Khronos Vulkan

Driver interface to the Vulkan Loader

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Table of Contents


This is the Driver-centric view of working with the Vulkan loader. For the complete overview of all sections of the loader, please refer to the LoaderInterfaceArchitecture.html file.

NOTE: While many of the interfaces still use the "icd" sub-string to identify various behavior associated with drivers, this is purely historical and should not indicate that the implementing code do so through the traditional ICD interface. Granted, the majority of drivers to this date are ICD drivers targeting specific GPU hardware.

Driver Discovery

Vulkan allows multiple drivers each with one or more devices (represented by a Vulkan VkPhysicalDevice object) to be used collectively. The loader is responsible for discovering available Vulkan drivers on the system. Given a list of available drivers, the loader can enumerate all the physical devices available for an application and return this information to the application. The process in which the loader discovers the available drivers on a system is platform-dependent. Windows, Linux, Android, and macOS Driver Discovery details are listed below.

Overriding the Default Driver Discovery

There may be times that a developer wishes to force the loader to use a specific Driver. This could be for many reasons including using a beta driver, or forcing the loader to skip a problematic driver. In order to support this, the loader can be forced to look at specific drivers with the VK_ICD_FILENAMES environment variable.

The VK_ICD_FILENAMES environment variable is a list of Driver Manifest files, containing the full path to the driver JSON Manifest file. This list is colon-separated on Linux and macOS, and semicolon-separated on Windows. Typically, VK_ICD_FILENAMES will only contain a full pathname to one info file for a single driver. A separator (colon or semicolon) is only used if more than one driver is needed.

Exception for Elevated Privileges

For security reasons, VK_ICD_FILENAMES is ignored if running the Vulkan application with elevated privileges. Because of this, VK_ICD_FILENAMES can only be used for applications that do not use elevated privileges.

For more information see Elevated Privilege Caveats in the top-level [LoaderInterfaceArchitecture.html][LoaderInterfaceArchitecture.html] document.


In order to use the setting, simply set it to a properly delimited list of Driver Manifest files. In this case, please provide the global path to these files to reduce issues.

For example:

On Windows
set VK_ICD_FILENAMES=\windows\system32\nv-vk64.json

This is an example which is using the VK_ICD_FILENAMES override on Windows to point to the Nvidia Vulkan Driver's Manifest file.

On Linux
export VK_ICD_FILENAMES=/home/user/dev/mesa/share/vulkan/icd.d/intel_icd.x86_64.json

This is an example which is using the VK_ICD_FILENAMES override on Linux to point to the Intel Mesa Driver's Manifest file.

On macOS
export VK_ICD_FILENAMES=/home/user/MoltenVK/Package/Latest/MoltenVK/macOS/MoltenVK_icd.json

This is an example which is using the VK_ICD_FILENAMES override on macOS to point to an installation and build of the MoltenVK GitHub repository that contains the MoltenVK driver.

See the Table of Debug Environment Variables in the LoaderInterfaceArchitecture.html document for more details

Driver Manifest File Usage

As with layers, on Windows, Linux and macOS systems, JSON-formatted manifest files are used to store driver information. In order to find system-installed drivers, the Vulkan loader will read the JSON files to identify the names and attributes of each driver. Notice that Driver Manifest files are much simpler than the corresponding layer Manifest files.

See the Current Driver Manifest File Format section for more details.

Driver Discovery on Windows

In order to find available drivers (including installed ICDs), the loader scans through registry keys specific to Display Adapters and all Software Components associated with these adapters for the locations of JSON manifest files. These keys are located in device keys created during driver installation and contain configuration information for base settings, including OpenGL and Direct3D locations.

