There's DOSBox for really old games, and some games work fine in Windows 8, but for that era of games that ran on Windows 95/98/XP, we've been somewhat out of luck if the game needs to utilize a GPU.

With the Hyper-V system on Windows 8, can we virtualize older versions of Windows well enough to play these games with a decent framerate, utilizing the host hardware?

  • (+1) as this is actually a really intersting idea, and it would be cool to see just what the limits are with this. In other words... I'm smelling a blog post coming depending on what we find ;) – James Mertz Oct 31 '12 at 19:08

Hyper-V does not let you use the full power of the host hardware.

There is a performance hit and screen update problems that makes it unusable for games that rapidly update the screen. On the other hand it may work for encoding videos or turnbased games. I personally used it to play the city builder Zeus, and it seems to work find.

However, by physically installing a video adapter card in the server running Hyper-V 2008 R2 SP1 this issue is solved. A new feature called RemoteFX provides graphical processing unit (GPU) accelerated video within a virtual machine. It delivers a rich user experience for session-based and virtual desktops to a broad range of client devices.

From http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/virtualization/hh278966.aspx

The raw benchmarks give the following result

Root partition:4541

Guest partition:3299

But these folks note that

the videos are perciptibly jerky whereas on the root partition, they are fluid.

From http://community.futuremark.com/forum/showthread.php?169530-Maximising-3DMark11-score-on-a-Hyper-V-VM&highlight


It should be noted first off that Hyper-V

was being developed solely for server virtualization

and therefore is mainly for developers or IT admins looking to test out multiple environments.

However, it appears that there are advances in this especially with the use of RemoteFX.

Microsoft introduced RemoteFX, an enhanced graphical capability which enabled virtual desktops, running Windows 7 SP1, to harness the power of physical graphics cards, GPUs, installed in the Hyper-V hosts.

The choke hold on this situation is going to be with two major issues:

  1. Hyper-V is "emulating" the GPU
  2. The Guest OS is limited by it's own technology

Emulation issues

Since the Host OS is emulating the devices onto the Guest OS, there are lots of issues to be found. This "Software GPU" are too general for 3d games to be working properly.

Guest OS Limitations

Running Call of Duty Black Ops 2 on a Windows 95 machine isn't possible. You'll run into the same issues with comparability within each OS that you virtualize.

  • 3
    RemoteFX is only available on Windows Server 2012 and not Windows 8 – Lusitanian Nov 1 '12 at 5:14
  • @Lusitanian interesting... didn't see that. – James Mertz Nov 1 '12 at 5:51
  • I'm open to being wrong but I was looking for it the other day and from what I found in the docs it's just for Windows Server. I installed VirtualBox instead. – Lusitanian Nov 1 '12 at 6:44
  • @Lusitanian no I believe that you're right... It appears to be a Windows 8 Server thing only. – James Mertz Nov 1 '12 at 7:02

Depending on the older games. I was able to virtualize a few servers for Diablo II LOD. Each instance (4 total) ran around 20-40 frames per second. Definitely workable. However, it will greatly depend on the hardware you're using and the available resources.

  • Note that while Diablo 2 does have a Direct3d mode, the featureset it avails itself of it is extremely limited and is probably not a representative benchmark or case test. – horatio Oct 31 '12 at 21:24
  • That is true. Not to mention that it was a game back in 2000 running on virtualized with 2012 hardware. – kobaltz Oct 31 '12 at 21:26

I haven't tried it, but the closest you'll most likely get is RemoteFX

Before looking it up I'd have told you that Windows 8 didn't support RemoteFX anyway, but it seems that I'm wrong and it does.

However, at best this would let your guest OS use your current GPU, and chances are pretty bad that Windows 9x etc. will support your GPU if your GPU is new enough to be supported by RemoteFX. A quick check of Nvidia.com only shows drivers for their most recent cards going back as far as Windows XP, and that's all.

  • 2
    Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference. – Canadian Luke Oct 31 '12 at 19:12
  • @Luke Unfortunately, not even Wikipedia makes it clear that this will work, nor does the link I provided, hence (since we're using older words) why I prefaced my answer with, "I haven't tried it, but". Upon reflection I should have made my answer a comment or just not bothered. Ah well. – Mark Allen Oct 31 '12 at 20:57

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