Windows Display Driver Model

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Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM)[1] is the graphic driver architecture for video card drivers running Microsoft Windows versions beginning with Windows Vista.[2]

It is a replacement for the previous Windows 2000 and Windows XP display driver model XDDM/XPDM[3] and is aimed at enabling better performance graphics and new graphics functionality and stability.[2] Display drivers in Windows Vista and Windows 7 can choose to either adhere to WDDM or to XDDM.[4] With the removal of XDDM from Windows 8, however, WDDM became the only option.[5]

WDDM provides the functionality required to render the desktop and applications using Desktop Window Manager, a compositing window manager running on top of Direct3D. It also supports new DXGI interfaces required for basic device management and creation. The WDDM specification requires at least Direct3D 9-capable video card and the display driver must implement the device driver interfaces for the Direct3D 9Ex runtime in order to run legacy Direct3D applications; it may optionally implement runtime interfaces for Direct3D 10/10.1 and higher.

Features enabled by the WDDM

WDDM drivers enable new areas of functionality which were not uniformly provided by earlier display driver models. These include:

Virtualized video memory

In the context of graphics, virtualization means that individual processes (in user mode) cannot see the memory of adjacent processes even by means of insertion of forged commands in the command stream. WDDM drivers allow video memory to be virtualized,[6] and video data to be paged out of video memory into system RAM. In case the video memory available turns out to be insufficient to store all the video data and textures, currently unused data is moved out to system RAM or to the disk. When the swapped out data is needed, it is fetched back. Virtualization could be supported on previous driver models (such as the XP Driver Model) to some extent, but was the responsibility of the driver, instead of being handled at the runtime level.


The runtime handles scheduling of concurrent graphics contexts.[7] Each list of commands is put in a queue for execution by the GPU, and it can be preempted by the runtime if a more critical task arrives and if it has not begun execution. This differs from native threads on the CPU where one task cannot be interrupted and therefore can take longer than necessary and make the computer appear less responsive. A hybrid scheduling algorithm between native and light threads with cooperation between the threads would achieve seamless parallelism. It is important to note that scheduling is not a new concept but it was previously the responsibility of individual driver developers. WDDM attempts to unify the experience across different vendors by controlling the execution of GPU tasks.

Cross-process sharing of Direct3D surfaces

A Direct3D graphics surface is the memory area that contains information about the textured meshes used for rendering a 2D or 3D scene. WDDM allows Direct3D surfaces to be shared across processes.[8] Thus, an application can incorporate a mesh created by another application into the scene it is rendering. Sharing textures between processes before WDDM was difficult, as it would have required copying the data from video memory to system memory and then back to video memory for the new device.

Enhanced fault-tolerance

Windows Vista alerting the user of a successful WDDM recovery

If a WDDM driver hangs or encounters a fault, the graphics stack will restart the driver.[2][9] A graphics hardware fault will be intercepted and if necessary the driver will be reset.

Drivers under Windows XP were free to deal with hardware faults as they saw fit either by reporting it to the user or by attempting to recover silently. With a WDDM driver, all hardware faults cause the driver to be reset and the user will be notified by a popup; this unifies the behavior across vendors.

Previous drivers were fully implemented in kernel mode, whereas WDDM is implemented partly in user mode. If the user mode area fails with an unrecoverable error, it will, at the most, cause the application to quit unexpectedly instead of producing a blue screen error as it would in previous driver models.

WDDM also allows the graphics hardware to be reset and users to update drivers without requiring a reboot.[2]


The new driver model requires the graphics hardware to have Shader Model 2.0 support at least, since the fixed function pipeline is now translated to 2.0 shaders. However, according to Microsoft as of 2009, only about 1–2 percent of the hardware running Windows Vista used the XDDM,[10] with the rest already WDDM capable. It also requires some other hardware features; consequently some SM 2.0-supporting hardware such as the Intel GMA 900 fails the WDDM certification.[11]

One of the limitations of WDDM driver model version 1.0 is that it does not support multiple drivers in a multi-adapter, multi-monitor setup. If a multi-monitor system has more than one graphics adapter powering the monitors, both the adaptors must use the same WDDM driver. If more than one driver is used, Windows will disable one of them.[12] WDDM 1.1 does not have this limitation.[13]

