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I have a piece of software that doesn't have a USB driver for x64. I was hoping to use VirtualBox , VirtualPC, or VMWare in order to have an x32 Windows which would allow me to continue to use the software. However, I find that if the host can't use the USB then the client can't either.

Do emulators solve this issue? I've used QEMU before but I read that the hardware support in VirtualBox was based on QEMU so I wouldn't expect it to work.

Any suggestions? Does anyone have this scenario working?

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3 Answers 3

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You might want to play with a 30day trial of Parallels Desktop 4 (MSRP $80) or VMWare Workstation (MSRP $189). They each have distinct implementations of the USB passthrough and one or the other might support connection of non-recognized USB devices to a guest.

And a longshot...with a relatively new chipset that's Intel VT-d (directed IO) enabled and a virtualization software which is VT-d aware (Parallels Workstation Extreme being the one I'm aware of) you could connect one of your USB root hubs (or technically the PCIe device behind it) to a guest with VT-d. That guest would get exclusive access to those USB ports and Windows x64 would never even see them. Truth be told, I've only done this under VMWare ESXi 4.1, but given that Parallels is charging $400 (5x more than 'Parallels Desktop') just for VT-d enabled 'Extreme' edition, I imagine they got it right.

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Pass through means using the host's drivers. For the particular scenario I'm thinking off even if parallels got it right, at that price I would probably just devote old hardware to the task. –  Martin Murphy Dec 9 '10 at 4:26
    
No, passthrough does not mean using the hosts drivers. The only reason VirtualBox requires the host to have a driver is so that it can tell Windows to "unplug" the device so it can be used by the guest exclusively. The hope is that VMWare Workstation or Parallels Desktop 4 can select USB devices for passthrough even if they don't have drivers under your x64 host. –  notpeter Dec 9 '10 at 23:01

I'm using a Mac at the moment and if I'm running a VM (I often run Windows XP, Windows 7 & Linux guests) Parallels will pop up a message asking me if I want the host machine to control the device or if the guest should. I'm not sure if this is working so seamlessly simply because OS X already has full driver support for the USB device or not, but it does work very well. Parallels is also available for Windows!

Last I used with VirtualBox (2.x series) you could choose to push control of USB devices through to a guest too - in pushing the device to the guest the host machine would loose functionality of that device - a situation that was frustrating when I accidentally pushed control of my mouse through to a guest.

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Pushing to the guest on VB doesn't work because the host doesn't have drivers for the usb. –  Martin Murphy Aug 20 '09 at 13:51
    
I'm not sure this is possible, but can the USB controller be setup for direct access to your VM? If possible this would mean the host OS wouldn't need to care about any connected device as all control of that controller could be handled by the guest OS ... possibly pipe dream on my part thinking this is possible ... –  DisabledLeopard Aug 20 '09 at 15:03
    
That's what I was thinking but none of the vm solutions seems to work this way. –  Martin Murphy Sep 4 '09 at 23:59
    
The reason that OSX works well here has nothing to do with the VM it's because OSX has full 32 bit emulation support. Windows 7 it appears will also have this so that may be my solution. –  Martin Murphy Sep 5 '09 at 0:00

The only thing I can think of would be a networkable USB device like this where the device sits on the network and you connect to a 32-bit VM over IP. The only place the USB drivers are required are inside the 32-bit VM.

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Interesting suggestion. Obviously I would prefer not to have to purchase additional hardware but I may end up resorting to this at some point. –  Martin Murphy Aug 20 '09 at 13:50

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