7.1. Introduction

As briefly mentioned in Section 1.16, “Alternative Front-Ends”, VBoxManage is the command-line interface to Oracle VM VirtualBox. With it, you can completely control Oracle VM VirtualBox from the command line of your host operating system. VBoxManage supports all the features that the graphical user interface gives you access to, but it supports a lot more than that. It exposes all the features of the virtualization engine, even those that cannot be accessed from the GUI.

You will need to use the command line if you want to do the following:

  • Use a different user interface than the main GUI such as the VBoxHeadless server.

  • Control some of the more advanced and experimental configuration settings for a VM.

There are two main things to keep in mind when using VBoxManage. First, VBoxManage must always be used with a specific subcommand, such as list or createvm or startvm. All the subcommands that VBoxManage supports are described in detail in Chapter 7, VBoxManage.

Second, most of these subcommands require that you specify a particular virtual machine after the subcommand. There are two ways you can do this:

  • You can specify the VM name, as it is shown in the Oracle VM VirtualBox GUI. Note that if that name contains spaces, then you must enclose the entire name in double quotes. This is always required with command line arguments that contain spaces. For example:

    VBoxManage startvm "Windows XP"
  • You can specify the UUID, which is the internal unique identifier that Oracle VM VirtualBox uses to refer to the virtual machine. Assuming that the VM called "Windows XP" has the UUID shown below, the following command has the same effect as the previous example:

    VBoxManage startvm 670e746d-abea-4ba6-ad02-2a3b043810a5

You can enter VBoxManage list vms to have all currently registered VMs listed with all their settings, including their respective names and UUIDs.

Some typical examples of how to control Oracle VM VirtualBox from the command line are listed below:

  • To create a new virtual machine from the command line and immediately register it with Oracle VM VirtualBox, use VBoxManage createvm with the --register option, as follows:

    $ VBoxManage createvm --name "SUSE 10.2" --register
    VirtualBox Command Line Management Interface Version version-number
    (C) 2005-2018 Oracle Corporation
    All rights reserved.
    Virtual machine 'SUSE 10.2' is created.
    UUID: c89fc351-8ec6-4f02-a048-57f4d25288e5
    Settings file: '/home/username/.config/VirtualBox/Machines/SUSE 10.2/SUSE 10.2.xml'

    As can be seen from the above output, a new virtual machine has been created with a new UUID and a new XML settings file.

    For more details, see Section 7.7, “VBoxManage createvm”.

  • To show the configuration of a particular VM, use VBoxManage showvminfo. See Section 7.5, “VBoxManage showvminfo” for details and an example.

  • To change settings while a VM is powered off, use VBoxManage modifyvm. For example:

    VBoxManage modifyvm "Windows XP" --memory 512

    See also Section 7.8, “VBoxManage modifyvm”.

  • To change the storage configuration, such as to add a storage controller and then a virtual disk, use VBoxManage storagectl and VBoxManage storageattach. See Section 7.18, “VBoxManage storagectl” and Section 7.17, “VBoxManage storageattach”.

  • To control VM operation, use one of the following: