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How to Use VirtualBox: User’s Guide

Ben Stegner 18-10-2017

With a virtual machine like VirtualBox you can virtually install multiple operating systems, without having to buy any new hardware.

This guide is available to download as a free PDF. Download How to Use VirtualBox: User’s Guide now. Feel free to copy and share this with your friends and family.

Maybe you’ve heard of virtual machines (VM), but never tried one out yourself. You might be scared that you won’t set it up correctly or don’t know where to find a copy of your preferred operating system (OS). VirtualBox is the best virtual machine for home users VirtualBox vs. VMware Player: The Best Virtual Machine for Windows Are you struggling to decide which virtual machine software to use? VirtualBox and VMware Workstation Player are both free. But which one is best for you? Let us help you find out! Read More , and you can use this virtualization software with our help.

In this guide to using VirtualBox, you’ll learn why you should use the software, how to install an OS, and advice to make it work for you. We’ll explain everything and share tips along the way so you won’t get lost. Let’s jump in!

In this guide: Getting Started With VirtualBoxInstall Windows 10 in a Virtual MachineInstall Ubuntu in a Virtual MachineInstall macOS in a Virtual Machine | VirtualBox Tools

What Is VirtualBox and Why Use It?

VirtualBox is a piece of software published by Oracle. It allows you to emulate an operating system on your own PC and use it like it’s running on real hardware. You’ll discover tons of uses for virtual machines 7 Practical Reasons to Start Using a Virtual Machine What are virtual machines used for? Here are some practical benefits and uses for virtual machines that you can try right now. Read More .

If you want to try Linux, you can install it in a virtual machine without any risk of screwing up an install or dual-boot. Or, you can mess with risky software or hacks without jeopardizing your computer. Maybe you need to run a virtual copy of an older operating system for compatibility reasons Why Windows XP Won't Be Going Away Anytime Soon People cannot let go of Windows XP. In businesses and homes the world over, it will stick around. We spoke with three Windows XP users from different generations and backgrounds to find out why. Read More .


Whatever your reason, VirtualBox is the easiest and safest way to install a “new computer” on your own machine with no risk. And it’s free for home users.

Getting Started With VirtualBox

To start, head to VirtualBox’s download page. You can use the software on Windows, macOS, and Linux. We’re using Windows for this tutorial, but it’s nearly identical on all three platforms. Look under the VirtualBox X.X platform packages and download the copy for your operating system.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 01 VirtualBox Download Website

Run the installer as normal — there’s nothing you should change during the process. Do note that the installer will temporarily stop your internet connection, so don’t install VirtualBox when running a critical download. If you see a Windows dialogue asking you to install a driver, go ahead and allow it.


When you’re done, you’ll see VirtualBox’s main screen.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 02 VirtualBox Main Window

Since you don’t have any virtual machines installed yet, you’ll need to create one. In this guide, we’ll run through two common scenarios — installing Windows 10 and installing Ubuntu. But before you start, we recommend you check one setting.

By default, VirtualBox saves virtual machine information in your user folder. If you only have one drive in your PC, this works fine. But if you have a second hard drive, you may prefer to save your virtual machines there to save space on your primary drive How to Save Disk Space in Windows 10 In terms of disk space requirements, Windows 10 is downright gluttonous. Wasting 20 GB on a small SSD can be frustrating. Fortunately, you can reduce the Windows 10 footprint and reclaim some of that space. Read More . In a few minutes, you’ll create a virtual hard disk that’s 20GB or more in size. On a small SSD 5 Things You Should Consider When Buying An SSD The world of home computing is moving towards solid state drives for storage. Should you buy one? Read More , this could be too much space to use up.


To do so, go to File > Settings in VirtualBox. On the General tab, you’ll see a Default Machine Folder field. If you don’t like where it’s at by default, click Other in the drop-down box to change it now.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 03 VirtualBox Move Directory

Install Windows 10 in a Virtual Machine

Whether you want to use Windows on your Mac 3 Ways to Run Windows on Your Mac Wondering how to get Windows on your Mac? Here's how to run Windows using Boot Camp, virtualization, and Windows To Go. Read More or Linux machine or want a secondary copy of Windows to mess around in, here’s how to get a full version of Windows 10 running in VirtualBox. If you want to install Windows 7 How to Install Windows 7 on a VirtualBox Virtual Machine Microsoft will soon stop support for Windows 7. One way of keeping it running is through a virtual machine with VirtualBox. Read More or 8.1 instead, you can still follow along as it’s a similar process. With a bit of extra work, you can even install Windows XP in a VM How to Get a Windows XP Download Free From Microsoft, Legally Microsoft gives away Windows XP downloads for free, provided you use a virtual machine. Here's how to do it! Read More .

