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Installing/Upgrading VirtualBox Guest Additions on Linux Desktop/Server

This article will describe how to install or update VirtualBox Guest Additions in Linux, showing the commands you need to run.

VirtualBox is a free, open source virtualization platform that allows you to create virtual machines that run on your Linux system. These virtual machines act just like their own self-contained computers, and can run other Linux distributions, or even other operating systems entirely, such as Windows, or MS-DOS.

Virtual Machines – Hosts vs Guests

In virtualization terminology, the Host is the computer that runs a virtual machine, and a Guest is the virtualized computer running in the virtual machine.

The VirtualBox software is installed on the host, and is used to manage and run guest virtual machines.

VirtualBox Guest Additions

The VirtualBox Guest Additions is a software package that is installed on the Guest – the virtual machine. It provides drivers to make the guest operating system run properly – allowing it to use the virtual network interface and fully utilize the system resources allocated to it, as well as extra software to make working with the virtual machine easier, such as sharing folders between the guest and host, or allowing your mouse-pointer to move seamlessly between the two.

Installing VirtualBox Guest Additions

Here are the steps you need to follow to install the guest additions in Linux – we’ll do it from the command line, so it will work on both desktop and server distributions.

All of the following commands are to be run on the guest!

Installing Requirements – Red Hat Linux

First, you’ll need to run the following command to install the software required to build and install the guest additions package:

sudo dnf install tar bzip2 kernel-devel kernel-headers perl gcc make elfutils-libelf-devel

If you do not do this, you’ll get an error about not being able to build kernel modules, and the guest additions will not be fully installed.

Installing Requirements – Ubuntu/Debian Linux

If you’re on Ubuntu/Debian, run the following to install dependencies:

sudo apt install build-essential dkms linux-headers-generic

Attach the VirtualBox Guest Additions CD Image

VirtualBox Guest Additions are supplied in a CD image with VirtualBox, and are available to every virtual machine that you create. To attach the CD image so that the guest can read it, open your virtual machine and click Devices in the menu bar, then click Insert Guest Additions CD Image….

Mount the CD Image

If the image does not mount automatically (likely the case if you are using a server-focussed Linux distribution), mount it by running the following commands:

mkdir /media/cdrom
sudo mount /dev/cdrom /media/cdrom

Then, navigate to the mounted CD-ROM by running:

cd /media/cdrom

Install VirtualBox Guest Additions for Linux

Finally, run the following command to perform the installation:

sudo ./VBoxLinuxAdditions.run

You will see something like the following to indicate that the installation has started:

Verifying archive integrity... All good.
Uncompressing VirtualBox 6.1.40 Guest Additions for Linux.
VirtualBox Guest Additions installer

Additional output will be presented, and the process may take several minutes.

When the installation has successfully completed, reboot:

sudo reboot

You can confirm the modules have been installed successfully by running:

lsmod -l | grep -io vboxguest
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I'm Brad, and I'm nearing 20 years of experience with Linux. I've worked in just about every IT role there is before taking the leap into software development. Currently, I'm building desktop and web-based solutions with NodeJS and PHP hosted on Linux infrastructure. Visit my blog or find me on Twitter to see what I'm up to.

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