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VirtualBox
Original author(s)InnoTek Systemberatung GmbH
Developer(s)Oracle Corporation
Initial release17 January 2007; 17 years ago (2007-01-17)
Stable release
7.0.14[1] Edit this on Wikidata / 16 January 2024
Repository
Written inC, C++, x86 Assembly, Python
Operating systemWindows, macOS (only Intel-based Macs), Linux and Solaris[2]
Platformx86-64 only (version series 5.x and earlier work on IA-32)[3]
TypeHypervisor
LicenseGNU GPLv3 only with linking exception to GNU GPLv2 incompatible licenses[4]
Websitewww.virtualbox.org Edit this at Wikidata

Oracle VM VirtualBox (formerly Sun VirtualBox, Sun xVM VirtualBox and InnoTek VirtualBox) is a hosted hypervisor for x86 virtualization developed by Oracle Corporation. VirtualBox was originally created by InnoTek Systemberatung GmbH, which was acquired by Sun Microsystems in 2008, which was in turn acquired by Oracle in 2010.

VirtualBox may be installed on Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, Solaris and OpenSolaris. There are also ports to FreeBSD[5] and Genode.[6] It supports the creation and management of guest virtual machines running Windows, Linux, BSD, OS/2, Solaris, Haiku, and OSx86,[7] as well as limited virtualization of macOS guests on Apple hardware.[8][9] For some guest operating systems, a "Guest Additions" package of device drivers and system applications is available,[10][11] which typically improves performance, especially that of graphics, and allows changing the resolution of the guest OS automatically when the window of the virtual machine on the host OS is resized.

Released under the terms of the GNU General Public License and, optionally, the CDDL for most files of the source distribution, VirtualBox is free and open-source software, though the Extension Pack is proprietary software, free of charge only to personal users. The License to VirtualBox was relicensed to GPLv3 with linking exceptions to the CDDL and other GPL-incompatible licenses.[12]

History

Logo of VirtualBox OSE, 2007–2010

VirtualBox was first offered by InnoTek Systemberatung GmbH, a German company based in Weinstadt, under a proprietary software license, making one version of the product available at no cost for personal or evaluation use, subject to the VirtualBox Personal Use and Evaluation License (PUEL).[13] In January 2007, based on counsel by LiSoG, InnoTek released VirtualBox Open Source Edition (OSE) as free and open-source software, subject to the requirements of the GNU General Public License (GPL), version 2.[14]

InnoTek also contributed to the development of OS/2 and Linux support in virtualization[15] and OS/2 ports[16] of products from Connectix which were later acquired by Microsoft. Specifically, InnoTek developed the "additions" code in both Windows Virtual PC and Microsoft Virtual Server, which enables various host–guest OS interactions like shared clipboards or dynamic viewport resizing.

Sun Microsystems acquired InnoTek in February 2008.[17][18][19]

Following the acquisition of Sun Microsystems by Oracle Corporation in January 2010, the product was re-branded as "Oracle VM VirtualBox".[20][21][22]

In December 2019, VirtualBox removed support for software-based virtualization and exclusively performs hardware-assisted virtualization.[23][2]