Creating the Virtual Machine

Start by clicking the blue New button on VirtualBox’s main page. You’ll need to give your VM a name. Choose something unique so you can identify it among your machines. After you enter a name, VirtualBox will automatically change the Type and Version fields to match what you entered. If it isn’t correct, make sure to set Type to Microsoft Windows and Version to Windows 10 (64-bit). Click Next when you’ve confirmed this.


How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 04 VirtualBox Creating VM

Note: Whether you install the 64-bit or 32-bit version of Windows What's the Difference Between 32-Bit and 64-Bit Windows? What's the difference between 32-bit and 64-bit Windows? Here's a simple explanation and how to check which version you have. Read More will depend on your own PC. If your computer is less than a few years old, it’s almost certainly 64-bit and you should thus install 64-bit Windows in your VM. VirtualBox automatically installs the correct version of its software for you.

No 64-Bit Option?

If you’re using a 64-bit PC and don’t see any 64-bit options in the Version list, you need to fix that problem before moving on.

First, try disabling Hyper-V, which is Microsoft’s platform for virtual machines How to Use Hyper-V to Run Any Linux Distro on Windows 10 What's better than one operating system? Two operating systems! We'll show you how to install a second OS on Windows using Hyper-V, the native Windows virtual machine solution. Read More .

Type Windows Features into the Start Menu and open the Turn Windows features on or off option. In the resulting dialogue, scroll down and make sure the box by Hyper-V isn’t checked. If it is, uncheck the box, click OK, and restart your PC.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 05 Turn Hyper V Off Windows

Still don’t have 64-bit options in VirtualBox after this? You next need to reboot into your BIOS How to Enter the BIOS on Windows 10 (And Older Versions) To get into the BIOS, you usually press a specific key at the right time. Here's how to enter the BIOS on Windows 10. Read More .

Once inside, look for a Virtualization option. Common names include Intel VT-x, Intel Virtualization Technology, and Virtualization Extensions. You may find these under the Processor or Security menus. If you can’t find it, try a Google search for your computer’s name plus enable virtualization.

Once you’ve enabled virtualization in the BIOS and saved the settings, reboot and try to create a 64-bit VM again. You should be good to go. If not, chances are that your processor doesn’t support 64-bit virtualization and you’ll have to continue with a 32-bit flavor.

Allocating RAM

Picking back up on creating your VM, you’ll next need to specify the amount of RAM to give the virtual OS. VirtualBox will provide a recommendation here, but it’s probably too low. With too little RAM, your VM will suffer from poor performance How to Troubleshoot Low RAM or Memory Leaks in Windows Do you have 4 or more GB of RAM and does your computer still feel sluggish? You may suffer from a memory leak or shortage. We show you how to troubleshoot all your Windows (10)... Read More . But give the VM too much RAM, and your host PC might become unstable.

The exact amount to allocate depends on how much RAM you have How Much RAM Do You Really Need? How much computer memory do you need? Here's how to check your installed RAM and how much RAM your computer needs. Read More . As a general rule of thumb, giving half your system RAM to the VM should suffice. Windows 10 will work well enough with 4GB of RAM.

Use the slider or type the value of RAM you want to give the VM in megabytes. Since computers calculate bytes differently than humans, multiply the GB of RAM you’re providing by 1,024. So if you want 4GB of RAM in the VM, enter 4,096, not 4,000.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 06 VirtualBox Give RAM

Add a Virtual Hard Disk

Next, it’s time to add a hard disk so the VM can store data. On this screen, select Create a virtual hard disk now to make a new one. Next, VirtualBox asks you to choose the type of hard disk file. Leave the default VDI selected and click Next.

