Why Long Tutorials?

Anyone who follows this website will notice that the tutorials are rather long. In these long tutorials I usually give reference specs, explain basic terms or processes, and expand on the how and why.

I wish I could write short, easy, step by step tutorials titled “GPU passthrough made easy” or the “Quick guide to VFIO bliss”. In fact, there are plenty of those out there in the great Internet. Some of the most popular ones are on Youtube, showing you how to get your Windows gaming VM up and running in no time.

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Nvidia And The “hidden state”

No more need to hide the hypervisor

Ever since I started to run a Microsoft Windows VM with GPU passthrough, Nvidia graphics drivers would only support their professional Quadro line of graphics cards in a virtual machine. Ten years ago I bit the bullet and bought an outrageously expensive Nvidia Quadro 2000 GPU. Truth be told – it’s been and still is a great GPU and I currently use it for my Linux host. Back then the Quadro was passed through to a Windows 7 VM running on Xen. It worked great.

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Manjaro Linux Kernel 5.10

I was so busy studying, writing, and processing photos that I didn’t touch my Manjaro Linux host for a long long time. Then one day I decided to upgrade my PC from a 5.4 kernel to the most recent LTS or “Long Term Support” Manjaro Linux kernel 5.10.

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Manjaro Linux

A look at Manjaro Linux from a VFIO passthrough user perspective – the benefits and downsides of using Manjaro as a Linux host

Last year in April I switched from Linux Mint via a short detour to Pop_OS to Manjaro Linux as my host OS. The reasons I chose Manjaro Linux were its up-to-date kernel and software and its well-rounded selection of software packages. However, the latest and greatest kernel and software can come at a price of being less stable. In this post I like to weigh in the pros and cons for Manjaro Linux and what you might want to consider before jumping on the wagon.

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Passing Through a Nvidia RTX 2070 Super GPU

Tutorial for passing through a Nvidia RTX graphics card to a Windows 10 virtual machine using a modified VBIOS

Last update: September 14, 2021

Starting with the GeForce 1000 series, vfio passthrough of a Nvidia GPU has become a little more complicated. If, when starting the VM, you get a black screen, chances are you need to pass along a VBIOS file to the VM so the GPU can properly initialize.

This post is about passing through a Nvidia RTX 2070 Super GPU or any other modern Nvidia GPU to a Windows 10 guest.

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AMD Radeon 6800/6800XT for VFIO?

Up until November 18, 2020 I would have suggested against the purchase of an AMD GPU for VFIO. But yesterday AMD launched its Radeon RX 6800 line of GPUs. Are the AMD Radeon 6800/6800XT suitable for VFIO?

What is VFIO? -- Click to expand

VFIO is about running for example Windows 10 in a virtual machine (VM), using a discrete graphics card that you pass through to the VM. The Linux driver framework that is used to bind the graphics card during the host boot is called VFIO. The virtual machine itself (e.g. Windows 10) then uses its own native graphics driver to drive the GPU, significantly boosting VM graphics performance. This enables you to run Linux on the host and create Windows virtual machines for gaming and other high performance tasks.

 

AMD graphics cards have been plagued with the notorious FLR reset bug over several years now. Independent developers wrote a kernel patch as a workaround that would work most of the time. But the patch required kernel or module compilation, which is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Yesterday Wendell at Level1Techs posted a (p)review of the latest AMD Radeon 6800 and 6800XT graphics cards. He attests that the AMD Radeon 6800/6800XT are perfectly suitable for VFIO passthrough. No more FLR reset bug. Wendell goes further to point out that the Linux graphics drivers available in Ubuntu 20.04 already support these cards. This is great news for the Linux user community in general, and VFIO passthrough enthusiasts especially! Finally an alternative to NVIDIA.

There are more good news: Those of you who already own an AMD Navi, Vega or Polaris graphics card plagued with the FLR reset bug can now enjoy a simpler, better workaround. Instead of compiling the patch into the kernel, all you need to do now is to “build the module and modprobe it, or use dmks to manage it directly”.

AMD has already shown its Linux support through its open source graphics drivers. The new graphics cards based on the RDNA2 architecture have finally corrected the product flaw of previous releases. Welcome to the VFIO club.

You will probably have to wait some time to get hold of one of these cards, as they seem to have sold out on launch day.

 

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Remote Backup Script for Windows NTFS Partitions on LVM Volumes

Linux bash script to mount and backup / synchronize a Windows 10 partition inside a LVM volume to a remote backup server using rsync and SSH

I run the bash script below to backup my Windows NTFS partitions residing on LVM volumes to a remote backup server. It uses SSH and public key authentication to authenticate at the remote side.

The script mounts an NTFS partition inside a LVM raw volume. It performs a file-based backup using rsync. It is NOT suitable for system backups!

Please carefully read the “Requirements”, “How it Works”, and “Usage” sections before attempting to use it.

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Windows 10 VFIO Passthrough Configuration

I’ve been tweaking my configuration for my needs and it performs very well. As a reference, I’m posting my:

    • hardware configuration
    • Linux distro, kernel, etc.
    • Windows VM configuration (XML)

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Graphics Cards: AMD vs Nvidia

Updated on November 19, 2020

A question that frequently pops up in VFIO or GPU passthrough forums is which graphics card to buy: AMD or Nvidia? And the answer often depends on whom you ask.

Some people will tell you to stay clear of Nvidia graphics cards since their driver detects the virtual machine and quits.

Others mention the “reset bug” that’s been haunting AMD graphics cards for the last couple of years (see Wendells video interview of Linux kernel maintainer Greg Kroah-Hartman). So what’s the story?

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Creating a Windows 10 kvm VM on the AMD Ryzen 9 3900X using Qemu 4.0 and VGA Passthrough

Last updated: September 12, 2021

Introduction

I’ve already written a detailed tutorial on Windows 10 kvm VGA passthrough based on QEMU version 2.11. Years have passed and recent distributions like Ubuntu 20.04, Linux Mint 20, or Manjaro come with QEMU 4.0, 4.2 or 5.1.

A lot has happened since version 2.11. QEMU 4.0 includes numerous changes and improvements such as trim support in the virtio-blk driver, pcie-root-port with PCIe 4.0 support (with Q35-4.0 machine type), as well as improved audio.

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