Instructions: Set up and use the virtual machine without prior knowledge

The “Virtual Machine” is now quoted at every opportunity. Many normal PC users, who only need the computer as a tool, may not even know what that is. We explain to you very briefly what a VM is, what it is good for and then show step-by-step how a VM is set up, whether for/under Windows or Linux. And for after the installation, we still have the most important tips for optimization:

Tip: Install Guest Additions
Tip: Make the VM visible on the network
Tip: Use external USB devices
Tip: Exchange files with the host computer

What is a virtual machine?

Virtual machines are simulated (even if the term is not entirely technically correct) computer hardware that operating systems such as Windows can access in the same way as real hardware – Windows does not even realize that it is running on a virtual machine. A virtualization program like the free one VirtualBox So creates such a VM, which in itself is nothing more than a small configuration file that says how much memory the VM has, what graphics card is used, what kind of network connection and what storage media are connected. VirtualBox will boot using this configuration file and you will see a black screen like the real machine. As a storage medium, the VM uses a virtual hard disk, an empty container file that behaves like a real disk. On the other hand, the VM uses ISO files, which are “inserted” just like real CDs/DVDs – only that “insert” means “embed” or “mount” here. If VirtualBox now boots with the ISO attached, for example from the Windows installation DVD, it starts from the CD just like a real computer and you can install Windows 1:1 on the virtual hard disk like in real life. At the end of the procedure, VirtualBox starts the VM and you see a window in which a complete Windows or Linux is running.

virtual machines
Several virtual machines - Debian, Win XP and Bodhi.

What is all this for?

You can do all your work in the VM and create extremely simple backups - VirtualBox can clone VMs and create snapshots and in addition your whole computer consists only of the configuration file (a plain text file) and the virtual hard disk, which you can of course back up as you wish and also can start on any other system. If you play the two files and the portable version of VirtualBox on a USB stick, you always have your entire computer in your pocket - including media, mailboxes, Office and so on. You can also safely test dangerous software, viruses, worms and Trojans, create a system for guests, test Linux and much more - and all systems can be restored to their original state or any snapshot at any time. In other words: Virtual machines are also practical for noobs, DAUs, beginners, laypeople and average users - and set up very easily, here with Ubuntu as a guest system (i.e. in the VM) and Windows 7 as a host (real computer):

1. Install VirtualBox

First you install VirtualBox and start the assistant with the "New" button.

VirtualBox Manager

2. Create system

When assigning the name in the next step, you should use the name of the operating system to be installed - VirtualBox then immediately sets sensible defaults, which you can also change in the next steps.

Correct name = matching presets

3. Determine RAM

If you have a lot of physical RAM, give the machine a gigabyte or two, it benefits from it just like real computers.

RAM Allocation

4. Mount hard disk

In the next step, you determine that a new hard disk should be created. You can ignore the size specification.

Create new plate

5. Determine disk format

If you don't want to use the virtual hard disk in any other way than in VirtualBox, simply stick to the standard, VirtualBox Disk Image (VDI) when choosing the format.

determine format

6. Type of storage

Select "dynamically allocated" as the storage type. This means that your virtual hard drive offers around 40 gigabytes of space, but the container VDI file is only as large as this space is actually used. After installing Ubuntu, the VDI file would be just over 1 GB in size. If you then boot the VM and create a 2GB file, the VDI would grow by those 2GB. If you chose "fixed size", the VDI file would be 40 GB in size from the start.

Create dynamic disk

7. Set disk size

And that's exactly why you can lay out the size generously - it doesn't hurt.

Choose the size of the plate.

8. The VM in the manager

The virtual computer is now complete and you can find it in the main menu – the “CD” with the operating system is still missing.

machine in manager.

9. Mount OS/ISO

To insert the Ubuntu ISO, you open the settings of the VM via the context menu and the entry "change", switch to "mass storage", click on the CD symbol for "Controller: IDE" and then open via the small icon on the right in the picture the entry "Choose file for virtual CD/DVD drive".

Select IDE controller.

10. Select ISO

Select the downloaded ISO file, here Ubuntu 12.04.

select ISO.

11. The ISO in the manager

Now you can see that the IDE controller recognizes the Ubuntu CD as inserted.

The mounted ISO.

12. Start VM

Now start the machine from the main menu.

start machine.

13. The calculator on the desktop

If everything is fine, the VM will now boot from the Ubuntu CD and you can test or install - it's also good to see here that a VM is just a perfectly normal window.

boot screen

14. The running system

Once booted, you can use Ubuntu exactly as you would on a real computer. In full-screen mode, the uninitiated cannot see at all that they are sitting in front of a virtual machine - however, this should not work at all yet, the Ubuntu desktop is very small by default. The so-called guest additions must first be installed under Ubuntu, which adapt the operating system for operation in a VM and, among other things, ensure full screen resolution. You can find the link to the instructions in the tips above.

The finished virtual machine – just one window.