Release history

This section contains a list of miscellaneous information. Please relocate any relevant information into other sections or articles. (November 2021)
Version Release date Notable changes
3.2 May 19, 2010
  • Mac OS X Server guest support – experimental
  • Memory ballooning (not available on Solaris hosts)
  • RAM deduplication (Page Fusion) for Windows guests on 64-bit hosts
  • CPU hot-plugging for Linux (hot-add and hot-remove) and certain Windows guests (hot-add only)
  • Deleting snapshots while the VM is running
  • Multi-monitor guest setups in the GUI, for Windows guests
  • LSI Logic SAS controller emulation
  • Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) video acceleration via a non-free extension
  • Run and control guest applications from the host – for automated software deployments
4.0
  • The PUEL/OSE separation was abandoned in favor of an open source base product and a closed source extension pack that can be installed on top of the base product. As part of this change, additional components of VirtualBox were made open source (installers, documentation, device drivers)
  • Intel HD audio codec emulation
  • Intel ICH9 chipset emulation
  • A new VM storage scheme where all VM data is stored in one single folder to improve VM portability
  • Several UI enhancements including a new look with VM preview and scale mode
  • On 32-bit hosts, VMs can each use more than 1.5 GB of RAM
  • In addition to OVF, the single file OVA format is supported
  • CPU use and I/O bandwidth can be limited per VM
  • Support for Apple DMG images (DVD)
  • Multi-monitor guest setups for Linux/Solaris guests (previously Windows only)
  • Resizing of disk image formats from Oracle, VDI (VirtualBox disk image), and Microsoft, VHD (Virtual PC hard disk)
4.1
  • Windows Aero support (experimental)
  • Virtual machine cloning
4.2
  • Virtual machine groups – allows management of a group of virtual machines as a single unit (power them on or off, take snapshots, etc.)
  • Some VM settings can be altered during VM execution
  • Support up to 36 NICs in case of the ICH9 chipset
  • Support for limiting network I/O bandwidth
  • Can automatically run VMs on host system startup (except on Windows hosts)
4.3
  • VM video-capture support
  • Host touch device support (GUI passes host touch events to guest)/USB virtualization of such devices
5.0
  • Paravirtualization support for Windows and Linux guests to improve time-keeping accuracy and performance
  • USB3 controller based on Intel's hardware implementation.[24] It is supported by any Windows version starting from Windows 8, any Linux kernel starting from 2.6.31 and Mac OS X starting from version 10.7.4.[citation needed]
  • Bidirectional drag and drop support for Windows, Linux and Solaris guests
  • VM disk image encryption via a non-free extension
  • VM output scaling and HiDPI displays support
  • Hotplugging of SATA disks using GUI
  • USB traffic capturing
  • VMs can be disconnected from a GUI session and run in background[25]
  • AVX, AVX-2, AES-NI, SSE 4.1/4.2 instructions (if supported by the host CPU)
6.0
  • Support for exporting virtual machines to Oracle Cloud
  • A file manager which allows to control the guest file system and copy files from/to it
  • VMSVGA GPU driver for Linux hosts
  • Surround speakers setup support
  • Support for hardware-assisted nested virtualization on AMD CPUs
6.1
  • Support for importing virtual machines from Oracle Cloud
  • Added nested virtualization support for Intel CPUs (it was already available for AMD CPUs) starting with Intel Core i5 Broadwell
  • Experimental support for file transfers via drag-n-drop only for Windows host and guests (disabled by default, must be enabled using VBoxManage)
  • Support for virtio-scsi for hard disks and optical drives, including boot support
  • Support for hosts with up to 1024 CPUs
  • DXVA (hardware accelerated video decoding) support for Windows guests
  • NVRAM support for EFI which improves compatibility with many guest OSes
  • Software keyboard (virtual) for entering any keys to a guest
  • Guest CPU use monitoring
  • Dropped support for software CPU virtualization: a CPU with hardware virtualization support is now required
  • Dropped support for PCI pass-through for Linux hosts
7.0
  • Support for Windows 11 guest: UEFI Secure Boot and emulation of TPM 1.2 and 2.0 chips[26]
  • Intel and AMD IOMMU emulation
  • Full VM encryption (in previous VirtualBox releases only VM disks could be encrypted) available via CLI[26]
  • 3D acceleration with DirectX 11 on Windows, and DXVK on other hosts[26]
  • Dark mode for UI currently implemented only for Windows hosts
  • Experimental support for Apple ARM64 hosts[26]

Licensing

The core package, since version 4 in December 2010, is free software under GNU General Public License version 2 (GPLv2). A supplementary package, under a proprietary license, adds support for USB 2.0 and 3.0 devices, Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), disk encryption, NVMe, and Preboot Execution Environment (PXE). This package is called "VirtualBox Oracle VM VirtualBox extension pack". It includes closed-source components, so it is not source-available.[27] The license is called Personal Use and Evaluation License (PUEL). It allows gratis access for personal use, educational use, and evaluation.[28] Since VirtualBox version 5.1.30,[29] Oracle defines personal use as installation on a single computer for non-commercial purposes.[30]

Prior to version 4, there were two different packages of the VirtualBox software. The full package was offered gratis under the PUEL, with licenses for other commercial deployment purchasable from Oracle. A second package called the VirtualBox Open Source Edition (OSE) was released under GPLv2. This removed the same proprietary components not available under GPLv2.[30][27]

Since version 4.2[citation needed], building the BIOS for VirtualBox requires the Open Watcom compiler,[31] which is released under the Sybase Open Watcom Public License. The Open Source Initiative has approved this as "Open Source"[32] but the Free Software Foundation and the Debian Free Software Guidelines do not consider it "free".[31][33]

VirtualBox has experimental support for macOS guests. However, macOS's end user license agreement does not permit running on non-Apple hardware. The operating system enforces this by calling the Apple System Management Controller (SMC), to verify the hardware's authenticity. All Apple machines have an SMC.[34]

