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Does Rhino Run on Vista?

Summary: Rhino 4.0 with Service Release 2 (or newer) runs fine on all flavors of MS Vista, but there are serious issues for Rhino 3.0. Please add reports on your experience.
Note: Since Microsoft issued Service Pack 1 for Vista, it has been much more stable and reliable. We recommend all Vista users keep their operating systems up to date with all the “critical updates” issued by Microsoft. The Windows Update Tool, found in the Tools pull-down menu of MS Internet Explorer, is an easy tool to use and makes keeping your system up to date relatively painless. Added 5 March 2009 - John Brock

Rhino 3.0 and 4.0 run on Windows Vista, but the 3-D display performance (OpenGL) can be much worse than on Windows XP or 2000 using the same hardware. Independent benchmarks show discouraging results for other CAD applications that use OpenGL.

Vista also has new security features that may cause a few extra security messages during startup.


Rhino V4 starts with no plug-ins loaded

A few users reported that installing Rhino V4 (SR2 and newer) on Vista has resulted in no plug-ins and occasionally no toolbars loaded unless logged in and running as the local Administrator. This has been more common on Vista Home Premium systems, but has been reported on all flavors of Vista. Most users do not report this problem and we have not been able to duplicate the problem here in the Rhino Development Team.


Users report that turning off User Account Control (Control Panel - User Accounts), and temporarily disabling any antivirus and system protection software before running the Rhino installation again, solves the problem. After reinstalling and running Rhino once, you should restart your antivirus and system protection tools. You can turn UAC back on if you want to.

Added 5 March 2009 - John Brock

Video and accelerated 3-D display

Both Rhino 3.0 and 4.0 use OpenGL for accelerated 3-D display. OpenGL can use a graphics accelerator card to enhance 3-D display performance.

Non-accelerated OpenGL

Windows Vista supports non-accelerated OpenGL, sometimes called OpenGL Software Emulation or Standard OpenGL. Rhino runs with non-accelerated OpenGL, but because it is not accelerated, it can be quite slow – especially with large models.

Windows Vista does not support accelerated OpenGL directly, and some video card manufacturers do not have drivers available for their cards. We do not know if drivers that support efficient accelerated OpenGL will ever be available for these cards.

Upgrading from XP to Vista

You may have an OpenGL card that provides excellent 3-D acceleration under Windows XP. If a driver is not available for Vista, upgrading to Vista will likely reduce or eliminate the benefits of your OpenGL card. This means that Rhino's 3-D display could be worse under Vista than XP with the exact same hardware.

New computers with Vista

If you are looking to buy a new computer with Vista pre-loaded, be sure to check if an OpenGL driver is available for the video card you select. If it is not, Rhino's display will likely be very slow.

Graphics drivers for Vista

NVIDIA and ATI release updated drivers on a regular basis to fix Vista display issues with their hardware. Check their websites to make sure that their Vista drivers work with your hardware.

Rhino 4 Fix: The first service release of Rhino 4 contains several display fixes that let Rhino properly use accelerated graphics on Vista.


Vista uses more memory than XP does. While the total amount of memory available for a process is unchanged, the amount of available RAM will be smaller with Vistas. Thus, if you are running up against the limits of memory with Rhino 3.0 on Windows XP, it will get worse with Vista. The maximum amount of RAM that Rhino 3.0 can use on Vista is 2GB.

Rhino 4.0, however, is compiled to use 3GB of RAM if it's available. On both Windows XP and Windows Vista, Rhino can use 3GB if it is available. More memory will be available with XP than with Vista, because XP uses less memory.

If memory is very important to you, XP will make more available for Rhino than Vista does.

Rhino 3.0

There are several problems in Rhino 3.0 when running on Vista that will not be fixed. McNeel recommends upgrading to Rhino 4.0 if you use Windows Vista.