The Device Adapter and Software Component key paths will be obtained by first enumerating DXGI adapters. Should that fail it will use the PnP Configuration Manager API. The 000X key will be a numbered key, where each device is assigned a different number.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Class\{Adapter GUID}\000X\VulkanDriverName
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Class\{SoftwareComponent GUID}\000X\VulkanDriverName

In addition, on 64-bit systems there may be another set of registry values, listed below. These values record the locations of 32-bit layers on 64-bit operating systems, in the same way as the Windows-on-Windows functionality.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Class\{Adapter GUID}\000X\VulkanDriverNameWow
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Class\{SoftwareComponent GUID}\000X\VulkanDriverNameWow

If any of the above values exist and is of type REG_SZ, the loader will open the JSON manifest file specified by the key value. Each value must be a full absolute path to a JSON manifest file. The values may also be of type REG_MULTI_SZ, in which case the value will be interpreted as a list of paths to JSON manifest files.

Additionally, the Vulkan loader will scan the values in the following Windows registry key:


For 32-bit applications on 64-bit Windows, the loader scan's the 32-bit registry location:


Every driver in these locations should be given as a DWORD, with value 0, where the name of the value is the full path to a JSON manifest file. The Vulkan loader will attempt to open each manifest file to obtain the information about a driver's shared library (".dll") file.

For example, let us assume the registry contains the following data:


"C:\vendor a\vk_vendora.json"=dword:00000000

In this case, the loader will step through each entry, and check the value. If the value is 0, then the loader will attempt to load the file. In this case, the loader will open the first and last listings, but not the middle. This is because the value of 1 for vendorb_vk.json disables the driver.

The Vulkan loader will open each enabled manifest file found to obtain the name or pathname of a driver's shared library (".DLL") file.

Drivers should use the registry locations from the PnP Configuration Manager wherever practical. Typically, this is most important for drivers, and the location clearly ties the driver to a given device. The SOFTWARE\Khronos\Vulkan\Drivers location is the older method for locating drivers, but is the primary location for software based drivers.

See the Driver Manifest File Format section for more details.

Driver Discovery on Linux

On Linux, the Vulkan loader will scan for Driver Manifest files using environment variables or corresponding fallback values if the corresponding environment variable is not defined:

Search Order Directory/Environment Variable Fallback Additional Notes
1 $XDG_CONFIG_HOME $HOME/.config This path is ignored when running with elevated privileges such as setuid, setgid, or filesystem capabilities.
This is done because under these scenarios it is not safe to trust that the environment variables are non-malicious.
See Elevated Privilege Caveats for more information.
1 $XDG_CONFIG_DIRS /etc/xdg
2 SYSCONFDIR /etc Compile-time option set to possible location of drivers installed from non-Linux-distribution-provided packages.
3 EXTRASYSCONFDIR /etc Compile-time option set to possible location of drivers installed from non-Linux-distribution-provided packages. Typically only set if SYSCONFDIR is set to something other than /etc
4 $XDG_DATA_HOME $HOME/.local/share This path is ignored when running with elevated privileges such as setuid, setgid, or filesystem capabilities.
This is done because under these scenarios it is not safe to trust that the environment variables are non-malicious.
See Elevated Privilege Caveats for more information.
5 $XDG_DATA_DIRS /usr/local/share/:/usr/share/

The directory lists are concatenated together using the standard platform path separator (:). The loader then selects each path, and applies the "/vulkan/icd.d" suffix onto each and looks in that specific folder for manifest files.

The Vulkan loader will open each manifest file found to obtain the name or pathname of a driver's shared library (".dylib") file.

NOTE While the order of folders searched for manifest files is well defined, the order contents are read by the loader in each directory is random due to the behavior of readdir.

See the Driver Manifest File Format section for more details.

It is also important to note that while VK_LAYER_PATH will point the loader to finding the manifest files, it does not guarantee the library files mentioned by the manifest will immediately be found. Often, the Driver Manifest file will point to the library file using a relative or absolute path. When a relative or absolute path is used, the loader can typically find the library file without querying the operating system. However, if a library is listed only by name, the loader may not find it, unless the driver is installed placing the library in an operating system searchable default location. If problems occur finding a library file associated with a driver, try updating the LD_LIBRARY_PATH environment variable to point at the location of the corresponding .so file.

