VirtualBox/Install Arch Linux as a guest

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This article is about installing Arch Linux in VirtualBox.

Boot the Arch installation media through one of the virtual machine's virtual drives. Then, complete the installation of a basic Arch system as explained in the Installation guide.

Installation in EFI mode

If you want to install Arch Linux in EFI mode inside VirtualBox, you must change the firmware mode for the virtual machine.

To enable EFI for a virtual machine using the graphical interface, open the settings of the virtual machine, choose System item from the panel on the left and Motherboard tab from the right panel, and check the checkbox Enable EFI (special OSes only).

Alternatively the same can be accomplished from the command line using VBoxManage:

$ VBoxManage modifyvm "Virtual machine name" --firmware efi

efi will set the firmware for the virtual machine to EFI with the bitness matching the virtual machine's CPU. To get a specific EFI bitness, set the firmware to efi64 for x86_64 EFI or efi32 for IA32 EFI.

After selecting the kernel from the Arch Linux installation media's menu, the media will hang for a minute or two and will continue to boot the kernel normally afterwards. Be patient.

Starting with VirtualBox 6.1 the issue of forgetting NVRAM contents on shutdown is fixed. Proceed with the installation just as on a regular UEFI system.

Installation in EFI mode on VirtualBox < 6.1

Once the system and the boot loader are installed, VirtualBox will first attempt to run /EFI/BOOT/BOOTX64.EFI from the ESP. If that first option fails, VirtualBox will then try the EFI shell script startup.nsh from the root of the ESP. This means that in order to boot the system you have the following options:

  • Launch the bootloader manually from the EFI shell every time;
  • Move the bootloader to the default /EFI/BOOT/BOOTX64.EFI path;
  • Create a script named startup.nsh at the ESP root containing the path to the boot loader application, e.g. \EFI\grub\grubx64.efi.
  • Boot directly from the ESP partition using a startup.nsh script.

Do not bother with the VirtualBox Boot Manager (accessible with F2 at boot), as it is buggy and incomplete. It does not store efivars set interactively. Therefore, EFI entries added to it manually in the firmware (accessed with F12 at boot time) or with efibootmgr will persist after a reboot but are lost when the VM is shut down.

See also UEFI VirtualBox installation boot problems.

Install the Guest Additions

VirtualBox Guest Additions provides drivers and applications that optimize the guest operating system including improved image resolution and better control of the mouse. Within the installed guest system, install:

If you are using a kernel other than the default linux kernel and older than Linux 5.6, you must also install the virtualbox-guest-dkms package, along with the appropriate headers package(s) for your installed kernel(s) (e.g. linux-lts-headers for linux-lts). [1] When either VirtualBox or the kernel is updated, the kernel modules will be automatically recompiled thanks to the DKMS Pacman hook.

Tip:
  • You can alternatively install the Guest Additions with the ISO from the virtualbox-guest-iso package, provided you installed this on the host system. To do this, go to the device menu click Insert Guest Additions CD Image.
  • To recompile the vbox kernel modules, run rcvboxdrv as root.

The guest additions running on your guest, and the VirtualBox application running on your host must have matching versions, otherwise the guest additions (like shared clipboard) may stop working. If you upgrade your guest (e.g. pacman -Syu), make sure your VirtualBox application on this host is also the latest version. "Check for updates" in the VirtualBox GUI is sometimes not sufficient; check the VirtualBox.org website.

Set optimal framebuffer resolution

Merge-arrows-2.pngThis article or section is a candidate for merging with VirtualBox/Tips and tricks#Set guest starting resolution.Merge-arrows-2.png

Notes: Keep guest resolution information in one place. (Discuss in Talk:VirtualBox/Install Arch Linux as a guest#)

Typically after installing Guest Additions, a fullscreen Arch guest running X will be set to the optimal resolution for your display; however, the virtual console's framebuffer will be set to a standard, often smaller, resolution detected from VirtualBox's custom VESA driver.

To use the virtual consoles at optimal resolution, Arch needs to recognize that resolution as valid, which in turn requires VirtualBox to pass this information along to the guest OS.

First, check if your desired resolution is not already recognized by running the command:

hwinfo --framebuffer

If the optimal resolution does not show up, then you will need to run the VBoxManage tool on the host machine and add "extra resolutions" to your virtual machine (on a Windows host, go to the VirtualBox installation directory to find VBoxManage.exe). For example:

$ VBoxManage setextradata "Arch Linux" "CustomVideoMode1" "1360x768x24"

The parameters "Arch Linux" and "1360x768x24" in the example above should be replaced with your VM name and the desired framebuffer resolution. Incidentally, this command allows for defining up to 16 extra resolutions ("CustomVideoMode1" through "CustomVideoMode16").

