How to install Virtualbox


Please note – this is now a very old article currently in the process of being updated. Check out our guide to installing Ubuntu, which covers installing the OS in a Virtual Machine here.

Virtualbox is a virtualisation package for Linux originally developed by Sun Microsystems. It’s an incredibly powerful and easy way of being able to run Windows XP or Vista from Ubuntu. This guide will talk you through the process of installing Virtualbox, after which we’ll look at installing Windows XP. Running XP inside Ubuntu has so many benefits, like file compatibility, using active-x in internet explorer and lots more.

Here’s a few shots of my PC running Ubuntu and Windows XP, BBC Iplayer and Microsoft Office 2007. Click the images for a full size view:

images of my virtual box installation

I took the screenshots while Compiz cube was in mid-rotate. Looks good doesn’t it? (If you haven’t done so already, I recommend you install compiz fusion!) Performance wise, Windows XP starts up just as quickly if not slightly quicker than a standard installation if you have a powerful machine. Just goes to show what a great operating system Linux can be. 🙂

How is it done?

Installing Virtualbox is quite straightforward. There’s a simple process to follow to get up and running with your XP virtual machine. That process looks like this:

1) Install Virtualbox using Synaptic package manager

2) Add your user profile to the vboxusrs group so Virtualbox will work

3) Create a virtual machine in Virtualbox

4) Install Windows XP (from CD in this post) on your new virtual machine

5) Booting your virtual machine from the Windows XP installation CD

Installing Virtualbox using Synaptic Package Manager

Open Synaptic (System>Administration) – search for “virtualbox-ose” and install.


Add your user profile to the vboxusrs group

Once Virtualbox is installed, you’ll have to add your user profile to a group created by the install process called vboxusrs. Time to start using Terminal – here’s the command:

sudo adduser [your username] vboxusers

Create a virtual machine in Virtualbox

You’re now ready to start the application (Applications>System Tools>InnoTek VirtualBox) – here’s how it looks:

We’re going to create a new virtual machine called WinXP-2 so you can see the process from start to finish. There are about 8 steps to follow, begin by clicking the “New” button.

select your os flavour

Give the new machine a name and select the type of OS you’re going to install.

Create a “dynamically expanding image” – if you use up all the available space the disk image you’re creating will expand.

Now select the actual size of the image. This is how much virtual hard disk space you’ll have to play with when you first boot the machine. When you click next you’ll be given a summary of what’s happening so far.

You’re now taken to the Virtual hard disk dialogue and your new hard disk has been created and should display in the drop down. Click next. You’re given one final confirmation and that’s it, click finish.

Booting your virtual machine from the Windows XP installation CD

Clicking finish will take you back to the virtualbox user interface. Clicking “start” will initiate the first run wizard. There’s no need to use the wizard, actually it’s quite important to get used to the settings dialogue.

To be able to get your virtual machine booting from an XP install cd, we need to mount the CD/DVD drive. Click the settings button and you will see this window – click the CD/DVD-ROM tab.Make sure you select the “Mount CD/DVD Drive” checkbox.While you’re in the settings window, familiarise yourself with the different tabs. Particulary, “Network” – it’s worth taking a look and making sure that the “cable connected” check box is selected – which enables your new virtual machine to get an internet connection. When you’re done, click OK.

Finally, with the Windows XP installation CD in your drive, click the start button. With any luck you’ll see a new installation happening right in front of you!

Once you’ve got XP completely installed, you might want to install the guest additions ISO, which will allow you a full screen resolution and a lot of compatibility between Ubuntu and XP. I’ve just published a post about doing this here. Enjoy!