VirtualBox can create two different types of virtual hard drives — dynamic and fixed. A Dynamically allocated disk only takes up space on your actual drive as it’s filled. So if you create a 100GB virtual disk but only use 30GB, it only uses 30GB of space on your PC’s drive. But if you free up space in the VM, it won’t shrink the virtual disk.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 07 VirtualBox Fixed Dynamic Disk

The other option is a Fixed size disk. This creates the disk at its maximum size from the start. It thus takes up more space initially, but could feature some slight speed increases compared to a dynamic disk. You can decide which you prefer; we’ll go with Dynamic in this example. That way, if you don’t install much in your VM, you won’t waste space with a fixed disk.

To finish the disk, specify a save location and a size. You can leave the name as the default, which matches your VM’s name. The default location is inside the Default Machine Folder you set up earlier. For sizing, Microsoft states that 20GB is the requirement for 64-bit Windows 10. If you can spare it, 40GB is a good minimum to leave some breathing room for a few programs and files. Feel free to increase this if you have lots of free space.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 08 VirtualBox Windows 10 Disk Size

When you’re done, click Create, and your VM is ready to install Windows!

Download the Windows 10 Installer

Now you’ve created a virtual machine, but you need an operating system to install. For that, you should visit Microsoft’s Windows 10 download page. Click the Download tool now button to grab a copy of the Windows 10 media creation tool How to Create Windows 10 Installation Media Regardless of how you arrived at Windows 10, there's a way to create your own installation media. Sooner or later you might need it. Let us show you how to be prepared. Read More .

After the tool downloads, launch it and you’ll have a choice of upgrading your own PC or creating installation media. Choose the Create installation media option, then double-check the options on the next page. Make sure the Edition is Windows 10 and the Architecture is 64-bit (x64). If these aren’t right, uncheck the Use the recommended options for this PC box and fix them.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 09 Windows Media Creation Tool Options

Your last choice is whether to create a bootable USB drive or create an ISO. Choose the ISO file option and specify a place to save it, then the tool will begin downloading Windows.

Mounting the Install Disc

An ISO is a disc image file How to Create & Mount Disc Images on a Virtual Drive Do you still have CDs or DVDs lying around? When an optical disc breaks, it's gone forever. We show you how to make digital and playable backups of your CDs and DVDs now! Read More . If you were installing Windows on a physical computer, you’d have to burn the ISO to a DVD and place it in your PC to start installing Windows. But we can skip that step and mount the ISO file into our virtual machine directly.

To do so, highlight your VM in VirtualBox’s main menu and click Settings. Visit the Storage tab on the left and you should see a CD icon in the Storage Tree box. Click that icon, then the CD with an arrow next to it on the right side. Select Choose Virtual Optical Disc File and then browse to where you saved the Windows.iso file.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 10 VirtualBox Mount CD

Then, jump to the System tab. Under Boot Order, click the Optical entry and use the arrows to move it above Hard Disk. For some reason Floppy is enabled by default — though Windows 10 does support floppies, feel free to uncheck that.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 11 VirtualBox Boot Order

Click OK, and you’re ready to boot into the Windows installer.

Installing Windows 10

On the VirtualBox main menu, choose your Windows VM and click the Start button to boot it. After a moment, you’ll see the Windows 10 install screen. Make sure your regional settings are correct, then hit Next. On the next screen, click the Install now button.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 12 VirtualBox Windows 10 Setup

Windows will then ask you for a product key to activate it. However, you actually don’t need a product key to use Windows 10 How to Install Windows 10 for Free on any Windows, Linux, or OS X PC You don't have to upgrade to Windows 10 to try it. Whether you qualify for the free upgrade or want to try Windows 10 on Linux or OS X, you can evaluate it for free. Read More .

If you have one (a valid Windows 7 or 8 product key will work too), you can enter it now. If not, just click I don’t have a product key. Using a copy of Windows 10 that’s not activated has a few limitations, but it will work fine for light VM use.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 13 VirtualBox Windows 10 Product Key

Next, you’ll choose the edition of Windows 10 you want to install. If you have a product key Everything You Should Know About Windows Product Keys 25 characters govern your Windows system. Your product key is worth $100 or more, whether or not you upgraded to Windows 10. We explain what you can and can't do with your Windows license. Read More for Windows 10 Home or Pro, select the matching version.