Afterwards, restart the virtual machine and run hwinfo --framebuffer once more to verify that the new resolutions have been recognized by your guest system (which does not guarantee they will all work, depending on your hardware limitations).

Note: As of VirtualBox 5.2, hwinfo --framebuffer might not show any output, but you should still be able to set a custom resolution following this procedure.

Finally, add a video=resolution kernel parameter to set the framebuffer to the new resolution, for example:

video=1360x768

Additionally you may want to configure your bootloader to use the same resolution. If you use GRUB, see GRUB/Tips and tricks#Setting the framebuffer resolution.

Note: Neither the kernel parameter vga nor the bootloader's resolution settings (e.g. GRUB's GRUB_GFXPAYLOAD_LINUX) will fix the framebuffer, since they are overriden by virtue of Kernel Mode Setting. The framebuffer resolution must be set by the kernel parameter video as described above.

Load the VirtualBox kernel modules

To load the modules automatically, enable vboxservice.service which loads the modules and synchronizes the guest's system time with the host.

To load the modules manually, type:

# modprobe -a vboxguest vboxsf vboxvideo

virtualbox-guest-dkms uses systemd-modules-load.service to load its modules at boot time.

Note: If you do not want the VirtualBox modules to be loaded at boot time, you have to mask the default /usr/lib/modules-load.d/virtualbox-guest-dkms.conf by creating an empty file (or symlink to /dev/null) with the same name in /etc/modules-load.d/.

Launch the VirtualBox guest services

After the rather big installation step dealing with VirtualBox kernel modules, now you need to start the guest services. The guest services are actually just a binary executable called VBoxClient which will interact with your X Window System. VBoxClient manages the following features:

  • shared clipboard and drag and drop between the host and the guest;
  • seamless window mode;
  • the guest display is automatically resized according to the size of the guest window;
  • checking the VirtualBox host version

All of these features can be enabled independently with their dedicated flags:

$ VBoxClient --clipboard
$ VBoxClient --draganddrop
$ VBoxClient --seamless
$ VBoxClient --display
$ VBoxClient --checkhostversion
$ VBoxClient --vmsvga-x11

Notice that VBoxClient can only be called with one flag at a time, each call spawning a dedicated service process. As a shortcut, the VBoxClient-all bash script enables all of these features.

virtualbox-guest-utils installs /etc/xdg/autostart/vboxclient.desktop that launches VBoxClient-all on logon. If your desktop environment or window manager does not support XDG Autostart, you will need to set up autostarting yourself, see Autostarting#On desktop environment startup and Autostarting#On window manager startup for more details.

VirtualBox can also synchronize the time between the host and the guest, to do this, start/enable the vboxservice.service.

Now, you should have a working Arch Linux guest. Note that features like clipboard sharing are disabled by default in VirtualBox, and you will need to turn them on in the per-VM settings if you actually want to use them (e.g. Settings > General > Advanced > Shared Clipboard).

Hardware acceleration

Hardware acceleration can be activated in the VirtualBox options. The GDM display manager 3.16+ is known to break hardware acceleration support. [2] So if you get issues with hardware acceleration, try out another display manager (lightdm seems to work fine). [3] [4]

If the hardware acceleration does not work as expected, try changing the Graphics Controller option found under the Screen tab in the Display options of the settings GUI. It seems that depending on the host GPU type, not all emulated controllers work equally well.

Enable shared folders

Shared folders are managed on the host, in the settings of the Virtual Machine accessible via the GUI of VirtualBox, in the Shared Folders tab. There, Folder Path, the name of the mount point identified by Folder name, and options like Read-only, Auto-mount and Make permanent can be specified. These parameters can be defined with the VBoxManage command line utility. See there for more details.

No matter which method you will use to mount your folder, all methods require some steps first.

To avoid this issue /sbin/mount.vboxsf: mounting failed with the error: No such device, make sure the vboxsf kernel module is properly loaded. It should be, since we enabled all guest kernel modules previously.

Two additional steps are needed in order for the mount point to be accessible from users other than root:

Manual mounting

Use the following command to mount your folder in your Arch Linux guest:

# mount -t vboxsf -o gid=vboxsf shared_folder_name mount_point_on_guest_system

where shared_folder_name is the Folder name assigned by the hypervisor when the share was created.

