Oracle VM VirtualBox USB

Oracle VM VirtualBox USB

VirtualBox USB is a powerful x86 and AMD64/Intel64 virtualization software for business enterprise as well as casual home offices. Not only is VirtualBox USB a feature-rich, high performance software program, it’s also the only professional solution that is completely available as open source software under the terms of the GNU general public license agreement version 2.

VirtualBox USB currently runs on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, and Solaris. The program also hosts and supports a wide range of guest operating systems including Windows (NT 4.0, 2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista, Windows 7), DOS/Windows 3.x, Linux (2.4 and 2.6), Solaris and OpenSolaris, OS/2, and OpenBSD.

The VirtualBox USB virtualization software is constantly being improved with frequent upgrade releases and an ever growing list of features completely supported by all guest operating systems and platforms the program runs on. As an open source software, VirtualBox USB is basically a community effort (like Ubuntu or Mozilla) backed by a dedicated company. Professional and amateur software developers are encouraged to contribute while Oracle guarantees that the product will always meet the professional quality criteria.

I’ve received quite a few requests for a tutorial on how to run VirtualBox from a USB. There just seems to be some confusion between the peripheral aspect of a usb drive and running virtualization software from that. Don’t worry. A lot of people are in the same boat as you. And that’s why I’m here to help. Check out my tutorial below on how to run VirtualBox from a USB.

If you have any questions about the program or about the procedure, leave me a comment below and I’ll get back to you as quick as I can with a personalized response. I’m here to solve all your usb related issues. So ask away!

How to run VirtualBox from a USB

Running and using usb devices like flash drives, keyboards and web cameras in your virtual machine can not only improve the quality of your virtual experience, but can also make the virtual machine more usable. You can enjoy something like VirtualBox as more than just a testing center or out of necessity when one of your programs may not work in the host operating system. It can become almost like another complete system, where you use your host resources to their maximum, including all kinds of cool peripherals.

We’re going to be setting this up with Linux. In Windows, this is a far easier procedure, but you should still read through this method for your own backend knowledge anyway. Things can go wrong during shorter steps, so it’s important to know why and how those steps were shortened. The choice of the guest operating system is not as important as the differences between the setup in the host operating system.

For this procedure, you’re going to need VirtualBox PUEL edition. The OSE edition does not offer any USB support so you need to make sure that you download the correct version, otherwise it won’t work.

After you’ve downloaded and installed the virtual machine onto your computer, you’ll need to configure usb support in the virtual machine settings. Click on setting for VirtualBox USB and then go to the usb tab. Go ahead and check the two boxes you see there, because we want usb 2.0 support. Basically, this is all there is to it, but there’s still one step we will need to do afterwards to get this really working correctly. On Windows it’s a done deal at this point, but Linux is going to need a bit more work.

But first, let’s talk about the usb filter briefly. The usb filter is a great feature that lets you automatically connect usb devices to your virtual machine. Any usb device listed in the filter box will be plugged in when you power the guest operating system. Any other usb devices will require you to manually connect them to your computer.

Next up you’re going to want to install virtual guest additions. This is a requirement to have the usb support enabled. A lot like VMware Tools for VMware related products, the guest additions expose additional functionality in the virtual machine, boost performance, and enhance sharing among other things.

From there go ahead and connect a usb flash drive and maybe even put a single jpg or doc file on there for kicks. Let’s try the Ubuntu Lucid with VirtualBox 3.2, running a Windows XP virtual machine. Next up, boot your virtual machine. Try to connect the usb device. Go to devices > usb devices and then choose the one you connected. Well, you’ll notice that all the other options will then be grayed out. So what do we do from here?

You’re going to change the group permissions. You will need to add your user to the VirtualBox group to be able to share USB resources. You can do this from the command line or try the GUI menus. We’re running Ubuntu with Gnome desktop. So you’ll have to go to System > Administration > Users and Groups. In the menu that opens, click on Manage Groups. Scroll and look for the vboxusers group.

Click on the Properties button. Make sure your user is listed and checked in the Group Members field. You will need to logout and login back into the session for the effects to take change. Now, power on the virtual machine once more and see what happens.

You will have the USB device ready for use in your virtual machine. It can be a storage device or some other cool gadget. You may even use iPhone, iPod or similar, in case the host operating system does not support the device sync or whatnot.

In the past, you would have to change all kinds of other permissions manually, so there’s hope and progress after all, but an automation of this step would make it so much easier for the average user.

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Vincent Clarke

Vincent Clarke is the Universal Serial Bus (USB) Guru for When he's not writing tutorials and catching up on the latest USB news, Vincent is busy preparing his next blog post and answering USB questions from his readers and subscribers.

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