Example Linux Driver Search Path

For a fictional user "me" the Driver Manifest search path might look like the following:


Driver Discovery on Fuchsia

On Fuchsia, the Vulkan loader will scan for manifest files using environment variables or corresponding fallback values if the corresponding environment variable is not defined in the same way as Linux. The only difference is that Fuchsia does not allow fallback values for $XDG_DATA_DIRS or $XDG_HOME_DIRS.

Driver Discovery on macOS

On macOS, the Vulkan loader will scan for Driver Manifest files using the application resource folder as well as environment variables or corresponding fallback values if the corresponding environment variable is not defined. The order is similar to the search path on Linux with the exception that the application's bundle resources are searched first: (bundle)/Contents/Resources/.

Example macOS Driver Search Path

For a fictional user "Me" the Driver Manifest search path might look like the following:


Additional Settings For Driver Debugging

Sometimes, the driver may encounter issues when loading. A useful option may be to enable the LD_BIND_NOW environment variable to debug the issue. This forces every dynamic library's symbols to be fully resolved on load. If there is a problem with a driver missing symbols on the current system, this will expose it and cause the Vulkan loader to fail on loading the driver. It is recommended that LD_BIND_NOW along with VK_LOADER_DEBUG=error,warn to expose any issues.

Using Pre-Production ICDs or Software Drivers

Both software and pre-production ICDs can use an alternative mechanism to detect their drivers. Independent Hardware Vendor (IHV) may not want to fully install a pre-production ICD and so it can't be found in the standard location. For example, a pre-production ICD may simply be a shared library in the developer's build tree. In this case, there should be a way to allow developers to point to such an ICD without modifying the system-installed ICD(s) on their system.

This need is met with the use of the VK_ICD_FILENAMES environment variable, which will override the mechanism used for finding system-installed drivers.

In other words, only the drivers listed in VK_ICD_FILENAMES will be used.

See Overriding the Default Driver Discovery for more information on this.

Driver Discovery on Android

The Android loader lives in the system library folder. The location cannot be changed. The loader will load the driver via hw_get_module with the ID of "vulkan". Due to security policies in Android, none of this can be modified under normal use.

Driver Manifest File Format

The following section discusses the details of the Driver Manifest JSON file format. The JSON file itself does not have any requirements for naming. The only requirement is that the extension suffix of the file is ".json".

Here is an example driver JSON Manifest file:

   "file_format_version": "1.0.0",
   "ICD": {
      "library_path": "path to driver library",
      "api_version": "1.0.5"
Field Name Field Value
"file_format_version" The JSON format major.minor.patch version number of this file.
Currently supported version is 1.0.0.
"ICD" The identifier used to group all driver information together.
NOTE: Even though this is labelled ICD it is historical and just as accurate to use for other drivers.
"library_path" The "library_path" specifies either a filename, a relative pathname, or a full pathname to a driver shared library file.
If "library_path" specifies a relative pathname, it is relative to the path of the JSON manifest file.
If "library_path" specifies a filename, the library must live in the system's shared object search path.
There are no rules about the name of the driver's shared library file other than it should end with the appropriate suffix (".DLL" on Windows, ".so" on Linux and ".dylib" on macOS).
"api_version" The major.minor.patch version number of the Vulkan API that the shared library files for the driver was built against.
For example: 1.0.33.

NOTE: If the same driver shared library supports multiple, incompatible versions of text manifest file format versions, it must have separate JSON files for each (all of which may point to the same shared library).

Driver Manifest File Versions

There has only been one version of the Driver Manifest files supported. This is version 1.0.0.