WDDM 1.0/1.1 does not allow some modes that were previously handled by the driver such as spanning mode (stretching the desktop across two monitors)[14][15] although Dual View is still available.[12][16]

Need for a new display driver model

One of the chief scenarios the Windows Display Driver Model enables is the Desktop Window Manager. Since the desktop and application windows managed by DWM are Direct3D applications, the number of open windows directly affects the amount of video memory required. Because there is no limit on the number of open windows, the video memory available may prove insufficient, necessitating virtualization. As the window contents that DWM composes into the final desktop are generated by different processes, cross-process surface sharing is necessary. Also, because there can be other DirectX applications running alongside DWM on the DWM-managed desktop, they must be able to access the GPU in a shared manner, necessitating scheduling.

Though this is true for Microsoft's implementation of a composited desktop under Windows Vista, on the other hand, a composited desktop need not theoretically require a new display driver model to work as expected. Successful implementations of composited desktops were done before Windows Vista on other platforms such as Quartz, Compiz, WindowFX. The approach Microsoft attempted was to try to make sure WDDM was a unified experience across different GPUs from multiple vendors by standardizing their features and performance. The software features missing from other driver models could be made immaterial by extensions or if a less restrictive or simply different driver model was in place.


WDDM 1.0

Windows Vista introduced WDDM 1.0 as a new display driver architecture designed to be better performing, more reliable, and support new technologies including HDCP. Hybrid Sleep, which combines hibernation and sleep mode functionality for enhanced stability in the event of power failure, also requires WDDM[why?].[2]

WDDM 1.1

Windows 7 supports major additions to WDDM known as WDDM 1.1; the details of this new version were unveiled at WinHEC 2008. New features include:[10]

Hardware acceleration of GDI and Direct2D/DirectWrite operations helps reduce memory footprint in Windows 7, because DWM compositing engine no longer needs to keep a system memory copy of all surfaces used by GDI/GDI+, as in Windows Vista.[21][22][23]

DXGI 1.1, Direct3D 11, Direct2D, and DirectWrite were made available with Windows Vista Platform Update; however GDI/GDI+ in Vista continues to rely on software rendering[24] and the Desktop Window Manager continues to use Direct3D 9Ex.[25]

WDDM 1.1 drivers are backward compatible with WDDM 1.0 specification; both 1.0 and 1.1 drivers can be used in Windows Vista with or without the Platform Update.[10]

WDDM 1.2

Windows 8 includes WDDM 1.2[26][27] and DXGI 1.2.[27][28] New features were first previewed at the Build 2011 conference and include performance improvements as well as support for stereoscopic 3D rendering and video playback.

Other major features include preemptive multitasking of the GPU with finer granularity (DMA buffer, primitive, triangle, pixel, or instruction-level),[29] reduced memory footprint, improved resource sharing, and faster timeout detection and recovery. 16-bit color surface formats (565, 5551, 4444) are mandatory in Windows 8, and Direct3D 11 Video supports YUV 4:4:4/4:2:2/4:2:0/4:1:1 video formats with 8, 10, and 16-bit precision, as well as 4 and 8-bit palettized formats.[30]

WDDM 1.2 supports display-only and render-only WDDM drivers, such as Microsoft Basic Display Driver[31] and WARP-based Microsoft Basic Render Driver which replaced kernel-mode VGA driver.

WDDM 1.0/1.1 only allows rudimentary task scheduling using "batch queue" granularity; improvements to multitasking, as well as fast context switching and support for virtual memory, were initially expected in versions tentatively named WDDM 2.0 and WDDM 2.1, which were announced at WinHEC 2006.[32][33][34]

WDDM 1.3

Windows 8.1 includes WDDM 1.3[35] and DXGI 1.3.[36] New additions include the ability to trim DXGI adapter memory usage, multi-plane overlays, overlapping swap chains and swap chain scaling, select backbuffer subregion for swap chain and lower-latency swap chain presentation. Driver feature additions include wireless displays (Miracast), YUV format ranges, cross-adapter resources and GPU engine enumeration capabilities. Graphics kernel performance improvements.[1]

WDDM 2.0

Windows 10 includes WDDM 2.0, which is designed to dramatically reduce workload on the kernel-mode driver for GPUs that support virtual memory addressing,[37] to allow multithreading parallelism in the user-mode driver and result in lower CPU utilization.[38][39][40][41] Windows 10 also includes DXGI 1.4.[42]

Direct3D 12 API, announced at Build 2014, requires WDDM 2.0. The new API will do away with automatic resource-management and pipeline-management tasks and allow developers to take full low-level control of adapter memory and rendering states.