But if you don’t plan to activate the OS, go ahead and install Windows 10 Pro so you gain access to its extra features Windows 10 Home vs. Pro: Do You Need to Upgrade? Windows 10 Pro offers more features than Home, but the upgrade also carries a $99 price tag. Let's see whether it's worth it. Read More . Accept the license terms, and continue on with the installation.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 14 VirtualBox Windows 10 Edition Install

Next, you’ll have a choice between Upgrade and Custom installations. You can’t select Upgrade since you’re installing Windows on a blank virtual disk, so choose Custom.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 15 VirtualBox Windows 10 Install Option

You’ll see the virtual drive you created, named Drive 0 here. Click it to select it. Once you choose Next, the Windows 10 installation begins. Sit tight for a bit — the install process can take a while.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 16 VirtualBox Windows 10 Install Disk

Configure Windows 10 Options

Once the install finishes, you’ll hear Cortana start talking. She’ll guide you through the installation process of Windows 10. Click the microphone icon in the lower-left corner of the screen to keep her quiet if you like.

Confirm your region and keyboard, then click Yes after each one. Click Skip if you don’t type with a second keyboard layout or language.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 17 VirtualBox Windows 10 Install Start

After this, the virtual Windows installation will check for updates. Wait for them to install, then Cortana will ask if your PC is your own or belongs to an organization. Select Set up for personal use.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 18 VirtualBox Windows 10 Personal Use

Windows wants you to sign in with a Microsoft account, so you’ll see a prompt to enter your email address or create a new account. While there are benefits to using a Microsoft account, you might not want to use one for your VM. In that case, select Offline account in the bottom-left corner. It will nag you to create a Microsoft account anyway; click Maybe later.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 19 VirtualBox Windows 10 Sign In Account

Enter a name for your account, then create a password. Recovering a lost password How to Reset Your Lost Windows 10 Password You forgot your Windows 10 login password? Don't despair! We'll show you how to reset your password and recover your account. Read More is a huge pain, so make sure you save this somewhere. Create a password hint if you want, then click Next.

Now, you’ll have to decide whether to use Cortana. She can do a lot, and if you’re new to Windows 10 you might want to check it out. Choose Yes or No to proceed.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 20 VirtualBox Windows 10 Enable Cortana

Windows will then throw privacy settings at you How to Configure Windows 10 Privacy Settings During Setup If you're installing Windows 10 for the first time, you may be unhappy with the assumptions Microsoft makes when selecting their Express Settings presets during installation. What liberties are Microsoft are taking with your privacy? Read More . You can select how much info you’re comfortable with sharing. Uncheck as needed, then click Accept.

Finally, you’re done. Let Windows complete the setup. Once you see the desktop screen, your VM is ready.

Installing Guest Additions

You can now use Windows inside VirtualBox, but you should install another important component right away. They’re called Guest Additions, a group of drivers VirtualBox's Guest Additions: What They Are and How to Install Them What are Guest Additions in VirtualBox? Here are the benefits of adding Guest Additions to VirtualBox and how to install them. Read More and other utilities that let VirtualBox better interface with your host machine. After you install them, you can dynamically resize the VM window, enable bi-directional drag and drop, and more.

VirtualBox installs these via a virtual CD. Since you still have the Windows install image mounted, you need to remove that first. From the VM window, right-click the CD icon and choose Remove disk from virtual drive.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 21 VirtualBox Eject Disc

Then, mount the Guest Additions CD by visiting Devices > Install Guest Additions CD Image on VirtualBox’s menu bar. To launch it, open the File Explorer from the Taskbar at the bottom of the screen, then click This PC on the left. Double-click on the CD Drive icon to install the Guest Additions. Click Yes when you see a prompt for administrator permissions.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 22 VirtualBox Windows 10 Guest Additions Install

After a moment, you should see a new icon for the setup in the Taskbar at the bottom. Click this, then click Next to continue through the steps. If you see a prompt for installing device software, click Install.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 23 VirtualBox Windows 10 Guest Additions Setup

You’ll see a prompt to reboot to complete the installation. Go ahead and do that now so you can take advantage of the new features. Without them, you’ll be stuck using a low-resolution screen.

After you boot back in, you’re all set. Feel free to expand your VirtualBox window to take advantage of your full screen size. Don’t forget to right-click the CD icon and remove the Guest Additions CD.