If the user is not in the vboxsf group, to give them access to our mountpoint we can specify the mount(8) options uid= and gid= with the corresponding values of the user. These values can obtained from the id command run against this user. For example:

# mount -t vboxsf -o uid=1000,gid=1000 home /mnt

Automounting

Note: Automounting requires the vboxservice.service to be enabled/started.

In order for the automounting feature to work you must have checked the auto-mount checkbox in the GUI or used the optional --automount argument with the command VBoxManage sharedfolder.

The shared folder should now appear as /media/sf_shared_folder_name. If users cannot access the shared folders, check that /media has permissions 755 or is owned by the vboxsf group if using permissions 750. This is currently not the default if the /media directory is created by vboxservice.service.

You can use symlinks if you want to have a more convenient access and avoid to browse in that directory, e.g.:

$ ln -s /media/sf_shared_folder_name ~/my_documents

Mount at boot

You can mount your directory with fstab. However, to prevent startup problems with systemd, noauto,x-systemd.automount should be added to /etc/fstab. This way, the shared folders are mounted only when those mount points are accessed and not during startup. This can avoid some problems, especially if the guest additions are not loaded yet when systemd reads fstab and mounts the partitions.

sharedFolderName  /path/to/mntPtOnGuestMachine  vboxsf  uid=user,gid=group,rw,dmode=700,fmode=600,noauto,x-systemd.automount 
  • sharedFolderName: the value from the VirtualMachine's Settings > SharedFolders > Edit > FolderName menu. This value can be different from the name of the real folder name on the host machine. To see the VirtualMachine's Settings go to the host OS VirtualBox application, select the corresponding virtual machine and click on Settings.
  • /path/to/mntPtOnGuestMachine: if not existing, this directory should be created manually (for example by using mkdir).
  • dmode/fmode are directory/file permissions for directories/files inside /path/to/mntPtOnGuestMachine.

As of 2012-08-02, mount.vboxsf does not support the nofail option:

desktop  /media/desktop  vboxsf  uid=user,gid=group,rw,dmode=700,fmode=600,nofail  0  0

Troubleshooting

Access serial port from guest

See Working with the serial console#Connect using a terminal emulator program.

Guest freezes after starting Xorg

Faulty or missing drivers may cause the guest to freeze after starting Xorg, see for example [5] and [6]. Try disabling 3D acceleration in Settings > Display, and check if all Xorg drivers are installed.

Fullscreen mode shows blank screen

On some window managers (i3, awesome), VirtualBox has issues with fullscreen mode properly due to the overlay bar. To work around this issue, disable Show in Full-screen/Seamless option in Guest Settings > User Interface > Mini ToolBar. See the upstream bug report for more information.

Linux guests have slow/distorted audio

The AC97 audio driver within the Linux kernel occasionally guesses the wrong clock settings when running inside VirtualBox, leading to audio that is either too slow or too fast. To fix this, create a file in /etc/modprobe.d/ with the following line:

options snd-intel8x0 ac97_clock=48000

Arch: pacstrap script fails

If you used pacstrap in the #Installation steps for Arch Linux guests to also #Install the Guest Additions before performing a first boot into the new guest, you will need to umount -l /mnt/dev as root before using pacstrap again; a failure to do this will render it unusable.

Windows host: VERR_ACCESS_DENIED

To access the raw VMDK image on a Windows host, run the VirtualBox GUI as administrator.

No hardware 3D acceleration in Arch Linux guest

virtualbox-guest-utils package as of version 5.2.16-2 does not contain the file VBoxEGL.so. This causes the Arch Linux guest to not have proper 3D acceleration. See FS#49752.

To deal with this problem, apply the patch set at FS#49752#comment152254. Some fix to the patch set is required to make it work for version 5.2.16-2.

Guest display auto-resizing does not work in Arch guests

When using the packaged guest additions (virtualbox-guest-utils) in Arch guests, guest display auto-resizing does not work with the VMSVGA graphics adapter.

Either choose a different graphics controller (i.e. VBoxSVGA or VBoxVGA) or install the guest additions from the ISO (while the guest is running, go to Devices > Insert Guest Additions CD Image..., mount the CD, and in the guest run VBoxLinuxAdditions.run with root permissions).

See FS#65053 and the VMSVGA graphics controller issue on VirtualBox forums.

Plasma resets guest's resolution to 800×600

See KDE#Cannot change screen resolution when running in a virtual machine.