Caleb Madrigal

Programming, Hacking, Math, and Art


Running Ubuntu on VirtualBox in Windows

I'm mostly a Mac user and I also really like Linux (especially Ubuntu), but I hate Windows. However, I'm occasionally required to use Windows at work, so I've found a way to make using Windows more enjoyable: to use Ubuntu (installed on VirtualBox inside of Windows) instead of Windows for everything except for the few tasks which require Windows.

So I have made this little How to Install Ubuntu on VirtualBox in Windows setup guide:


  • Install VirtualBox
  • Download Ubuntu 12.04 ISO file
  • Create and configure a Virtual Machine
  • Tweak Virtual Machine hardware settings
  • Install Ubuntu in the Virtual Machine
  • Make Ubuntu nicer to use in VirtualBox
  • Using your new Virtual Ubuntu system

Install VirtualBox

Download Ubuntu 12.04 ISO file

Create a virtual machine

Hit New:

Virtualbox New

Type: Linux, Version: Ubuntu

Virtualbox Create VM

2 Gb memory (At least that's what I used on an 8Gb machine)

Virtualbox Ram

Create a virtual hard drive

Virtualbox HD

Use VID Format

Virtualbox HD Format

Create a Fixed size hard drive - they are faster

Virtualbox HD Fixed Size

I allocated 10 Gb for my virtual hard drive

Virtualbox HD Size

Select the Ubuntu ISO as a CD; Go to Settings -> Storage

Virtualbox CD

Click "Choose Disk"

Virtualbox choose disk

Choose the Ubuntu ISO file

Virtualbox choose disk2

Then finish out the wizard

Tweak Virtual Machine hardware settings

Open the Settings

Virtualbox Settings

Add more Video memory and enable 3d acceleration

Virtualbox video memory

Default network settings worked for me

Virtualbox networking

Add shared host drive. Later, this will allow you to mount your entire windows hard drive from Ubuntu

Virtualbox shared folders

Enable copy/paste between Linux and Windows

Go to Settings - General - Advanced and set Shared Clipboard to be "Bidirectional".

Virtualbox shared clipboard

Now exit out of the settings. Time to install Ubuntu.

Install Ubuntu in the Virtual Machine

Click "Start" to start the Virtual Machine

Virtualbox start

The Virtual Machine should see the "bootable" Ubuntu ISO image and run it automatically. If this works, you will soon see the Ubuntu installation screen

Ubuntu install screen

Ubuntu Installation Steps

The wizard will walk you through these, but here are the basic steps:

  • Click "Install Ubuntu"
  • Check "Download updates while installing" and Check "Install this third-party software" (and then click "Continue")
  • Select "Erase disk and install Ubuntu" (and then click Continue)
    • Note that this erases your virtual hard drive created just for Ubuntu (not your entire real computer hard drive)
  • Click "Install Now"
  • While installing, it will prompt you for some basic info like timezone, keyboard layout, etc. Just do what is best for you.
  • Also, while installing, it will prompt you for "Who you are?" Make sure to pick a username and password which you will remember.
  • Also, click "Require password on startup", because you will need this later when you switch to Xubuntu (assuming you want to switch - I recommend it for speed).
  • When complete, click restart
  • Right click on the CD looking thing near the bottom right of the VirtualBox window to remove the installation disk (the Ubuntu ISO) from the Virtual drive.
  • Login when it restarts.

Make Ubuntu nicer to use in VirtualBox

Install "Guest Additions"

The Guest Additions allow Ubuntu to behave better inside of Virtualbox; for example, you can resize the VirtualBox window and Ubuntu will appropriately resize. Here are the steps:

  • Click on Devices - Install Guest Additions (in the VitualBox window).
  • Click "Run" on the window that pops up.
  • Enter your password on the box that pops up and click "Authenticate"

Install Updates

You should get a popup asking if you want to install updates. If you do, install them.

Install Xubuntu

Xubuntu is a customized XFCE packages. It is much more lightweight than the default Unity window manager. I also prefer it to Unity

  • Open the Terminal
  • sudo apt-get install xubuntu-desktop
  • Once that finishes installing, log out
  • Click the Ubuntu button to switch to the Xubuntu window manage:

Ubuntu change wm

  • Select "Xubuntu Session"

Ubuntu change wm2

  • Then log back in, and you should have a Xubuntu desktop

Add access to your entire Windows hard drive within Ubuntu

Run this command at the Terminal (the Terminal can be found under Accessories):

sudo mount -t vboxsf C_DRIVE /media/windows

This command must be run each time you start the Virtual Machine. I decided to write a script called mountw to run this script:

sudo cat "sudo mount -t vboxsf C_DRIVE /media/windows" > /usr/bin/mountw
sudo chmod a+x /usr/bin/mountw

Now I can just run "mountw" from the terminal when I want full access to my Windows hard drive.

The installation/configuration is complete!

Using your new Virtual Ubuntu system

You can, of course, just keep Ubuntu running in the VirtualBox window (which is what I do most of the time):

Ubuntu in windows

Or, you can also use "Seemless mode" by clicking "Host-L" ("Host" is typically the Right Control key, so Right Control+L), which lets you have mesh Linux and Windows windows right beside each other (without having the containing VirtualBox window). You can click Right Control+L again to get out of Seamless mode:

Ubuntu in seamless

Lastly, if you want to stop using your Virtual Machine for a little while but don't want to turn it off, you can just hit "Right Control+P" to pause it.

Special thanks to Grant Rettke for helping me compile this guide.