Windows 10 Basics

In case you’re trying Windows 10 from Linux How to Set Up a Windows Virtual Machine in Linux Many home users prefer to run a dual-boot setup when both Windows and Linux are needed, but if you'd rather run Windows inside Linux, here's how to set that up. Read More or otherwise using it for the first time, we’ll cover a few quick usage tips so you know your way around. Check out our tips for Windows newcomers New to Windows? These Tips Will Help You Survive Many kids these days go through school using iPads, Macs, and Android tablets. Sooner or later, though, most people encounter Windows. Learn about the OS and tips on mastering it! Read More and the coolest new features of Windows 10 7 New Windows 10 Features You May Have Missed Every major Windows Update now comes with countless new options and features. Here we cover awesome new features that didn't make the headlines. Read More for more.

Other than this, feel free to have fun! Mess around, explore, and don’t be afraid to break something. It’s just a VM, and you can easily restore it using a snapshot if something goes wrong. See the tips section below for information on these.

Install Ubuntu in a Virtual Machine

If you already use Windows, you probably don’t have much use for installing it in a virtual machine. But giving Linux a try in a VM is a great option. It’s a lot easier than dual-booting 7 Reasons Why You Should (and Shouldn't) Dual Boot Linux Often, making the choice of installing Linux over Windows can be tricky to justify. But why not opt for both? Here are five reasons to dual boot and two reasons you shouldn't. Read More — you can test the waters without worrying about breaking anything.

As you might know, there are hundreds of versions of Linux The Newest Linux Operating Systems for Every Niche Linux operating systems are constantly updated, with some are more substantial than others. Not sure whether to upgrade? Check out these new Linux operating systems and to see if you should try them. Read More — known as distributions. We’ll install Ubuntu How to Install Ubuntu on Windows 10: 3 Simple Methods to Try There are many ways in which you can try Ubuntu. One of them is to install Ubuntu on Windows 10 using one of these methods. Read More , one of the most popular, for this example. But if you want to experiment, try one of the other great VM-ready Linux flavors Top 5 Linux Operating Systems You Should Try in a Virtual Machine Five Linux operating system distributions are particularly suitable for running virtual machines, so let's take a look at them. Read More .

The initial work of creating a VM in VirtualBox is almost identical for Ubuntu as it is for Windows 10. We’ll run through it here quickly; check above in the Windows section if you need more help.

Create the Virtual Machine

Open VirtualBox and click the blue New button to start making a new machine. Give the new VM a unique name — Ubuntu is fine. If the Type and Version don’t automatically change with the name, make sure they’re set to Linux and Ubuntu (64-bit) respectively before clicking Next. The Windows discussion on 32 and 64-bit OSes also applies here — you should install the 64-bit flavor of Ubuntu if you’re using a 64-bit machine.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 24 VirtualBox Ubuntu Name VM

Next, decide how much RAM to give the VM. Like Windows, providing half of your system RAM should be enough. You shouldn’t use any less than 2GB or the VM’s performance will probably suffer. Additionally, to save RAM, make sure to close as many running programs on your PC as you can when using your VM. Multiply the GB of RAM you’d like to use by 1,024 — so 2GB of RAM is 2,048MB here.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 25 VirtualBox Ubuntu RAM Allocation

Now you’ll need to create a virtual hard disk for Ubuntu. Leave the default Create a virtual hard disk now checked and click Create. VDI (VirtualBox Disk Image is fine for the file type; click Next again.

Then, you’ll need to decide whether you want a dynamic or fixed disk. A dynamic disk grows as you use it up to a maximum size, while a fixed disk is set from the beginning. If you’re just playing around in a VM, Dynamically allocated will work fine. Click Next.

You can keep the disk name matching the name of your VM. Then you just need to choose the disk size. Ubuntu doesn’t take up as much space as Windows 10, so you don’t need as large of a disk. If you don’t plan on installing lots of programs and using this VM all the time, 40GB is a good size if you can spare it. But if not, Ubuntu’s recommended 25GB is fine.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 26 VirtualBox Ubuntu Hard Drive Size

Click Create and your VM is ready for an OS.

Download Ubuntu

Next, you’ll need to grab a copy of Ubuntu. Head to the Ubuntu download page to do so. You’ll notice that there are two versions on offer –the older LTS (long-term support) and a newer version.

