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VirtualBox 4.0 Rocks Extensions and a Simplified GUI

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If you’re a fan of VirtualBox you’ll definitely want to grab the new 4.0 update; it comes packed with an extension manager, a fresh and user-friendly GUI, live virtual machine previews, and more. Check out our screenshot tour for a closer look.

Simplified and Enhanced GUI

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The new interface is a significant improvement over the old one. Previously information about your virtual machines was packed into a two-tab interface on the right hand side of the main window. The information was there but it wasn’t very well organized. Now information is more clearly organized and divided into groups like General, System, Display, Storage, Audio, Network, and two handy section at the bottom to see what USB devices and shared folders are linked to the virtual machine.

By far the greatest improvement in the overview section, however, is the introduction of the live preview. In the screenshot above you’re seeing my Snow Leopard desktop, in the virtual machine, at the moment I took the screenshot. You can adjust the update rate between every half second all the way up to every ten seconds (or disable it all together).

VirtualBox Is Now Extensible

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Although the pickings might be slim—the update just came out, after all—VirtualBox is now extensible. The first extension pack is an official one from Oracle and includes extensions to support USB 2.0 devices, VirtualBox RDP, and PXE boot for Intel cards. Given VirtualBox’s enormous popularity, expect to see a flood of extensions offering all manner of custom tweaks and enhancements.

Note: We experienced a very odd but repeatable error when downloading and installing the extension pack. If we downloaded it on any computer using Google Chrome the installation of the extension pack would error out with the error: RTZipGzipDecompressIoStream failed: VERR_ZIP_BAD_HEADER. This error only occurred when the extension pack was downloaded in Chrome. Switching to Firefox or Opera yielded a smooth installation. If you run into the same error, just switch browsers temporarily.

Easy Virtual Machine Manipulation

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Historically, moving virtual machines around involved a bit of know how. You had to edit XML files, tweak settings, make sure you put files in just the right spot, and other technicalities that could lead the exporting and importing process astray. In VirtualBox 4.0 the export/import process is dead simple. As of this update VirtualBox now supports Open Virtualization Format Archive so all your exports are neatly packaged in a single file—ready for backup or transport to another machine. VirtualBox also supports importing of disks beyond the VMDK format, making it a cinch to import other virtual disks.

Other Improvements

In addition to the major improvements: enhanced GUI, extensibility, and easy virtual machine importing and exporting, there’s a slew of changes under the hood. Machine deletion is now more thorough, when you delete a machine everything goes with it—including all snapshots, saved states, and even (if you toggle the setting on) attached disk images. 32-bit guest operating systems can now access more than 2GB of RAM and there are quite a few bug fixes and new hardware support packages that mop up some problems with Intel audio hardware and other vendor compatibility issues. Check out the full change log here for more information or visit the link below to grab a copy of VirtualBox 4.0

VirtualBox

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 12/23/10

Comments (19)

  1. Jack

    Still no drag-and-drop support though.

  2. alex

    How did you manage to install Leo there?

  3. David Levine

    Does it provide support for Windows 7 Aero effects?

  4. Hatryst

    I wonder how did you get Snow Leopard up and running on it? ;)

  5. Hans

    I love Virtualbox! But the bad thing is… no Windows 9x support! :(

  6. cap

    but it has no support for webcams yet… and that sucks!

  7. Cambo

    @David:

    I tried enabling 7′s Aero effects in 4.0. Still appears not to work. However for me, it’s just eye candy and doesn’t stop functionality.

  8. Jeff

    Is the Extension Pack executable blocked? “right click properties Unblock”

  9. mom

    Better question is “why” would you want to get Leo on it?

  10. Spydey

    So, even before I saw this article, I had already downloaded and installed VB 4.0 I installed ubuntu 10.04 but then after installing the guest additions, everything went downhill from there. I can only see have of my VM’s desktop. So it might have a few bugs to work out still.

    Also, what option would/should I choose if I want to install Mint 10? Would it be ubuntu because it is based off of ubuntu or would it be just a generic linux 2.6.xxx???? Anyone have any ideas?

    Good write-up and great info. Thanks for the article.

    -Spydey

  11. Emir

    when I double click after the installation sends me an error….

  12. Kalpesh

    How you manage to install snow leopard ?
    Please please please….. Newer used mac. I want to hands on that OS.
    please for education purpose only.

  13. JimRod

    Spydey – Just select the version of Ubuntu that Mint is based on. So if you have Mint Julia, select Ubuntu 10.10.

    Long live Virtual Box.

  14. Pradeep CS

    Go for VMware Workstation.. It provides almost all the functionalities you guys are worrying abt not havin in Virtual Box :)

  15. olad

    @pradeepCS…. you are right – even VMWare Player – which is just as free – provides everything, and then some… I have more options on the screen res than in Virtualbox. I run Snow Leopard in a decent mode. Virtualbox needs to do some catching up still

  16. AlanK

    @Spydey…
    Install Mint 10 as just a generic linux 2.6. It worked great in the earlier version.

  17. Matt

    How in the world did you get Leopard to run on it?

  18. Robert

    I got Snow Leopard Retail running just fine, but I also own a Macbook Pro that I use as the host.

  19. val

    Guess your next how-to should be titled how to get snow leopard running in oracle virtualbox.

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