Mirco Lang

Freelance journalist, Sauerland exile, (fairly old) skateboarder, graduate computer scientist, retail salesman, open source nerd, Checkmk handbook writer. Ex-Saturn'ler, Ex-Data-Becker'ler, Ex-BSI'ler. First contact with computers: ca. 1982 - a friend's big brother's C64. If you want to read more about open source, Linux and craft stuff and support Tutonaut here: About Coffee sponsorship via Paypal.I'm always happy. In advance: Thank you! Do not miss: and New: Mastodon


  1. Yes, everything is well described! But as so often, it still doesn't work! I have Windows 10!
    And in order not to damage it, I have it, along with the VM VirtualBox and the green
    Colored VM Virtualbox, (extension) downloaded with the key, onto an extra purchased 16GB stick! The ISO files are also on it. But beyond that, a window opens on the right with a small black screen, nothing else happened !

  2. I would like to install mint 19 and "integrate" my existing Windows 10 into Virtualbox.
    So far, WIN10 has been running with all programs that cannot be run in Linux in dual boot parallel to Mint 18 on my hard drive.
    The idea is to get away from dual booting and clone the working Windows partition(s) to an external disk as an image with Clonezilla and then restore it in a virtualbox after a complete clean install of Mint 19.
    I've tried that several times but to no avail. The image is on the external disk but the VirtualBox does not recognize a bootable system in the image.
    What might help me would be a step-by-step guide for restoring the image created by Clonezilla ( presumably using Clonezilla ?? ).
    My system is UEFI 64bit, maybe I'm using the wrong Clonezilla version in my experiments?

  3. Hello tuto,
    bin, (grey very advanced), with the designations for the details of the systems at constant loggerheads. Would you still get in the pear.
    It works out! Thanks to your way of using didactic possibilities.
    Thank you for your good work.

  4. good article.
    Unfortunately, my hope for instructions for "dummies" was not fulfilled.
    I installed virtuelbox, downloaded an iso and did everything according to instructions. Strangely enough, nothing appears with mass storage... a screen appears that asks me to name the drive for the boot cd.. since I don't have one and nothing can be selected apart from my cd drive, I can't do anything... well, at some point I'll get it , or try it with a cd.
    but otherwise helpful article
    Thank you

  5. Hi, thanks for your great article. A nice guide with corresponding pictures. I just got my first blog article on the topic: Are you using the right operating system? written and referred to your instructions, since you can safely test different operating systems with VirtualBox.

  6. Following the instructions here, I was able to install virtualbox on Linux Ubuntu 16.04. I installed on it
    then my old WIN XP 32bit. Now I can use my old scanner and printer again. Besides that
    data exchange between the host and guest hard disk is possible.
    Thank you very much for the description in German!

    Peaceful feast

  7. Dear Mirco,
    First of all, thank you very much for explaining so much and so clearly to everyone here.
    I just installed Portable Virtual Box with Ubuntu, but did the installation on a different PC. When I started the box again - namely at home on my notebook, I got the following error message:
    VT-x/AMD-V hardware accelerator is not available on your system. The guest will not recognize a 64-bit CPU and will therefore not be able to boot.
    Question: Is the emphasis here more on 64-bit, so do I have a chance with 32-bit?
    Or do I have to or can I do something else (BIOS setting regarding hardware acceleration?) But I'm very reluctant to go into the BIOS - trembling!
    Otherwise have Win 7, Intel Pentium Dual Core, computer is about 6 years old.
    Thank you very much for a helpful hint.

    PS: I know you well from “PC practice”. I will never get over the fact that it was discontinued.

    1. Hello Amelia,
      It's nice that the PCP hasn't been completely forgotten yet ;)
      You need VT-x, Intel's virtualization technology, for 64-bit systems, the 32-bit VMs should also run without it. I'm guessing your CPU is something in the direction of the first generation Intel Core i3 or i5 and they support VT-x - at Intel you can also take a look. On the host you would indeed have to enable it in the BIOS. And maybe also look for the VT-x setting in VirtualBox under Settings/System/Acceleration; not that the tick at VT-x has said goodbye there.

      1. Dear Mirco,

        I've tried working with a live system, so I booted from the CD. I noticed that the clock didn't keep running, so when I returned to Windows I got a time minus the time in the live system. That irritates me a bit, especially since the time continues to run even when the PC is switched off.
        Is there anything I can use to turn this off or correct it?
        Thank you very much for a help

  8. Bye Mirco
    It's been a while since your post.
    Still one question:
    I have WinXP (32-bit) and a program (16-bit) on an old computer that I can no longer install.
    It only works fine on the old box.

    I want to make an image of this old computer and install it in the virtual drive.
    All attempts to load an image with VM have failed. Cannot edit / load file.

    Only new installations work on the VM?
    Thank you for your answer

  9. Question: During the installation of VM Virtualbox, the internet connection was lost and then not restored. Restart didn't help either. I have exhausted the possibilities in the computer to restore the Internet connection. Not capped.
    I tried twice, result 0. Each time I had to do a restore to connect to the internet. I gave up What could be the reason for this?
    Thank you for an answer.

    1. You can change the storage location of the VDI files as you like, you just have to reassign the moved disk in the mass storage settings. If you mean to change the size of the disk, see below

      It's fine as long as you don't use snapshots - but I haven't tried it. LWD is not telling me anything right now except avalanche warning service.

    1. The virtual disks end up under Windows by default under "C:UsersUSERNAMEVirtualBox VMs" - by the way, it doesn't matter whether there are one or more partitions, the files always stand for the entire disk, partitioning runs "internally", like with real disks. In addition to the hard disk file, the folders of the individual VMs also contain the VM configuration in a text file with the extension vbox and can of course also be copied elsewhere without any problems.

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