LTS, the excellent 16.04 6 Big Reasons to Upgrade to Ubuntu 16.04 A new LTS release of Ubuntu means security and stability. Whether you're upgrading or switching from Windows, let's take a look at what's new in Ubuntu 16.04 Xenial Xerus. Read More at the time of writing, is more stable and the company keeps it current with security updates for five years. The newer version, 17.04 at publication time, includes the latest features but only receives security updates for nine months.

Unless you’re a Linux enthusiast, it makes more sense to install the LTS edition in your VM. This means you won’t have to worry about upgrading in a few months and you won’t miss the few cutting-edge changes.

Click the Download button next to the LTS edition. Ubuntu will ask you for a contribution, but Linux is completely free Who Made Linux and Why Is It Free? Linux is the most widely-used free and open source operating system in the world. Unlike commercial alternatives, no person or company can take credit. But why is it free? And who is behind Linux? Read More , so click continue to the download. Consider supporting open-source software Why Linux Is Free: How the Open Source World Makes Money Just why is Linux and open source software free? Is it safe to trust free software? What do the developers get out of it, and how do they make money to continue development? Read More if it’s important to you, though.

If you’d like, you can click the Alternative downloads and torrents text to download Ubuntu via BitTorrent instead. This could speed up your download, but use the standard download button if you don’t have a BitTorrent client installed or aren’t sure.

Attach the Ubuntu Installer to Your VM

Once the download finishes, you’ll have an ISO file to install Ubuntu with. In VirtualBox’s menu, click your Ubuntu VM and then the Settings button. Select the Storage tab and click the CD icon that says Empty next to it. On the far right side, click the other CD icon with an arrow next to it, and pick Choose Virtual Optical Disc File. Browse to where you saved the Ubuntu ISO and double-click to select it.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 27 VirtualBox Ubuntu Mount ISO

Flip over to the System tab and in the Boot Order list, click the Optical entry. Use the arrow keys to move it to the top above Hard Disk, and uncheck Floppy while you’re here. Click OK to save your settings, then select your VM on the main menu and click Start to load it up.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 28 VirtualBox Ubuntu Boot Order

Installing Ubuntu

Now you’re getting to the fun part — installing Ubuntu in your VM just like you’d install it on a real computer. After you click Start, give your VM a moment to load the Ubuntu installer.

The first screen you see asks if you want to Try Ubuntu or Install Ubuntu. You want to install it, so choose that option.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 29 VirtualBox Install Ubuntu First Screen

Next, you can check two boxes to save some time. The top will download the latest updates for Ubuntu while it installs. The second box offers to install third-party software like graphics and network drivers, along with plugins for Flash and other common formats.

Unless you’re trying to live a completely open source life (as some of this is proprietary), you should check both of these boxes to save some time. Click Continue to proceed.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 30 VirtualBox Ubuntu Install Options

Because your VM is blank, Ubuntu next asks how you want to install it. The default Erase disk and install Ubuntu is what you want. You can also select to encrypt the installation and use LVM if you want. Since this is a VM, neither is really necessary. Click Install Now, then Continue at the prompt.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 31 VirtualBox Ubuntu Install Type

Confirm your time zone, then click Continue. Next, select your keyboard layout and Continue again.

Finally, you’ll need to set a username and password. Enter your name and specify a name for the VM — this lets you identify it from others. Specify a username, which can be the same as your own name. Then pick and confirm a password. Don’t forget it!

If you select Log in automatically, Ubuntu will automatically log your account in as soon as you boot up. Since this is a VM, you might want to check this option for convenience. If not, you’ll have to enter your password to log in, like with any other computer. You can also choose to encrypt your home folder if you want more security, though you don’t need to do this for a VM.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 32 VirtualBox Ubuntu Who Are You

After you click Continue, you’ll get a little slideshow of its features while you wait for Ubuntu to install. When it’s complete, you’ll see a message prompting you to reboot. Do so, and Ubuntu will ask you to remove the installation medium. Right-click the CD icon at the bottom and choose Remove disk from virtual drive, then press Enter. If the disc is grayed out, just press Enter anyway.

Your VM will reboot and place you at the Ubuntu desktop.

