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Hyper-V USB Passthrough in Windows Operating Systems

Sep 10, 2021

One of the most common problems a user can experience while operating a Hyper-V or VMware workstation is very poorly supported passthrough of local resources (both USB and SCSI) from a host to a VM. This breaks the desired abstraction of the VM from the hardware and therefore stops VM mobility. However, this doesn't mean there is no solution to this issue.

The most convenient way to set up USB redirection (also known as Hyper-V USB Passthrough) to a VM running on Hyper-V hypervisor or VMware ESX is by using a third-party USB redirector app. The same thing goes for redirecting USB over Ethernet. These USB redirector apps work by setting up a physical server (USB hub) that has all the local devices connected to it, plus the service that enables the local USB devices to be accessed remotely over Ethernet. On top of that, top USB redirectors offer some nice perks like cross-connectivity with other platforms (i.a., Linux) and traffic encryption algorithms for added security.

Alternatively, you can use Microsoft Hyper-V Client to redirect your USB dongle keys, printers, or other peripherals. And if your Hyper-V host or VMware workstation runs Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, you probably would not have to go through any additional steps whatsoever, as these systems have the enhanced session mode enabled by default. But if your host runs Windows Server 2012 or Windows Server 2012 R2, you must turn on enhanced session mode to use it. It is turned off by default for those operating systems.

It looks like only specific editions like server 2012 allow such behavior natively. So if you don't want a network-based USB passthrough solution but rather would prefer a software solution, various third-party software vendors claim to solve this issue. But if you want to try native methods first and teach your Hyper-V to pass arbitrary USB dongle keys and other devices through to guest VMs, you should use RDP to connect to your VM. Here is what you need to do:

On the host machine:

  1. Press Win+R to involve the Run window and enter gpedit.msc there to access the computer’s group policy settings.

  2. Go to Computer configuration > Administrative templates > Windows Components > Remote Desktop Services > Remote Desktop Connection Client > RemoteFX USB Device Redirection.

  3. Select the only GPO there and Enable it and change the access rights to "Administrators and Users."

On the VM:

  1. Press Win+R, type gpedit.msc, and hit Enter. Alternatively, you can do the same thing using PowerShell (poweshell.exe).

  2. Go to Computer configuration > Administrative templates > Windows Components > Remote Desktop Services > Remote Desktop Session Host > Device and Resource Redirection.

  3. Select GPO "Do not allow supported Plug and Play device redirection" and disable it so you could use PnP devices on your VM.

Reboot both machines, and voila! You can redirect anything to VM. When you connect, a third icon next to the Connection info icon will show up. Click on that icon, and you will be able to select anything local to be redirected to a VM.

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