Driver Manifest File Version 1.0.0

The initial version of the Driver Manifest file specified the basic format and fields of a layer JSON file. The fields supported in version 1.0.0 of the file format include:

Driver Vulkan Entry Point Discovery

The Vulkan symbols exported by a driver must not clash with the loader's exported Vulkan symbols. Because of this, all drivers must export the following function that is used for discovery of driver Vulkan entry-points. This entry-point is not a part of the Vulkan API itself, only a private interface between the loader and drivers for version 1 and higher interfaces.

      VkInstance instance,
      const char* pName);

This function has very similar semantics to vkGetInstanceProcAddr. vk_icdGetInstanceProcAddr returns valid function pointers for all the global-level and instance-level Vulkan functions, and also for vkGetDeviceProcAddr. Global-level functions are those which contain no dispatchable object as the first parameter, such as vkCreateInstance and vkEnumerateInstanceExtensionProperties. The driver must support querying global-level entry points by calling vk_icdGetInstanceProcAddr with a NULL VkInstance parameter. Instance-level functions are those that have either VkInstance, or VkPhysicalDevice as the first parameter dispatchable object. Both core entry points and any instance extension entry points the driver supports should be available via vk_icdGetInstanceProcAddr. Future Vulkan instance extensions may define and use new instance-level dispatchable objects other than VkInstance and VkPhysicalDevice, in which case extension entry points using these newly defined dispatchable objects must be queryable via vk_icdGetInstanceProcAddr.

All other Vulkan entry points must either:

This requirement is for driver libraries that include other functionality (such as OpenGL) and thus could be loaded by the application prior to when the Vulkan loader library is loaded by the application.

Beware of interposing by dynamic OS library loaders if the official Vulkan names are used. On Linux, if official names are used, the driver library must be linked with -Bsymbolic.

Driver API Version

When an application calls vkCreateInstance, it can optionally include a VkApplicationInfo struct, which includes an apiVersion field. A Vulkan 1.0 driver was required to return VK_ERROR_INCOMPATIBLE_DRIVER if it did not support the API version that the user passed. Beginning with Vulkan 1.1, drivers are not allowed to return this error for any value of apiVersion. This creates a problem when working with multiple drivers, where one is a 1.0 driver and another is newer.

A loader that is newer than 1.0 will always give the version it supports when the application calls vkEnumerateInstanceVersion, regardless of the API version supported by the drivers on the system. This means that when the application calls vkCreateInstance, the loader will be forced to pass a copy of the VkApplicationInfo struct where apiVersion is 1.0 to any 1.0 drivers in order to prevent an error. To determine if this must be done, the loader will perform the following steps:

  1. Check the driver's JSON manifest file for the "api_version" field.
  2. If the JSON version is greater than or equal to 1.1, Load the driver's dynamic library
  3. Call the driver's vkGetInstanceProcAddr command to get a pointer to vkEnumerateInstanceVersion
  4. If the pointer to vkEnumerateInstanceVersion is not NULL, it will be called to get the driver's supported API version

The driver will be treated as a 1.0 driver if any of the following conditions are met:

If the driver only supports Vulkan 1.0, the loader will ensure that any VkApplicationInfo struct that is passed to the driver will have an apiVersion field set to Vulkan 1.0. Otherwise, the loader will pass the struct to the driver without any changes.

Mixed Driver Instance Extension Support

On a system with more than one driver, a special case can arise. Some drivers may expose an instance extension that the loader is already aware of. Other drivers on that same system may not support the same instance extension.

In that scenario, the loader has some additional responsibilities:

Filtering Out Instance Extension Names

During a call to vkCreateInstance, the list of requested instance extensions is passed down to each driver. Since the driver may not support one or more of these instance extensions, the loader will filter out any instance extensions that are not supported by the driver. This is done per driver since different drivers may support different instance extensions.

Loader Instance Extension Emulation Support

In the same scenario, the loader must emulate the instance extension entry-points, to the best of its ability, for each driver that does not support an instance extension directly. This must work correctly when combined with calling into the other drivers which do support the extension natively. In this fashion, the application will be unaware of what drivers are missing support for this extension.