Installing Guest Additions

Just like with Windows, you should install the Guest Additions right away to enable all of VirtualBox’s features. Choose Devices > Install Guest Additions CD Image and you’ll see a prompt asking if you’d like to run this. Click Run and enter your password.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 33 VirtualBox Ubuntu Guest Additions Run

You’ll see a Terminal window pop up and run through the installation. When you see Press Return to close this window, press Enter. Then you need to reboot. Click the gear/power icon in the top-right of your desktop and choose Shut Down, then hit the Restart button.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 34 VirtualBox Ubuntu Restart

Now you’re all set to dive into Ubuntu.

Ubuntu Basics

In case you’ve never used Linux before 7 Neat Linux Tricks That Newbies Need to Know As a Linux newbie, it's normal to struggle. Everything just feels so different from Windows and you find yourself scratching your head at the simplest of tasks. Read More , you should know a few things about how Ubuntu works to get around your new VM. Check out our tips on customizing Ubuntu How to Customize the Ubuntu 16.04 LTS Desktop Sick of the default Ubuntu look? Using Terminal commands and the Unity Tweak Tool, you can customize Ubuntu 16.04 LTS with ease. Read More and must-have software for a new installation 10 Must-Have Ubuntu Apps Right After a Fresh Install Looking at a fresh installation of Ubuntu and feeling lost? Here are the must-have Ubuntu applications you should install first. Read More for more.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 35 VirtualBox Ubuntu Software Store

Ubuntu is a great distribution of Linux for beginners, so have a look around and see what you think.

Install macOS in a Virtual Machine

Looking to install Apple’s macOS in a VM? It’s a lot more involved than setting up Windows or Linux because macOS is designed to only run on Apple hardware. Diving into the complete process is beyond the scope of this article, so please check out our guide to installing macOS in VirtualBox How to Run macOS on Windows 10 in a Virtual Machine Unsure if you will get along with a Mac? Learn how to run macOS on Windows 10 with the help of a virtual machine. Read More if you want to embark on that quest.

VirtualBox Tools

Now that we’ve walked through the installation of two popular operating systems, let’s go over some of VirtualBox’s useful tools and a few other incidentals you should know about.

Insert Key Combinations

Certain key combinations are always captured by your own computer. For example, there’s a critical Windows process devoted to catching when you press CTRL + ALT + DEL. If you try to press that key combo for your VM, it will only activate on your host OS.

To insert these key combos, go to the Input tab on VirtualBox’s menu. Select Keyboard and you can choose to send a few different key combos, like CTRL+ ALT+ DEL and Print Screen.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 36 VirtualBox Insert Key Combo

Take a Screenshot

You probably have a screenshot tool installed The 4 Best Windows Screenshot Apps and Tools Here are the best Windows screenshot tools, whether you need a basic screen capture app or something with advanced features. Read More already on your own computer. But you can grab a screenshot of your VM without fiddling to get the exact dimensions. Just press the right CTRL key (which VirtualBox calls the Host key) and E together to capture a full-screen screenshot. Then you can choose where to save it.

Using Snapshots

Given the nature of VMs, you’ll probably want to do some potentially dangerous activities in them from time to time. Next time you want to test a suspicious file Found a Suspicious File? Test It In A Virtual Machine! Don't run that suspicious file on your PC to check if it alerts your anti-virus software - instead, find out what it is capable of by running the file in a virtual machine. Read More or perform a Registry hack, take a snapshot of your VM first. This lets you easily return to a clean state without having to reinstall your OS.

You can take a snapshot whether the VM is running or not. To snapshot a running VM, go to Machine > Take Snapshot in the VirtualBox menu bar. Add a name of the snapshot (like Before testing fake antivirus malware) and a description if that will help you remember more about it. Click OK to save your snapshot.

To snap a closed VM, select it from the VirtualBox main menu. On the right side, click the Snapshots button. Then, click the camera button to add a new snapshot. You’ll have to add a name and description here, too.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 37 VirtualBox Take Snapshot

Once you’ve saved a snapshot, you don’t have to do anything more until you want to restore it. Let’s say you’re testing something for malware and your VM becomes corrupted. Shut down the machine, then select its entry in VirtualBox’s main menu.