Virtualization

Running Ubuntu Live CD under VirtualBox on Ubuntu

Users of VirtualBox can load multiple guest OSes under a single host operating-system (host OS). Each guest can be started, paused and stopped independently within its own virtual machine (VM). The user can independently configure each VM and run it under a choice of software-based virtualization or hardware assisted virtualization if the underlying host hardware supports this. The host OS and guest OSs and applications can communicate with each other through a number of mechanisms including a common clipboard and a virtualized network facility. Guest VMs can also directly communicate with each other if configured to do so.[35]

Hardware-assisted

VirtualBox supports both Intel's VT-x and AMD's AMD-V hardware-assisted virtualization. Making use of these facilities, VirtualBox can run each guest VM in its own separate address-space; the guest OS ring 0 code runs on the host at ring 0 in VMX non-root mode rather than in ring 1. [citation needed]

Starting with version 6.1, VirtualBox only supports this method.[23][2] Until then, VirtualBox specifically supported some guests (including 64-bit guests, SMP guests and certain proprietary OSs) only on hosts with hardware-assisted virtualization. [citation needed]

Devices and peripherals

VirtualBox emulates hard disks in three formats: the native VDI (Virtual Disk Image),[36] VMware's VMDK, and Microsoft's VHD. It thus supports disks created by other hypervisor software. VirtualBox can also connect to iSCSI targets and to raw partitions on the host, using either as virtual hard disks. VirtualBox emulates IDE (PIIX4 and ICH6 controllers), SCSI, SATA (ICH8M controller), and SAS controllers, to which hard drives can be attached.

VirtualBox has supported Open Virtualization Format (OVF) since version 2.2.0 (April 2009).[37]

Both ISO images and physical devices connected to the host can be mounted as CD or DVD drives. VirtualBox supports running operating systems from live CDs and DVDs.

By default, VirtualBox provides graphics support through a custom virtual graphics-card that is VBE or UEFI GOP compatible. The Guest Additions for Windows, Linux, Solaris, OpenSolaris, and OS/2 guests include a special video-driver that increases video performance and includes additional features, such as automatically adjusting the guest resolution when resizing the VM window[38] and desktop composition via virtualized WDDM drivers.

For an Ethernet network adapter, VirtualBox virtualizes these Network Interface Cards:[39]

The emulated network cards allow most guest OSs to run without the need to find and install drivers for networking hardware as they are shipped as part of the guest OS. A special paravirtualized network adapter is also available, which improves network performance by eliminating the need to match a specific hardware interface, but requires special driver support in the guest. (Many distributions of Linux ship with this driver included.) By default, VirtualBox uses NAT through which Internet software for end-users such as Firefox or ssh can operate. Bridged networking via a host network adapter or virtual networks between guests can also be configured. Up to 36 network adapters can be attached simultaneously, but only four are configurable through the graphical interface.

For a sound card, VirtualBox virtualizes Intel HD Audio, Intel ICH AC'97, and SoundBlaster 16 devices.[40]

A USB 1.1 controller is emulated, so that any USB devices attached to the host can be seen in the guest. The proprietary extension pack adds a USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 controller and, if VirtualBox acts as an RDP server, it can also use USB devices on the remote RDP client, as if they were connected to the host, although only if the client supports this VirtualBox-specific extension (Oracle provides clients for Solaris, Linux, and Sun Ray thin clients that can do this, and has promised support for other platforms in future versions).[41]

Software-based

In the absence of hardware-assisted virtualization, versions 6.0 and earlier of VirtualBox could adopt a standard software-based virtualization approach. This mode supports 32-bit guest OSs which run in rings 0 and 3 of the Intel ring architecture.

In both cases, VirtualBox uses CSAM and PATM to inspect and patch the offending instructions whenever a fault occurs. VirtualBox also contains a dynamic recompiler, based on QEMU to recompile any real mode or protected mode code entirely (e.g. BIOS code, a DOS guest, or any operating system startup).[42]

Using these techniques, VirtualBox could achieve performance comparable to that of VMware in its later versions.[43][44]

The feature was dropped starting with VirtualBox 6.1.[23][2]

Features

Storage emulation

Storage support includes:

Limitations

Host support

The supported operating systems include:[75]

Guests

Some features require the installation of the closed-source "VirtualBox Extension Pack":[2]

While VirtualBox itself is free to use and is distributed under an open source license the VirtualBox Extension Pack is licensed under the VirtualBox Personal Use and Evaluation License (PUEL). Personal use of the extension pack is free but commercial users need to purchase a license.[89]

Guest Additions are installed within each guest virtual machine which supports them; the Extension Pack is installed on the host running VirtualBox.

See also

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