Driver Unknown Physical Device Extensions

Originally, when the loader's vkGetInstanceProcAddr was called, it would result in the following behavior:

  1. The loader would check if it was a core function:
    • If so, it would return the function pointer
  2. The loader would check if it was a known extension function:
    • If so, it would return the function pointer
  3. If the loader knew nothing about it, it would call down using GetInstanceProcAddr
    • If it returned non-NULL, treat it as an unknown logical device command.
    • This meant setting up a generic trampoline function that takes in a VkDevice as the first parameter and adjusting the dispatch table to call the driver/layer's function after getting the dispatch table from the VkDevice.
  4. If all the above failed, the loader would return NULL to the application.

This caused problems when a driver attempted to expose new physical device extensions the loader knew nothing about, but an application was aware of. Because the loader knew nothing about it, the loader would get to step 3 in the above process and would treat the function as an unknown logical device command. The problem is, this would create a generic VkDevice trampoline function which, on the first call, would attempt to dereference the VkPhysicalDevice as a VkDevice. This would lead to a crash or corruption.

In order to identify the extension entry points specific to physical device extensions, the following function can be added to a driver:

      VkInstance instance,
      const char* pName);

This function behaves similar to vkGetInstanceProcAddr and vkGetDeviceProcAddr except it should only return values for physical device extension entry points. In this way, it compares "pName" to every physical device function supported in the driver.

The following rules apply:

This support is optional and should not be considered a requirement. This is only required if a driver intends to support some functionality not directly supported by a significant population of loaders in the public. If a driver does implement this support, it must export the function from the driver library using the name vk_icdGetPhysicalDeviceProcAddr so that the symbol can be located through the platform's dynamic linking utilities.

The new behavior of the loader's vkGetInstanceProcAddr with support for the vk_icdGetPhysicalDeviceProcAddr function is as follows:

  1. Check if core function:
    • If it is, return the function pointer
  2. Check if known instance or device extension function:
    • If it is, return the function pointer
  3. Call the layer/driver GetPhysicalDeviceProcAddr
    • If it returns non-NULL, return a trampoline to a generic physical device function, and set up a generic terminator which will pass it to the proper driver.
  4. Call down using GetInstanceProcAddr
    • If it returns non-NULL, treat it as an unknown logical device command. This means setting up a generic trampoline function that takes in a VkDevice as the first parameter and adjusting the dispatch table to call the driver/layer's function after getting the dispatch table from the VkDevice. Then, return the pointer to the corresponding trampoline function.
  5. Return NULL

The result is that if the command gets promoted to Vulkan core later, it will no longer be set up using vk_icdGetPhysicalDeviceProcAddr. Additionally, if the loader adds direct support for the extension, it will no longer get to step 3, because step 2 will return a valid function pointer. However, the driver should continue to support the command query via vk_icdGetPhysicalDeviceProcAddr, until at least a Vulkan version bump, because an older loader may still be attempting to use the commands.

Physical Device Sorting

When an application selects a GPU to use, it must enumerate physical devices or physical device groups. These API functions do not specify which order the physical devices or physical device groups will be presented in. On Windows, the loader will attempt to sort these objects so that the system preference will be listed first. This mechanism does not force an application to use any particular GPU — it merely changes the order in which they are presented.

This mechanism requires that a driver provide version 6 of the loader/driver interface. Version 6 of this interface defines a new exported function that the driver may provide on Windows:

      VkInstance instance,
      LUID adapterLUID,
      uint32_t* pPhysicalDeviceCount,
      VkPhysicalDevice* pPhysicalDevices);

This function takes an adapter LUID as input, and enumerates all Vulkan physical devices that are associated with that LUID. This works in the same way as other Vulkan enumerations — if pPhysicalDevices is NULL, then the count will be provided. Otherwise, the physical devices associated with the queried adapter will be provided. The function must provide multiple physical devices when the LUID refers to a linked adapter. This allows the loader to translate the adapter into Vulkan physical device groups.

