windows - not developers or specialist users. – Mr. Boy Jun 7 '11 at 11:25

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