Click the Snapshots button on the right side again, and right-click the snapshot you want to restore. Choose Restore Snapshot. You’ll see a notice offering to save another snapshot of the current state. Chances are that if you’re restoring a snapshot, the current state of the machine is screwed up. If this is the case, uncheck the Create a snapshot of the current machine state box and hit Restore.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 38 VirtualBox Restore Snapshot

After restoring a snapshot, next time you load up your VM, it will be exactly as you had it when you took the snapshot. It’s pretty handy.

Share Folders and Clipboards

For better compatibility, you can enable a few features that let you easily move information between your own PC and the VM. Click Settings on a VM, then on the General category, open the Advanced tab.

Here, you can enable two options: Shared Clipboard and Drag’n’Drop. Sharing your clipboard lets you copy and paste items between your host OS and the VM. Enabling the second option lets you drag a file from one machine to the other to copy it.

Both provide four choices: Disabled, Host to Guest, Guest to Host, and Bidirectional. If you want to use this, there’s no reason to pick anything other than Bidirectional as it’s the most convenient. Once you save the preference, simply drag a file from your own PC to the VM to make a copy.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 39 VirtualBox Shared Clipboard

VirtualBox also offers a Shared Folders option. With this, you can allow access to specific folders on your PC from your VM. For the casual user, though, dragging and dropping should suffice.

Shutdown Options

You can shut down or restart your VM using the OS’s built-in shutdown option. But you can also visit File > Close for some additional shutdown options. You have three:

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 40 VirtualBox Close Virtual Machine

Editing VM Properties

Most of your VM’s properties aren’t permanent. Click a machine in the VirtualBox main menu and choose Settings to review its options.

In the System category, you can adjust a VM’s RAM. If its performance stutters, try giving it a bit more assuming your PC has enough. On the Processor tab, you can dedicate additional CPU cores if you really want your VM to soar.

How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide 41 VirtualBox User Interface Options

On the User Interface left tab, you can change the options that VirtualBox provides in its menus. You might want to enable the few that are left off by default so you have every control at your fingertips, or remove some to reduce clutter.

How Do You Use Virtual Machines?

Now you know everything you need to use VirtualBox effectively. We’ve covered installing and configuring the software, creating virtual machines, downloading new operating systems, and setting them up for first-time use. You can even download pre-built virtual disk images for VirtualBox to save some time.

At this point, you’re only limited by your own creativity. What will you use virtual machines for? Test a new operating system, have fun breaking everything, or just try some OS-specific software you’ve never experienced. VirtualBox makes it easy, and we hope you have fun with virtual machines.

For a totally different use of VMs, try creating a VM clone of your PC’s hard drive Create a Virtual Machine Clone of Your Existing Windows Hard Drive Virtualization allows one operating system (OS) to run on another OS. We'll show you how to create a virtual machine clone of your system and how to use it. Read More .

Image Credit: realinemedia/Depositphotos

Related topics: Install Software, Longform Guide, Ubuntu, VirtualBox, Virtualization, Windows 10.

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  1. Johng
    October 18, 2017 at 2:26 am

    Good tutorial but VMware player is superior. Not even debatable.

  2. Felipe
    April 4, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    This is the ultimate tutorial.
    It was very helpful. However, it may be outdated (or my version of VirtualBox is?) because I wasn't propmted for the additional options. I had to change everything from the configuration screen.

  3. Yash Pal
    November 25, 2016 at 10:10 am

    This, in my opinion, is the best tutorial on virtual box. It covers many aspects generally glossed over by other tutorials/ guides. Thank You.

    My requirement is to run PCBSD in Ubuntu 19.04. I think I will be able to do it after reading it properly and noting down important/ points needing attention

  4. Trish
    August 24, 2016 at 1:32 am

    The Conclusion is hilarious

  5. ?????
    May 1, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    I was never greeted with the Wizard screen. In stead the virtual machine started and it said
    "FATAL, No bootable medium found! System halted!"

  6. JJ
    March 25, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    Great tutorial - Thanks.
    One issue I found was when I ran "sudo apt-get install virtualbox-ose-guest-utils –y"
    it could not find the package. Is there another option?

  7. Tim
    March 23, 2016 at 3:50 am

    u rock!

  8. Marcella
    January 8, 2016 at 6:52 pm

    Very informative, thanks!