While the loader attempts to match the system's preference for GPU ordering, there are some limitations. Because this feature requires a new driver interface, only physical devices from drivers that support this function will be sorted. All unsorted physical devices will be listed at the end of the list, in an indeterminate order. Furthermore, only physical devices that correspond to an adapter may be sorted. This means that a software driver would likely not be sorted. Finally, this API only applies to Windows systems and will only work on versions of Windows 10 that support GPU selection through the OS. Other platforms may be included in the future, but they will require separate platform-specific interfaces.

Driver Dispatchable Object Creation

As previously covered, the loader requires dispatch tables to be accessible within Vulkan dispatchable objects, such as: VkInstance, VkPhysicalDevice, VkDevice, VkQueue, and VkCommandBuffer. The specific requirements on all dispatchable objects created by drivers are as follows:

#include "vk_icd.h"

  uintptr loadermagic;
  void *  loaderData;

  vkObj *newObj = alloc_obj();
  // Initialize pointer to loader's dispatch table with ICD_LOADER_MAGIC

  return newObj;

Handling KHR Surface Objects in WSI Extensions

Normally, drivers handle object creation and destruction for various Vulkan objects. The WSI surface extensions for Linux, Windows, macOS, and QNX ("VK_KHR_win32_surface", "VK_KHR_xcb_surface", "VK_KHR_xlib_surface", "VK_KHR_wayland_surface", "VK_MVK_macos_surface", "VK_QNX_screen_surface" and "VK_KHR_surface") are handled differently. For these extensions, the VkSurfaceKHR object creation and destruction may be handled by either the loader or a driver.

If the loader handles the management of the VkSurfaceKHR objects:

  1. The loader will handle the calls to vkCreateXXXSurfaceKHR and vkDestroySurfaceKHR functions without involving the drivers.
    • Where XXX stands for the Windowing System name:
      • Wayland
      • XCB
      • Xlib
      • Windows
      • Android
      • MacOS (vkCreateMacOSSurfaceMVK)
      • QNX (vkCreateScreenSurfaceQNX)
  2. The loader creates a VkIcdSurfaceXXX object for the corresponding vkCreateXXXSurfaceKHR call.
    • The VkIcdSurfaceXXX structures are defined in include/vulkan/vk_icd.h.
  3. Drivers can cast any VkSurfaceKHR object to a pointer to the appropriate VkIcdSurfaceXXX structure.
  4. The first field of all the VkIcdSurfaceXXX structures is a VkIcdSurfaceBase enumerant that indicates whether the surface object is Win32, XCB, Xlib, Wayland, or Screen.

The driver may choose to handle VkSurfaceKHR object creation instead. If a driver desires to handle creating and destroying it must do the following:

  1. Support version 3 or newer of the loader/driver interface.
  2. Export and handle all functions that take in a VkSurfaceKHR object, including:
    • vkCreateXXXSurfaceKHR
    • vkGetPhysicalDeviceSurfaceSupportKHR
    • vkGetPhysicalDeviceSurfaceCapabilitiesKHR
    • vkGetPhysicalDeviceSurfaceFormatsKHR
    • vkGetPhysicalDeviceSurfacePresentModesKHR
    • vkCreateSwapchainKHR
    • vkDestroySurfaceKHR

Because the VkSurfaceKHR object is an instance-level object, one object can be associated with multiple drivers. Therefore, when the loader receives the vkCreateXXXSurfaceKHR call, it still creates an internal VkSurfaceIcdXXX object. This object acts as a container for each driver's version of the VkSurfaceKHR object. If a driver does not support the creation of its own VkSurfaceKHR object, the loader's container stores a NULL for that driver. On the other hand, if the driver does support VkSurfaceKHR creation, the loader will make the appropriate vkCreateXXXSurfaceKHR call to the driver, and store the returned pointer in its container object. The loader then returns the VkSurfaceIcdXXX as a VkSurfaceKHR object back up the call chain. Finally, when the loader receives the vkDestroySurfaceKHR call, it subsequently calls vkDestroySurfaceKHR for each driver whose internal VkSurfaceKHR object is not NULL. Then the loader destroys the container object before returning.