The display driver model from Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone have converged into a unified model for Windows 10.[43]

A new memory model is implemented that gives each GPU a per-process virtual address space. Direct addressing of video memory is still supported by WDDMv2 for graphics hardware that requires it, but that is considered a legacy case. IHVs are expected to develop new hardware that supports virtual addressing. Significant changes have been made to the DDI to enable this new memory model.

WDDM 2.1

Windows 10 Anniversary Update (version 1607) includes WDDM 2.1, which supports Shader Model 6.0 (mandatory for feature levels 12_0 and 12_1),[44] and DXGI 1.5 which supports HDR10 - a 10-bit high dynamic range, wide gamut format[45] defined by ITU-T Rec. 2100/Rec.2020 - and variable refresh rates.[46]

WDDM 2.2

Windows 10 Creators Update (version 1703) includes WDDM 2.2, which is tailored for virtual, augmented and mixed reality with stereoscopic rendering for the Windows Mixed Reality platform, and DXGI 1.6.[47]

WDDM 2.3

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (version 1709) includes WDDM 2.3.

  • Hardware queues
  • IOMMU support
  • Blocklist support
  • Surface swapchains
  • Device GUID lookup support
  • Version query (BIOS/architecture information)
  • Perfdata query (clock frequencies (current/max/OC), voltage (current/max/OC), memory frequency, memory bandwidth, PCIE bandwidth, fan RPM, power usage, temperature (max/warning), power override status) [2]

The following is a list of new features for Windows Display driver development in Windows 10, version 1709[48]:

  • Display ColorSpace Transform DDIs provide additional control over color space transforms applied in the post-composition display pipeline.
  • The D3D12 Copy Queue Timestamp Queries feature will allow applications to issue timestamp queries on COPY command lists/queues. These timestamps are specified to function identically to timestamps on other engines.
  • Enhanced Video integration into Direct3D12 Runtime through:
  1. Hardware accelerated video decoding
  2. Content protection
  3. Video processing

WDDM 2.4

Windows 10 April 2018 Update (version 1803) includes WDDM 2.4.

  • Additional d3d memory allocation types
  • Adapter paravirtualization
  • Arbitrary Code Guard
  • Configurable DisplayRender timings
  • Detachable adapter support
  • Display configuration support
  • Source owner support
  • Display redirection
  • ColorSpaceTransform support
  • Protected device session
  • Process device removal (checks if the process using the adapter can recover from graphics device removal)

The following are updates to Display driver development in Windows 10, version 1803[3]:

  • Indirect Display UMDF class extension - The Indirect Display driver can pass the SRM to the rendering GPU and have a mechanism to query the SRM version being used.
  • IOMMU hardware-based GPU isolation support - Increases security by restricting GPU access to system memory.
  • GPU paravirtualization support - Enables display drivers to provide rendering capabilities to Hyper-V virtualized environments.
  • Brightness - A new brightness interface to support multiple displays that can be set to calibrated nit-based brightness levels.
  • D3D11 bitstream encryption - Additional GUIDS and parameters to D3D11 to support exposing CENC, CENS, CBC1, and CBCS with 8 or 16 byte initialization vectors.
  • D3D11 and D3D12 video decode histogram - A luminance histogram allows the media team to leverage fixed function hardware for histogram to improve tone mapping quality for HDR/EDR scenarios. Fixed function hardware is useful when GPU is already saturated in these scenarios and to enable parallel processing. This feature is optional and should only be implemented if fixed function hardware is available. This feature should not be implemented with 3D or Compute.
  • D3D12 video decode now supports Decode Tier II, indicating driver supports Array of Textures that enable applications to amortize allocation cost and reduce peak memory usage during resolution change.
  • Tiled resource tier and LDA atomics - A new cross node sharing tier to add support for atomic shader instructions working across linked adapter (LDA) nodes. This improves ISVs ability to implement multiple GPU rendering techniques like split frame rendering (SFR) and clearly advances the capabilities over what is possible in D3D11.
  • GPU dithering support - Drivers can report the ability to performing dithering on the wire signal for a given timing mode. This allows the OS to explicitly request dithering in scenarios where a higher effective bit depth is needed than is physically available on the monitor link, for example for HDR10 over HDMI 2.0.
  • Post-processing color enhancement override - Adds the ability for the OS to request that the driver temporarily disable any post-processing that enhances or alters display colors. This is to support scenarios where specific applications want to enforce colorimetrically accurate color behavior on the display, and safely coexist with OEM or IHV-proprietary display color enhancements.
  • Direct3D12 and Video - New API and DDI to provide access to the following capabilities:
    • Hardware accelerated video decoding
    • Content Protection
    • Video processing
  • DisplayID - A new DDI, designed to allow the VESA’s DisplayID descriptor to be queried from a display controlled by a graphics adapter and shall support DisplayID v1.3 and DisplayID v2.0. The DDI is an extension of existing DxgkDdiQueryAdapterInfo DDI and shall be supported by all drivers with DXGKDDI_INTERFACE_VERSION >= DXGKDDI_INTERFACE_VERSION_WDDM2_3, including kernel mode display only drivers and indirect display drivers.
  • GPU performance data - Extensions to DdiQueryAdapterInfo will expose information such as temperature, fan speed, clock speeds for engines and memory, memory bandwidth, power draw, and voltages
  • Miscellaneous - A new SupportContextlessPresent driver cap to help IHV onboard new driver.
  • Improvements to External/Removable GPU support in the OS. As a first step to add better support, Dxgkrnl needs to determine if a GPU is “detachable”, i.e. hot-pluggable. For RS4 we would like to leverage the driver’s knowledge about this instead of building our own infrastructure. For this purpose, we are adding a “Detachable” bit to DXGK_ DRIVERCAPS struct. Driver will set this bit during adapter initialization if the adapter is hot-pluggable.
  • Display Diagnostics - Kernel mode device driver interface (DDI) changes to allow the driver for a display controller to report diagnostic events to the OS. This provides a channel through which the driver can log events which would otherwise be invisible to the OS as the events are not a response to an OS request or something the OS needs to react to.
  • Shared graphics power components - Allows non-graphics drivers to participate in the power management of a graphics device. A non-graphics driver will use a driver interface to manage one or more of these shared power components in coordination with the graphics driver.
  • Shared texture improvements - Includes increasing the types of textures that can be shared across processes and D3D devices. This design enables the frame server OS component to support monochrome with minimal memory copying.

Since the introduction of Windows 10 April 2018 Update, and due to changes in the WDDM, it became possible to use the same dual graphics in laptops. For example, it allows you to run programs / games on a more powerful video card, and display the image via the built-in graphics directly on the internal (PCI-E) or external bus, without having to connect the monitor to a powerful video card. It can also act as a solution to the problem if there is no VGA video output on the video card, and it is present on the motherboard.

WDDM 2.5

Windows 10 October 2018 Update (Version 1809) Includes WDDM 2.5.

Updates to Display driver development in Windows 10, version 1809 include the following[4]:

  • Raytracing - New Direct3D DDI's were created in parallel of Direct3D API's, in order to support hardware-accelerated raytracing. Example DDIs include: PFND3D12DDI_BUILD_RAYTRACING_ACCELERATION_STRUCTURE_0054, PFND3D12DDI_COPY_RAYTRACING_ACCELERATION_STRUCTURE_0054. For more info about raytracing, see Announcing Microsoft DirectX Raytracing.
  • Universal Driver Requirements - WDDM 2.5 drivers will need to ensure their DirectX11 UMD, DirectX12 UMD, KMDs, and any other DLL loaded by these components, adhere to the Universal API.
  • SRV-Only Tiled Resource Tier 3 - In Windows 10, version 1809, Tiled Resource Tier 3 capabilities can be supported less-orthogonally by GPUs. Direct3D12 now supports sparse volume textures without requiring unordered-access and render-target operations. SRV-Only Tiled Resource Tier 3 is a conceptual tier that fits between Tier 2 and Tier 3. Hardware support is optional, just like orthogonal Tiled Resource Tier 3 support currently is. But, supporting SRV-Only Tiled Resource Tier 3 is a super-set tier that requires support for Tiled Resource Tier 2. Drivers that already advertise support for orthogonal Tiled Resource Tier 3 merely have to update their drivers to support the latest “options caps” DDI structure version. The runtime will advertise SRV-Only Tiled Resource Tier 3 support to applications for any hardware that already supports orthogonal Tiled Resource Tier 3.
  • Render Pass - The Render Pass feature was added to:
    • Allow new APIs to be run on existing drivers.
    • Allow user mode drivers to choose optimal rendering path without heavy CPU penalty.
  • Meta-commands - A Meta-command is Direct3D12 object that represents an IHV-accelerated algorithm. It’s an opaque reference to a command generator implemented by the driver. Meta-command updates include Descriptor Table Binding and Texture binding. See D3D12DDI_META_COMMAND_PARAMETER_TYPE and D3D12DDIARG_META_COMMAND_PARAMETER_DESC.
    • Enable Compute Algorithms to use Texture Resources (swizzled memory)
    • Enable Graphics Pipeline Algorithms
  • HDR Brightness Compensation - A new SDR brightness boost was introduced to raise the reference white of SDR content to the user-desired value, allowing SDR content to be reproduced to a typical 200-240 nits, which is equivalent to what users have expected for SDR displays. SDR brightness boost affects overall Brightness3 behavior in two ways:
    1. This boost is applied pre-blend only on SDR content. HDR content is not affected. Meanwhile, for most laptop/brightness3 scenarios, users expect all content (SDR and HDR) to be adjusted.
    2. When the Brightness3 stack in the OS is determines the desired nits value, it is not aware of the already applied SDR boost. The driver must then apply a compensation to the desired nits value coming from Brightness3 DDIs for HDR. Since Graphics drivers (and downstream TCON etc.) will be modifying the pixel values of the content to get desired nits value, there should also be a compensation applied to the HDR content metadata as provided by the applications via D3DDDI_HDR_METADATA_HDR10 or OS defaults via DxgkDdiSetTargetAdjustedColorimetry. Since Graphics driver (TCONs) are responsible for modifying the pixel data, it is the driver’s responsibility to compensate the HDR content metadata.
  • HDR Pixel Format Support - This kernel mode device driver interface (DDI) change is part of WDDM 2.5 to expose new capabilities to be reported by driver/device, providing information regarding the HDR functionality supported by the driver/device. Currently, OS determines if the driver/device supports HDR based on the HighColorSpace bit of the DXGK_MONITORLINKINFO_CAPABILITIES structure as read from DdiUpdateMonitorLinkInfo. The HighColorSpace bit gives a combination of driver/link/monitor capability to run in HDR mode. The HDR capabilities reporting by the driver now includes a Driver/Device level capabilities, which will let OS know if the Driver/Device supports true HDR (i.e. FP16HDR), or only supports a limited form of HDR (i.e. ARGB10HDR), as defined below:
    • FP16HDR: Driver/device can take FP16 pixel format surfaces with scRGB/CCCS colorspace and apply PQ/2084 encoding and BT.2020 primaries during scanout pipeline to convert output signal to HDR10.
    • ARGB10HDR: Driver/device can take ARGB10 pixel format surfaces which are already PQ/2084 encoded and scan out HDR10 signal. Driver/device can’t handle FP16HDR as defined above or cannot handle the extended numeric range of scRGB FP16. Graphics drivers can only report support for either FP16HDR or ARGB10HDR as they are not really superset/subset configurations and OS will fail the Start Adapter if both are reported as supported at the same time. See DXGK_MONITORLINKINFO_CAPABILITIES and _DXGK_DISPLAY_DRIVERCAPS_EXTENSION.
  • SDR White Level - A kernel mode device driver interface change includes adding new parameters to existing DDIs to let the Graphics drivers know the “SDR white level” value that is being applied by the OS compositor for all the SDR content, for a display which is running in HDR mode. See _DXGK_COLORIMETRY.

Preview versions

The Software Developer Kit for Oculus Rift head-mounted display includes DXGI 2 preview for Windows 10.


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