What are the Guest Additions in VirtualBox and how do you install them?

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What are the Guest Additions in VirtualBox and how do you install them?
What are the Guest Additions in VirtualBox and how do you install them?

You may have seen a prompt or observed a reference to Guest Additions while working in VirtualBox. But what exactly are Guest Additions, and should they be used?

Let’s look at what the Guest Additions in VirtualBox accomplish, why you should install them, and how to activate them.

What Are Guest Additions in VirtualBox?

The VirtualBox Guest Additions are additional bits of software that come with your copy of VirtualBox and allow for improved performance and functionality in virtual machines. To enable this feature, you must install Guest Additions inside the virtual machine.

VirtualBox, as you may know, is a hypervisor that enables you to construct and run virtual computers. This means you can install Windows and other operating systems within VirtualBox and make them seem to be running on real hardware.

If you’re unfamiliar with VirtualBox, see our complete guide to getting started.

However, just because you have a functional virtual machine operating in VirtualBox does not imply that the experience is flawless from the outset. Certain aspects of running an operating system in an app window are vexing.

For example, on your primary computer, Windows knows what resolutions it can show thanks to graphics device drivers. Because a virtual machine cannot accomplish this, it defaults to a low resolution (such as 800×600).

The VirtualBox Guest Additions provide display drivers and other essential features that make your virtual machine considerably more functional.

What Do the Guest Additions Do?

Now that we’ve established what Guest Additions are, let’s have a look at what they can accomplish for you.

1. Shared Clipboard/Drag and Drop

You’ll probably wish to transfer some stuff between your virtual machine (the guest) and your real PC at some point (the host). VirtualBox has a few options to make this easier with the Guest Additions loaded. The shared clipboard/drag and drop feature comes first. This lets you to copy and paste objects from one platform to the other, as well as move files between both. To change this, go to the VirtualBox home page and click Settings.

Switch to the Advanced tab in the General section to choose settings for Shared Clipboard and Drag’n’Drop. For each of them, you may choose Disabled, Host to Guest, Guest to Host, or Bidirectional.

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Unless you have a compelling reason to do otherwise, Bidirectional is the most convenient option.

Once enabled, both copy/paste and dragging between platforms will function.

You may use shared folders to make folders on your host system available in the VM. This Guest Additions feature allows you to mount host files in the guest OS as “network resources” without requiring a network.

2. Shared Folders

To utilize it, go to a VM’s Settings and then to the Shared Folders area. On the right side, click the Add Share option, then choose a folder on your computer to share with the visitor.

Name it, choose Auto-mount if you want it to connect automatically, then click OK.

In the guest OS, that folder will now show as a network drive.

As previously stated, virtual machines do not support high-resolution graphics from the beginning. However, after the Guest Additions are installed, you will have complete control over the resolution selections in the guest OS’s settings menu. For example, if you have a 1920×1080 monitor, you may run the VM in full-screen mode at 1080p.

3. Improved Graphics Support

The Guest Additions do more than just improve the graphics. When you use them, the resolution of the guest OS will dynamically resize as you move the VirtualBox window around on your machine. This allows you to utilize the VM at whatever size you choose without having to fiddle with resolution settings.

Finally, Guest Additions allow the guest OS to use your computer’s graphical hardware. This is most noticeable while playing games or other visually demanding apps in a WM.

Another useful feature of the Guest Additions is the seamless mode. This allows you to run program windows from the guest alongside applications from the host OS, giving the impression that they are all part of the same system. It’s similar to how Parallels runs Windows applications on a Mac.

4. Seamless App Windows

When your virtual machine is in focus, hit the Host key + L to activate this mode. If you haven’t modified it, VirtualBox’s default Host key is the correct Ctrl key.

After that, the VM will become full-screen and VirtualBox will remove the backdrop. You may then utilize its windows alongside your standard desktop program. To turn this off, press Host + L again—-if it doesn’t appear to work, make sure you choose the VirtualBox VM first.

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The functions listed above are the key aspects of VirtualBox’s Guest Additions. There are a few additional advantages to installing them, although they are not as widespread.

5. Other Benefits of VirtualBox Guest Additions

The smooth mouse integration may effect you depending on the guest OS. VirtualBox enables you to smoothly move your mouse between your host and guest systems on most current operating systems. However, certain older operating systems demand complete control of your keyboard and mouse.

If this is the case, clicking within the VirtualBox window will cause your mouse cursor to get “stuck.” This implies that you must press the Host key (by default, right Ctrl) to restore mouse control to the host OS.

Otherwise, the Guest Additions provide time synchronization with your host system, the possibility for automatic logins, and the ability to monitor guest-host connections. None of this is really useful to the ordinary user.

Installing the Guest Additions on your VirtualBox machine is simple. In reality, every time VirtualBox is updated, a new version of the Guest Additions is included. You don’t have to update the Guest Additions every time you update VirtualBox, although Oracle advises doing so for optimal efficiency.

How to Install VirtualBox’s Guest Additions

Remember that the Guest Additions are only available for Windows and Linux, not macOS. If you’re running macOS in a virtual machine, you’ll need to find additional remedies.

Boot into your guest OS as usual to install the Guest Additions for VirtualBox in a Windows VM. Select Devices > Insert Guest Additions CD Image from the top toolbar. This attaches a virtual disk to the VM.

Install Guest Additions on Windows VMs

When you do this, Windows will act as though you’ve inserted a real disc. If it does not ask you to start it, use File Explorer and go to This PC. In the CD Drive, you should notice a device called VBox GAs x.

Double-click this to see the contents of the DVD. Run the VBxWindowsAdditions file from inside (or VBxWindowsAdditions-x86 on a 32-bit VM).

Simply follow the procedures to install the Guest Additions as you would any other program. When it is finished, you will be requested to restart the VM, which you should do as soon as feasible.

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After that, proceed to Devices > Optical Drives > Remove disk from virtual drive to “eject” the virtual Guest Additions disc.

The installation of VirtualBox’s Guest Additions into a Linux VM is quite similar. After booting up, go to the VirtualBox menu bar and choose Devices > Insert Guest Additions CD Image. Depending on your version of Linux, you may receive a notice telling you to launch the CD’s contents automatically.

Install Guest Additions on Linux VMs

You may accept this, but if you don’t, the CD will appear on the taskbar in many Linux distributions. If it does not display, use the file browser and search for VBox GAs x on the left sidebar.

A Run Software button appears in the top-right corner of the Ubuntu window. Click here to begin the installation process, then enter your admin password to proceed. A Terminal window will appear to keep you informed of its progress.

After that, reboot the VM and you’re done. You may then eject the disk by going to Devices > Optical Drives > Remove disk from virtual drive, or by right-clicking it in your operating system and selecting Eject.

As we’ve seen, the Guest Additions greatly improve the performance of virtual machines in VirtualBox. When creating a new VM, you should always spend a few seconds to install the Guest Additions since there is no disadvantage to doing so.

Guest Additions Make VirtualBox Even Better

If VirtualBox isn’t working for you, see how it stacks up against competing virtualization options.

If VirtualBox isn’t working for you, check out how VirtualBox compares to other virtualization tools.

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