Loader and Driver Interface Negotiation

Generally, for functions issued by an application, the loader can be viewed as a pass through. That is, the loader generally doesn't modify the functions or their parameters, but simply calls the driver's entry point for that function. There are specific additional interface requirements a driver needs to comply with that are not part of any requirements from the Vulkan specification. These additional requirements are versioned to allow flexibility in the future.

Windows, Linux and macOS Driver Negotiation

Version Negotiation Between Loader and Drivers

All drivers (supporting interface version 2 or higher) must export the following function that is used for determination of the interface version that will be used. This entry point is not a part of the Vulkan API itself, only a private interface between the loader and drivers.

      uint32_t* pSupportedVersion);

This function allows the loader and driver to agree on an interface version to use. The "pSupportedVersion" parameter is both an input and output parameter. "pSupportedVersion" is filled in by the loader with the desired latest interface version supported by the loader (typically the latest). The driver receives this and returns back the version it desires in the same field. Because it is setting up the interface version between the loader and driver, this should be the first call made by a loader to the driver (even prior to any calls to vk_icdGetInstanceProcAddr).

If the driver receiving the call no longer supports the interface version provided by the loader (due to deprecation), then it should report a VK_ERROR_INCOMPATIBLE_DRIVER error. Otherwise it sets the value pointed by "pSupportedVersion" to the latest interface version supported by both the driver and the loader and returns VK_SUCCESS.

The driver should report VK_SUCCESS in case the loader-provided interface version is newer than that supported by the driver, as it's the loader's responsibility to determine whether it can support the older interface version supported by the driver. The driver should also report VK_SUCCESS in the case its interface version is greater than the loader's, but return the loader's version. Thus, upon return of VK_SUCCESS the "pSupportedVersion" will contain the desired interface version to be used by the driver.

If the loader receives an interface version from the driver that the loader no longer supports (due to deprecation), or it receives a VK_ERROR_INCOMPATIBLE_DRIVER error instead of VK_SUCCESS, then the loader will treat the driver as incompatible and will not load it for use. In this case, the application will not see the driver's vkPhysicalDevice during enumeration.

Interfacing With Legacy Drivers or Loaders

If a loader sees that a driver does not export the vk_icdNegotiateLoaderICDInterfaceVersion function, then the loader assumes the corresponding driver only supports either interface version 0 or 1.

From the other side of the interface, if a driver sees a call to vk_icdGetInstanceProcAddr before a call to vk_icdNegotiateLoaderICDInterfaceVersion, then it knows that loader making the calls is a legacy loader supporting version 0 or 1. If the loader calls vk_icdGetInstanceProcAddr first, it supports at least version 1. Otherwise, the loader only supports version 0.

Loader Version 6 Interface Requirements

Version 6 provides a mechanism to allow the loader to sort physical devices. The loader will only attempt to sort physical devices on a driver if version 6 of the interface is supported. This version provides the vk_icdEnumerateAdapterPhysicalDevices function defined earlier in this document.

Loader Version 5 Interface Requirements

Version 5 of the loader/driver interface has no changes to the actual interface. If the loader requests interface version 5 or greater, it is simply an indication to drivers that the loader is now evaluating whether the API Version info passed into vkCreateInstance is a valid version for the loader. If it is not, the loader will catch this during vkCreateInstance and fail with a VK_ERROR_INCOMPATIBLE_DRIVER error.

