Posted by: reformedmusings | December 11, 2008

Installing Sun VirtualBox 2.0.6 Guest Additions in Linux guests

In this post, I covered the basic installation of Sun’s VirtualBox 2.0.6 into Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid. Then, we created a virtual machine and installed PCLinuxOS into it. That’s not the end of the process, though. Like VMWare Workstation’s VMWare Tools, VirtualBox has a corresponding utility set called VirtualBox Guest Additions. Their installation proved somewhat simpler than VMWare”s approach.

Guest Additions installs from a CD iso file. There’s an error in the VirtualBox manual concerning the files location, well, depending on how you install it. The 2.0.6 manual on page 56 says that the file is in /opt/VirtualBox-2.0.6. That would perhaps be true if VirtualBox were installed from a user download. However, when VirtualBox installs through the package manager, the iso file is actually found in /usr/share/virtualbox. That’s where Ubuntu puts it, anyway. You may have to search for it on your system.

So, we need to load the iso as a CD in our virtual machine. For this, the virtual machine must be shut down (powered off).


From the VirtualBox main screen, highlight the target virtual machine and then click on the Details tab, then on CD/DVD-ROM:


Select the file VBoxGuestAdditions.iso under /usr/share/virtualbox (or wherever your distribution puts it), then click OK. Power up the virtual machine by clicking on Start on the main toolbar. Once the virtual machine loads, ensure that the cursor is released and select Device -> Install Guest Additions from the menu.

Next, we need to execute the installation script. Click the mouse anywhere in the virtual machine to capture it in the VM. What happens next depends on the Linux distribution which you are running in the virtual machine. In most, the easiest method is to open the terminal and type these lines:

cd /media/VBOXADDITIONS_2.0.6_39755 [directory name will vary with the version]
sudo sh ./ [or -x64 if running a 64-bit guest]

To my surprise, this didn’t work in the PCLinuxOS guest. I had to open “Terminal Program – Super User Mode” from the menus. Strange. Anyway, the terminal session looked like this:


After restarting the guest system, this information box popped up:


That’s a major convenience compared with always manually capturing/uncapturing the mouse with a magic key. At this point, you can change the CD mapping away from the Guest Additions iso file.

So, what does Guest Additions do for you? It provides OS-specific drivers that do a couple of good things. The VirtualBox manual lists these: mouse pointer integration, better video support, time synchronization between guest and host, shared folders between guest and host, seamless windows in the host, and shared clipboards which enables cutting and pasting between host and guest. This are pretty much the same benefits derived from VMare Tools in VMWare virtual machines.

The improved video support allows more resolutions in the guest. Without Guest Additions, you are limited to standards like 800×600 and 1024×768. With the Additions, I was able to set the guest at 1152×864, which words better for my purposes.

If you use VirtualBox, you should install Guest Additions to get the most from your virtual machines.



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