(20140911 — The steps in this post were amended to address changes in recent versions of software. Minor editorial corrections were also made — iceflatline)
This post will describe how to install VirtualBox Guest Additions on your Linux guest operating system.
Oracle’s VirtualBox is a general-purpose x86 machine virtualizer that runs on Windows, Linux/Unix, and OpenSolaris hosts. It supports a large number of guest operating systems, including Linux (kernel versions 2.4 and 2.6) and the usual Windows flavors. Guest Additions consist of drivers and kernel modules that improve the usability and performance of the guest operating system, including the ability to share the mouse pointer seamlessly between the guest and host systems without the need to free the pointer from the guest OS first; the ability to share the clipboard between the guest and host OS; and, better video support through the use of guest drivers for the X Window system that provide higher (and non-standard) video modes as well as accelerated video. VirtualBox and its Guest Additions addon are free software licensed under the GNU GPL.
The versions for the software discussed in this post were as follows:
So, let’s get started.
Download and Mount
VirtualBox Guest Additions are designed to be installed to the guest OS after it has been installed. So, if you haven’t already installed your Linux guest OS make sure you do that first.
VirtualBox Guest Additions is provided as a single image. To install, you mount this image as your guest OS’s virtual CD/DVD-ROM drive and install it directly from the drive from within the guest OS. Start your guest OS and release your mouse pointer. Navigate up to the top of the window and select Devices->Install Guest Additions CD Image. The image should automatically mount as your guest OS’s virtual CD/DVD-ROM drive. (you may see a disk icon of some sort on your guest OS desktop). Now, let’s install the Guest Additions. Open up a terminal and navigate to the directory where your virtual CD/DVD-ROM is mounted (e.g.,/media/cdrom0). List the contents of the directory and you’ll notice several scripts. You’ll want to run the Linux script from this directory with the following command:
sudo sh VBoxLinuxAdditions.run
The script will do a self-check to verify the integrity of the image, then it will proceed with uncompressing files, building new kernel modules, and installing drivers. After the script finishes, you should reboot your guest OS to ensure that Guest Additions is actually used.
One problem I’ve encountered is that the installation will fail, complaining that headers for the current kernel were not found. To fix this problem make sure to first update your packages, then install the necessary kernel headers. For example, in CrunchBang, Ubuntu, and other Debian-based distributions, run the following commands:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install linux-headers-$(uname -r)
I’m starting to use VirtualBox a lot now to help test and evaluate various BSD and Linux distributions in a more flexible way. Guest Additions is easy to set up and makes working in your guest OS a much better experience.