On the other hand, if version 5 or newer is not requested by the loader, then it indicates to the driver that the loader is ignorant of the API version being requested. Because of this, it falls on the driver to validate that the API Version is not greater than major = 1 and minor = 0. If it is, then the driver should automatically fail with a VK_ERROR_INCOMPATIBLE_DRIVER error since the loader is a 1.0 loader, and is unaware of the version.

Here is a table of the expected behaviors:

Loader Supports I/f Version Driver Supports I/f Version Result
4 or Earlier Any Version Driver must fail with VK_ERROR_INCOMPATIBLE_DRIVER for all vkCreateInstance calls with apiVersion set to > Vulkan 1.0 because the loader is still at interface version Otherwise, the driver should behave as normal.
5 or Newer 4 or Earlier Loader must fail with VK_ERROR_INCOMPATIBLE_DRIVER if it can't handle the apiVersion. Driver may pass for all apiVersions, but since its interface is Vulkan 1.0 and fail with VK_ERROR_INCOMPATIBLE_DRIVER.
Otherwise, the driver should behave as normal.
5 or Newer 5 or Newer Loader must fail with VK_ERROR_INCOMPATIBLE_DRIVER if it can't handle the apiVersion, and drivers should fail with VK_ERROR_INCOMPATIBLE_DRIVER only if they can not support the specified apiVersion.
Otherwise, the driver should behave as normal.

Loader Version 4 Interface Requirements

The major change to version 4 of the loader/driver interface is the support of Unknown Physical Device Extensions using the vk_icdGetPhysicalDeviceProcAddr function. This function is purely optional. However, if a driver supports a physical device extension, it must provide a vk_icdGetPhysicalDeviceProcAddr function. Otherwise, the loader will continue to treat any unknown functions as VkDevice functions and cause invalid behavior.

Loader Version 3 Interface Requirements

The primary change that occurred in version 3 of the loader/driver interface was to allow a driver to handle creation/destruction of their own KHR_surfaces. Up until this point, the loader created a surface object that was used by all drivers. However, some drivers may want to provide their own surface handles. If a driver chooses to enable this support, it must export support for version 3 of the loader/driver interface, as well as any Vulkan function that uses a KHR_surface handle, such as:

A driver can still choose to not take advantage of this functionality by simply not exposing the above vkCreateXXXSurfaceKHR and vkDestroySurfaceKHR functions.

Loader Version 2 Interface Requirements

Version 2 interface is the first to implement the new vk_icdNegotiateLoaderICDInterfaceVersion functionality, see Version Negotiation Between Loader and Drivers for more details on that function.

Additional, version 2 was the first to define that Vulkan dispatchable objects created by drivers must now be created in accordance to the Driver Dispatchable Object Creation section.

Loader Version 1 Interface Requirements

Version 1 of the interface added the driver-specific entry-point vk_icdGetInstanceProcAddr. Since this is before the creation of the vk_icdNegotiateLoaderICDInterfaceVersion entry-point, the loader has no negotiation process for determine what interface version the driver supports. Because of this, the loader detects support for version 1 of the interface by the absence of the negotiate function, but the presence of the vk_icdGetInstanceProcAddr. No other entry-points need to be exported by the driver as the loader will query the appropriate function pointers using that.

Loader Version 0 Interface Requirements

Version 0 interface does not support either vk_icdGetInstanceProcAddr or vk_icdNegotiateLoaderICDInterfaceVersion. Because of this, the loader will assume the driver supports only version 0 of the interface unless one of those functions exists.

Additionally, for version 0, the driver must expose at least the following core Vulkan entry-points so the loader may build up the interface to the driver:

Additional Interface Notes:

Android Driver Negotiation

The Android loader uses the same protocol for initializing the dispatch table as described above. The only difference is that the Android loader queries layer and extension information directly from the respective libraries and does not use the JSON manifest files used by the Windows, Linux and macOS loaders.

Return to the top-level LoaderInterfaceArchitecture.html file.