Video: Why Intel 915 graphics don't have a WDDM driver for Vista

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I get this question a LOT: "Why hasn't Intel released WDDM drivers for the 915 integrated graphics chipset? I can't run the fancy visual effects in Windows Vista, like Aero Glass, without one!"

People hardest hit by this issue include virtually all Tablet PC and UMPC users, along with lots and lots of people using laptops with that particular Intel integrated graphics chipset. I personally have two systems, a Lenovo X41 Tablet PC and an Asus R2H UMPC, that are affected. The Intel Software Network forum is full of complaints, rants, and even veiled threats on the topic - implying that we, Intel, are sitting on the driver, or not releasing it for some unknown reason (most speculate that it's because we want to force people to upgrade to a newer, more powerful graphics solution).

In this video, I sat down with Intel's Chuck DeSylva, right after he gave a presentation at GDC 2007 on the topic of optimizing your games to take advantage of the Intel G965 graphics chip. I asked him the million dollar question: Why are there no WDDM drivers for Intel 915 graphics?

Watch the video for the answer. It's about 3.5 minutes long, and weighs in at 22MB if you want to download it directly.

The short version (if you're impatient): The WDDM Vista driver spec came out long after the 915 design was complete and in production, and even though it has advanced features like Pixel Shader 2.0, there is a missing hardware feature, called the Hardware Scheduler, that 915 lacks, and without that, it doesn't meet the WDDM spec from Microsoft, and we (Intel) can't release a WDDM driver for it.

There. It's done. I hope that answers your questions. Please link your friends and associates to this video/post for the "definitive" answer.

As always, we're open to your feedback, so please feel free to post a comment, respond in the ISN forums, or contact me directly if you have any more questions or issues.
For more complete information about compiler optimizations, see our Optimization Notice.


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Excuses Excuse...Moving into the gaming world calls for HIGH demand if you plan on selling your products in a lot of laptops..Second life is good topic..You guys are partners, you have a sim on the SL world map..Yet..Their arnt any drivers for the latest 965 chipset..And a lot of people have that and rely on that to have a great time on SL.

Josh Bancroft (Intel)'s picture

I really feel like I'm missing something here that you all are talking about. I'm really trying to understand this issue, so please, tell me what I'm missing in the following:

Microsoft decided to make some "premium" features in Windows Vista accessible only if you have a high-end video card. Correct?

There was a lot of confusion caused by how Microsoft marketed these features in Vista - "Vista Capable" versus "Vista Premium Ready". Correct?

The gateway that Microsoft uses in the Vista software itself to determine whether you get the "premium" features (Aero Glass theme, DVD Maker, Movie Maker, etc.) is whether or not your video card has a "WDDM" - Windows Display Driver Model - driver ( Correct?

Since it's Microsoft's software, they get to determine the criteria as to whether any particular video card can have a WDDM driver. They set the requirements. The cutoff line has to be drawn somewhere. Some cards will qualify, and some cards won't. Correct?

Intel 915 integrated graphics, an older graphics chipset that is aimed at low cost, low power applications like laptops and other mobile devices - NOT PERFORMANCE - does not meet the WDDM driver criteria that Microsoft has set. Correct?

Intel CAN'T write a WDDM driver that somehow magically overcomes the fact that it DOESN'T MEET THE WDDM REQUIREMENTs THAT MICROSOFT CONTROLS. That is a fact.

Lots of you were led to believe, through how Vista was confusingly marketed, that your computers with Intel 915 Integrated Graphics would be "Vista Capable". And this is true. Your computers with 915 graphics will run Windows Vista just fine. That is a fact.

Lots of you are angry, however, because your laptops with Intel 915 Integrated Graphics are NOT "Vista Premium Ready". You thought, for whatever reasons, that "Vista Capable" was the same as "Vista Premium Ready". That is a fact.

You probably feel kind of dumb that you bought a laptop with Intel 915 Integrated Graphics and then you bought Vista (or you bought them at the same time), and now, it doesn't do what you thought it would do (even though there was no marketing and no promise that the Vista Premium features would work!). I know I would. That is a fact.

Now, you're mad. You feel like you got screwed, got burned, got tricked. You feel the need to lash out at someone. You could lash out at Microsoft, but that's like tilting at windmills. And where would you vent your feelings? Maybe you're complaining just as loudly to Microsoft, and I'm just not seeing it. Someone please provide me a link if this is the case.

At the end of all this, I hope you can see how Intel's hands are tied here. We got burned by the unclear Vista marketing just as much as you did, because now we (I) have hundreds of unhappy 915 owners that are angry and need to lash out, so you're lashing out at Intel.

I'm sorry this happened. I'll keep my personal opinions on how Microsoft handled this to myself. I hope that my efforts to explain and clarify what's going on have helped you to understand, if not to dissipate your anger.

You're free to buy laptops with whatever kind of graphics chipset you want in the future. If you value performance, and want to be able to run the "eye candy" premium features in Windows Vista, I hope that you do your homework, and buy a laptop with a graphics chipset that meets the requirements that Microsoft has set forth (hint: other Intel integrated graphics chipsets, beyond 915, do this just fine).

If you decide that performance and these "premium" visual features are important, you might decide it's worth it to spend the extra money to get a dedicated graphics card in your laptop from Nvidia or ATI.

And, deep within the bowels of Intel, I'm sure someone is working on a time traveling magic wand to go back and add features to the 915 hardware spec, then magically transform all of the 915 chips sitting in factories and warehouses and in your homes and offices, so that they meet the WDDM driver requirements, and are suddenly capable of running the premium stuff in Windows Vista.

I'll let you know as soon as that's finished, and ready for release. ;-)

Josh Bancroft (Intel)'s picture

Given the fact that this whole issue is blowing up, in terms of mainstream coverage, talk of class action lawsuits, I've decided to lock this comment thread. The discussion has run its course as it pertains to Intel Software Network and this blog. I'm sure there will be other, more appropriate places to continue this conversation. This is no longer the place, and I don't want to spend any time talking to lawyers about this. I'm just a blogger who tried to start some conversations, and get some answers, and this is beyond me and beyond this blog now.

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Hello there,

I have a FS-540P sony VAIO notebook and I am so unfortunate to have intel 915 as my graphics adapter. Can I go somewhere and replace the video card with something else? Or is it an on-board card?


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I've a 915G motherboard. Can i get the Vista Aero Glass feature enabled if i upgrade my PC with a vista compatible Graphics Card (like... with a ATI Radeon HD4350)?...

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i want half life

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The sheer concentrated dumbness in this comments thread is appalling.

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The biggest lesson of them all to learn from this debacle must be that had Windows Vista been free software that driver would have been written whether Intel and/or Microsoft wanted it or not. The 915 is no speed demon but it can run a full effect desktop shell as shown by eg. Compiz on $your_favourite_free_software_platform. All this mud-slinging between two colossal closed source companies does not yield anything but fatter lawyers. The same energy spent in the free software realm would have produced a working solution a long time ago.

The choice, as always, is yours. I made mine about 15 years ago and have not had cause to look back since.

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>We can't do that, because Microsoft won't let us release a WDDM driver that doesn't meet the WDDM spec. We can't call it/certify it WDDM because it doesn't meet the spec, and Aero Glass won't run because the driver isn't WDDM.

Yet they were more than happy to bend the rules and certify 915 as Vista Capable and screw all of the other players in the market. Funny how that works, huh?