Can a virus caught within a Virtual Machine installation of an operating system infect the host operating system?

Joseph Videtto December 8, 2012

Can exclusive use of a Virtual Machine running Windows XP on top of a Windows XP operating system eliminate the hassle of recovering from a virus infection? Assuming you have a backup of the non-infected VM stored?

Put another way – can a virus infect your operating system (e.g. a Windows XP operating system) while the user is exclusively using a Virtual Machine of the Windows XP operating system (installed over Windows XP)?

  1. Austen Gause
    December 13, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    If its on the same hard drive as the other OS then it is a possibility

  2. luis donis
    December 12, 2012 at 7:01 am

    is uncommon phenomenon never happened to sharing a file from the PC to the virtual machine can then infect

  3. Vishal Srivastava
    December 11, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    The virtual machine being affected should not affect your host machine as virtual machine runs from the virtual hard drive which is considered a separate partition. However, if you have shared folders, shared network or shared clip board, you might be in some trouble. Also, if the virus is a boot sector virus, its a completely different ball game. Try using a Linux OS as virtual OS as there are barely any viruses for Linux and none in active circulation. However, if you use Windows XP, try to keep your host and guest as separate from each other as possible. And, also make sure to take snapshots of your guest OS regularly. This will ensure that you have a safe copy to go back to once you are in trouble...

  4. Joel Jacob
    December 11, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Yes, if you have shared folders...

    Either shared folders through the VM, or standard networking

  5. Arun Vishnu
    December 11, 2012 at 12:13 am


  6. Mihovil Pletikos
    December 10, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    it shouldn't but there is always a chance....

  7. Roomy Naqvy
    December 10, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    a) if you do not share files over the PCs, no virus will affect you.
    b) it is possible for a virus to mount an attack on your system but a good antivirus will help you there

  8. Anonymous
    December 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    If networking or shared folders are disabled probably not.

  9. Felix Göhringer
    December 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Unless you are sharing or transfering files to the host machine, no harm can be done to the host machine.

  10. Ramón García
    December 9, 2012 at 9:08 am

    Yes, it can.... be careful

    December 9, 2012 at 7:21 am

    Hello, yes a virus from your virtual machine can infect other computers in your network specially if you bridge it and share files in between machines in your network. It also depends what kind of a virus it is.

    • Douglas Mutay
      December 10, 2012 at 9:46 am

      You're right. And this can happen if the vm was created with an infected media.

  12. Adriel Tan
    December 9, 2012 at 6:28 am

    Sometimes, If the virus distributes itself over network. There is a chance that it is possible. It is also possible if you share a folder on your host machine to your VM, the virus might get into the folder.

    • Joseph Videtto
      December 9, 2012 at 11:43 am

      I'm getting conflicting reports - I addressed your second point (see above) by making some assumptions that the user initially verify that the initial host and VM are initially uninfected. But as far as protecting from the risk of a virus that distributes itself over the network, is there any way to do that ? and where can I read about historical viruses that have worked this way, and whether the user could have protected themselves and how ?

      (By the way, as I query you on this topic, I've also posted the same as a new question - please post your answer there if you come across it)

      • Adriel Tan
        December 10, 2012 at 12:02 pm

        Reducing the risk of a virus distributing itself over a network can be done with a good antimalware program. Firewalls can also help block virus attacks from over the network.

  13. Rakesh Mishra
    December 9, 2012 at 6:15 am

    it can infect your machine

  14. GamE
    December 9, 2012 at 5:55 am

    generally there is no sharing of files between the operating systems.
    The os that runs virtually has no access to the host . Hence a virus from the virtual os doesn't affect your host os

    • Joseph Videtto
      December 9, 2012 at 11:37 am

      That's what I was hoping - because I've spent far too much time cleaning up viruses that required a new install of my operating system and all the programs on top (of course, without having single-point backups of such, which was my first mistake) - and I'm looking for a foolproof way to not have to do this again, or to restore with the least amount of pain possible, like by just keeping an uninfected backup copy of the initially created virtual machine.

  15. Anonymous
    December 9, 2012 at 5:26 am

    Actually when you install an operating system inside a virtual machine it saves data on your hard disk as your main operating system do.
    so if your virtual machine operating system is infected it is not impossible and even very common that it will infect the host operating system as well.

  16. Junil Maharjan
    December 9, 2012 at 5:17 am

    I don't think so unless you have copied the files or folders where the virus was to your local system.

  17. Rohit Pandey
    December 9, 2012 at 3:59 am is one of the most common way of spreading viruses.........

    • Joseph Videtto
      December 9, 2012 at 11:34 am

      I don't believe you Rohit (in a friendly way : ) - most people don't know what a VM is, therefore, infecting a VM from a host machine can not be the most common way viruses are spread.

  18. josemon maliakal
    December 9, 2012 at 3:48 am

    if you share or import files from host, then there is definitely a chance

    • Joseph Videtto
      December 9, 2012 at 11:33 am

      But....I'm assuming you confirmed that your host CURRENTLY had no virus, and then went through the initial trouble of importing all the files you need into you're virtual machine FIRST. After that, I am assuming you never share or import files when you use that host from that point forward. If you do it that way, and of course the VM must still access the Internet over the network and through the network card - assuming all this (which is what I intend to do) - THEN, can you be assured ?

      • josemon maliakal
        December 9, 2012 at 11:53 am

        Nop..Unless you didn't used internet in your virtual machine...

  19. Giggity Goebbels
    December 9, 2012 at 1:28 am

    Yes,some virus spread across the network.however,if you got antivirus it should be fine.once i did and norton blocked attacks of that laptop,but the desktop got infected.but what i did is to reinstall windows and everything is back to normal.btw the virtual machine is in the laptop

  20. ha14
    December 9, 2012 at 1:13 am

    depends on how the virus is written. Also If your VirtualPC hosted OS has access to the host hard drives then it could be a problem.

  21. Adam Campbell
    December 8, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    If you do not share files between the instances of Windows than you should be just fine.

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