Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Running Ubuntu in VirtualBox - stay off the bleeding edge!

Since the beginning of 2010 I've been experimenting with running Ubuntu inside VirtualBox on my Windows laptop. I always tried to stay up-to-date with the latest stable releases. In the beginning it worked like a charm but lately there have been some issues. It seems that VirtualBox has not been able to keep up with changes in the latest Ubuntu release, 10.10. Problems with the guest freezing due to using several cores arouse already during system upgrade from 10.04. It seems to be working fine when using only one core, but who wants to go slower just because of that. Lately there also seems to be some problem with the VirtualBox guest-additions leading to a painfully low screen resolution of 600x480 in the guest OS. It's just not working these days....

So, what is the alternative? Since remembering everything working fine during the spring I decided to roll-back to earlier versions. Now I'm running VirtualBox 3.1.8 with Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (both desktop and server) and it all works fine. From now on I will be much more reluctant to upgrade to new releases, and definitely be sure to create a snapshot of the virtual machine before any upgrades.

All in all, the combination VirtualBox and Ubuntu works fine, but for a stable working environment be sure to stay off the bleeding edge!


  1. It seems I was to eager to declare victory. Even in VirtualBox 3.1.8 with Ubuntu 10.04 LTS the problem with running multiple cores exists. That makes me think it is VirtualBox not being up-to-date with changes in the Linux kernel 2.6.32-26.

    Although with only one core utilized it works fine, but a little bit slower.

    It sounds like it has been fixed in the VirtualBox SVN-repository, so hopefully we will see the fix in 3.2.14

  2. VirtualBox 4.0.0 was release just before Christmas. I downloaded and run some tests finding that the graphical problems seems to be gone while the multi-core-crashes are still there. It seems we have to wait for this bug-report ( to be taken care of before we can go full speed again.

  3. Any more news on this, I'm interested in using this (is there any point using this on an external drive?).

  4. I'm currently running VirtualBox 4.0.2 (yes, that is the latest version :) with 2 cores activated. It seems to work fine with both Ubuntu 10.4 LTS and 10.10. I can recommend that set-up. However, I take good care to save snapshots every time I upgrade the Linux kernel in my installations and manual updates of all virtual machine related files when I upgrade the VirtualBox release (they have shown not always to be backwards compatible).

    As for running on an external drive, I suppose it would work. VirtualBox needs to be installed in Windows, so that should probably be installed as any other program. But the virtual machines themselves consist of purely ordinary files (however quite large) so they could be put on an external drive. Although those files are treated as hard drives in the virtual machine so I suppose the performance will suffer.