The problems are:

  • OpenGL display may be slower on Vista than on XP. And there maybe considerable display problems - viewports may go black, or get garbage drawn in them.
  • Several dialog boxes appear at startup telling you that Rhino cannot write to the registry.
  • Vista does not ship with WinHelp (WinHlp32.exe). Rhino 3.0's help file is a WinHelp file, so you will not be able to see it on Vista unless you download the following update from Microsoft. //Download WinHelp for Vista...//

Advice on running V3.0 under Vista from McNeel's Jeff LaSor:

You can try configuring Rhino to run in certain compatibility modes in Vista…Try the following:

  1. Right-click on the Rhino icon on your desktop and select Properties.
  2. Click on the Compatibility tab.
  3. Check the option Run this program in compatibility mode for: and then select Windows XP (Service Pack 2).
  4. Further down on the dialog check these two options:
 [X] Disable visual themes
 [X] Disable desktop composition

Note: Disabling visual themes will hide the red X closer button on floating toolbars.

That should hopefully help get V3 running a little better…but note: This will also cause all of Vista's Ultimate effects to be temporarily disabled (ex. see through windows, etc..) while V3 is running.

Customer experiences

When I try to install Rhinoceros 3.0 on Vista, it says that it is already running and to close it before resuming setup, although it's not even installed and no other instances of Rhinoceros is running. What's up?

Added 2/27/2007 Good morning Pascal. I emailed you last week concerning ATI display cards/Rhino/Vista compatibility. You had directed me to a driver update with ATI that supported OpenGL with Vista. I thought I'd give you a heads-up for your info and other inquiries that its performance is mediocre at best. I've spent a good deal of time adjusting settings but the fact still remains that in zooming in and out of elevation or top viewports, there is a marked hesitation in rendering of anything more than wireframe display. Also in window selecting in any parallel viewport are artifacts and noise created until selection is made. Lastly, and easily the biggest problem lay in the fact that in any parallel viewport, when drawing with any line tool, a blacked-out box surrounds the activated line while drawing until it is entered. So it is very difficult to trace anything or use anything in the viewport as a reference to draw the line. It is definitely faster in that enabling the OpenGL of the graphics driver, the faster acceleration options are provided but this does not justify the poor real-time display. Again, thanks for the help and hopefully Rhino/ATI/Windows can resolve this. - David Bier, Imaging Specialist

This is primarily due to how Vista treats mixing of display technologies on a single window which was allowed in the past. Applying either of the fixes mentioned in the display section above should help with this situation - Steve Baer

Added 7/26/2007 Hi… My wife is an educator in the field of jewelry design and she uses Rhino. We want to get a new PC that will run Rhino 4. Most new PCs are only available with Vista. If we get a new PC with a graphics card from, say, NVIDIA that does come with a hardware OpenGL driver, can we expect to have as good an experience as with Windows XP? Or do you suggest sticking with a box that we still can get with XP? (Incidentally, I develop molecular modeling software and this issue is of interest to us as well. Right now, we don't support Vista, but that's because our customers have been slow to adopt it. But it appears that we will have to find our way in this Brave New World as well.) Thanks, - Peter Shenkin

Added 7/26/2007: Installed V4 SR1 on my Vista notebook, but the toolbar pop-up sub-commands are still inaccessible. The sub-command frame pops up, but it's empty/invisible. Other than that, I haven't yet noticed any serious OpenGL problems, despite my older model NVIDIA graphics card (GeForce Go 6150, a notebook-oriented IGP). I've also had problems trying to install the Rhino plug-in for DirectX9. After installing all the recommended software, I still get a “missing DLL's”/dependencies error. For those considering a new machine with Vista, (I certainly wouldn't upgrade an old machine), I'm experiencing software usability problems in various programs.

Is that on a new machine that come with Vista or on an old machine that used to run something else? - P. Shenkin

My only Vista experience is on a new machine built (supposedly) for Vista. Also, I'm not sure my problems are all OpenGL-related: Graphics performance hasn't really been an issue so far. Most problems I've encountered are in the UI elements, like toolbars. As of 06/19/2008, still can't find a mode that shows tooltips on hover. (Just a blank box.) - M.K. Mori

rhino/vista.txt · Last modified: 2020/08/14 (external edit)