VirtualBox on Debian Buster
Virtualbox enables a Linux user to host multiple guest operating systems as virtual machines. Useful for experimenting with different Linux distros and configurations!
In this HOWTO I install Virtualbox on a Debian HOST and create a Debian GUEST virtual machine.
Confirm that virtualization support is enabled in your system's BIOS. If so, the following commands will return some output:
- for Intel processors ...
$ grep --color vmx /proc/cpuinfo
- for AMD processors ...
$ grep --color svm /proc/cpuinfo
If no output, the processor might still be virtualization-capable but with the option disabled. Check in the BIOS and enable if available.
Install Virtualbox on HOST
Kernel modules for Virtualbox are built via Dynamic Kernel Module Support (DKMS). After installing Virtualbox below, the
vbox modules should be auto-built and -loaded.
$ sudo apt install dkms module-assistant linux-headers-$(uname -r)
Packages for Virtualbox have been removed from Debian 10, so I retrieve the latest
*.deb package from Oracle itself by configuring a Debian third-party repository.
Install the Oracle signed GPG public keys ...
$ wget -q https://www.virtualbox.org/download/oracle_vbox_2016.asc -O- | sudo apt-key add -
apt-key list and confirm the VirtualBox archive signing key fingerprint matches ...
B9F8 D658 297A F3EF C18D 5CDF A2F6 83C5 2980 AECF Oracle Corporation (VirtualBox archive signing key) <email@example.com>
$ sudo sh -c "echo 'deb https://download.virtualbox.org/virtualbox/debian buster contrib' >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/virtualbox.list"
Refresh package listings, install Virtualbox, and assign your username (example:
foo) to the
vboxusers group ...
$ sudo apt update && sudo apt install virtualbox-6.1 $ sudo adduser foo vboxusers
Reload the shell and confirm the new group has been added to the user's assigned groups ...
$ su - $USER $ id
Launch Virtualbox and create GUEST
With the current release, I immediately ran into the issue of VB using an unreadable colour scheme of light grey foreground text on a white background. Unlike other QT apps, Virtualbox does not respect GTK dark themes (which I am using).
Workaround: Start VB with a more usable colour scheme (black text foreground/white background) ...
$ VirtualBox -style Fusion %U
Default Machine Folder where Virtual Machine (VM) images are stored is
~/Virtualbox VMs. This can be modified in
See the User Manual for creating a GUEST VM. I use the
netinst installer to create a new minimal Debian virtual machine.
Debian GUEST in console mode defaults to a small 80x40 window. Resize by rebooting the GUEST and configure GRUB:
- Grub boot screen: hit
cto enter command mode
- At the prompt
vbeinfoto display supported resolutions (example:
/etc/default/grub: add ...
- Save changes, run
Guest Additions is an iso image file included in the VirtualBox package, and is installed inside the virtual machine GUEST after the operating system is installed. It enables extra features such as the ability to tweak display settings and add a shared folder between HOST and GUEST.
Launch the new Debian GUEST. Refresh package listings and install build tools ...
# apt update && apt install dkms module-assistant linux-headers-$(uname -r) && m-a prepare
In the Debian GUEST window, load
Devices->Insert Guest Additions CD Image .... If the image is not auto-mounted, mount it manually ...
# mount /media/cdrom0
Install VBoxLinuxAdditions.run on GUEST ...
# sh /media/cdrom0/VBoxLinuxAdditions.run
Assign username (example:
foo) to group
# adduser foo vboxsf
Graphical desktop display
Tweak display settings by going to
Machine->Settings->Display to add more video memory and enable 3D acceleration.
Display and resolution can be changed when running a graphical environment. If the GUEST VM does not use a graphical login manager to launch its desktop, then modify
~/.xinitrc to start
VBoxClient services ...
VBoxClient --clipboard & VBoxClient --display & VBoxClient --seamless &
Create a shared folder on HOST. Make it accessible to GUEST virtual machines by going to
Machine->Settings->Shared Folders. Click on
Adds new shared folder, set the
Folder Path, and select
SSH from HOST to GUEST
Host-only networking with Virtualbox was a big help getting this properly configured.
I want to SSH from my HOST to GUEST. Default configuration supplies GUEST with a NAT interface for internet access but no HOST<->GUEST connectivity. A solution for local access is creating a host-only adapter.
On the HOST
Tools sidebar, click the Menu icon and select
Create and a new host-only network card -
vboxnet0 - is configured with default address
DHCP Server enabled.
Select the GUEST virtual machine and in
Machine->Settings->Network click on
Adapter 2, click on
Enable Network Adapter and
Attached to Host-only Adapter, and select
On the GUEST
Start GUEST. Install the SSH server ...
# apt install openssh-server
Confirm the new interface has been created ...
$ ip a
Add the interface to
# Host-only interface auto enp0s8 iface enp0s8 inet dhcp
Bring up the interface ...
# ifup enp0s8
Interface is assigned an address (example:
192.168.56.101) and can now be accessed via SSH.
Optional: Assign GUEST a static address outside the range of the DHCP server (ports
# Host-only interface auto enp0s8 iface enp0s8 inet static address 192.168.56.50 netmask 255.255.255.0 network 192.168.56.0 broadcast 192.168.56.255
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