Installing Ubuntu in a Virtual Machine

This guide will help you install Ubuntu in a Virtual Machine. It is written under the assumption you are using Windows. The VirtualBox installation for MacOS should be pretty much the same. For Linux distributions, install VirtualBox through your package manager.

You will need:

This guide assumes you have VirtualBox installed. If you don't, it means you skipped the Virtual Machine Pre-install post! Head back there and follow those steps.

Installing Ubuntu

In VirtualBox, go to Machine -> New (or just press CTRL+N). Input the name you want for your VM (good practice is to include what OS it is), select the type as Linux and the version as Ubuntu (64-bit).


Next, you'll be asked to select the memory size. This depends on what specs your machine has. Ubuntu recommends a minimum of 4 GB RAM (4096 MB). You can allocate it more, but don't worry too much, these settings can be modified later too!


We are then going to create a virtual hard disk now (default option), and the Hard disk file type should be VDI (VirtualBox Disk Image). Choose to have the disk dynamically allocated. Next, choose the size of the hard disk. Ubuntu recommends at least 25GB.


Done! You should now see your new VM in the list:


Selecting the new VM (called Ubuntu in this example), click Settings (or press CTRL+S) and go to the Storage option. Under Controller: IDE, click the Empty disk. Click the blue disk next to the Optical Drive dropdown, and select Choose a disk file. Navigate to where you saved the Ubuntu ISO and open it.

To simulate having a graphics card, VirtualBox allows you to set the amount of Video RAM given to the VM. It defaults to really low, so if you're going to use the GUI of the VM a lot it's recommended to boost it to max so the VM is nice and smooth. To do this go into the machine settings, select the display tab and drag the slider all the way to the right.

Display Settings


Back to the list of VMs, select the Ubuntu VM and press Start. Your VM should start. You may be asked to confirm the startup disk, select the Ubuntu ISO and press Start.

Note: If your VM gets stuck in a boot loop and the error message is related to VMSVGA, you need to change the graphics controller. In Settings, go to the Display option and change the graphics controller to be VBoxSVGA.


Back to the VM booting -- the Ubuntu installer should greet you:


Click "Install Ubuntu" and follow the steps through.

Select your language

Installer Language

Select your keyboard layout

The auto-detect keyboard should walk you through finding out exactly what layout you have if you're not sure.

Installer Keyboard

Select software

In most cases you want a "Normal installation" with all the utilities - however, if you're working with less disk space, or want to manually install only the tools you want later, then go with a "Minimal installation".

If you have an internet connection, then select "Download updates" - it makes the install process a little longer, but ensures that everything will be properly up to date.

The "Install third-party software" is slightly more complex. In most cases, you should tick it, and attempt an install - if something breaks and doesn't work, for issues related to drivers, then you can try again, disabling this step, and instead trying to install the drivers and codecs after the install is fully complete.

Installer Software

Choose installation type

Be careful at this step! After you click "Install Now" the install process will begin!

For a pure install, click "Erase disk and install Ubuntu".

Installer Type

At this step, you can also choose to encrypt your disk, by selecting "Advanced features" and selecting both "Use LVM" and "Encrypt the new Ubuntu installation". However, this is optional, and requires you to input your password at each boot.

Installer Encrypt drives

After you click "Install Now", you'll be asked if you want to proceed with the partitioning layout you've selected:

Installer Partitioning

Verify the changes, and then click "Continue". Note that your partitions will look different depending on your setup.

Select your timezone

Installer Location

Setup your account

You need to pick:

  • Your name (used in the display manager to greet you, etc)
  • Your computer's name (the hostname used on networks, pick something unique and recognizable)
  • Your username (used to login, appears in shell prompts, etc)
  • Your password (standard password guidelines apply, if you want something easy to remember and secure, try diceware)

Installer Account


Now just wait for the installer to complete!

Installer Wait

Installing Guest Additions

Guest Additions from VirtualBox will allow you to enable some very useful features, such as bi-directional shared clipboard (i.e. you'll be able to copy-paste between you host and the VM) and shared folders. Let's get started!

With the VM powered off, go to Settings -> Storage. Select the CD with a plus button next to Controller IDE.

Note: if you still see the Linux ISO under the Controller IDE, remove it! If you fail to remove the ISO, the VM will boot from the Live CD, not from the VM disk!


From the list, select VBoxGuestAdditions.iso. Press Choose, then OK. Start the VM.


Open up a terminal and install gcc, make and perl:

`sudo apt install gcc make perl~

Go to the Guest Additions folder. Replace [user] with your own as needed. (Note that the GA version might have changed meanwhile)

cd /media/[user]/VBox_GAs_6.1.14


Run the Linux GA:

sudo ./

Provide your user password and confirm you want to install by typing yes. It will then finish.


Next, let's make sure to add our used to the vboxsf group, such that we can do shared folders (replace neko with your own username).

sudo usermod -a -G vboxsf neko

Reboot! (You can optionally now remove the Guest Additions ISO from Settings -> Storage)

Bi-directional clipboard

It's very useful to be able to copy between the guest VM and the host. I usually use the browser on my host machine, and often times I find myself copying stuff from the host to the VM. In order to enable the clipboard, just do to Devices -> Shared Clipboard and choose which one suits you best. I always go for Bidirectional :-) All done, it should just work now!

Shared folders

It's also super useful to have a shared folder between your VM and host. This means you don't have to copy across text or files, they can be seen by both the VM and the host!

In order to setup a shared folder, we'll start with the VM powered off. Now go to Settings -> Shared Folders. Click the folder with plus icon on the right hand side. For the Folder Path box, click the dropdown button -> Other... and navigate to the folder you want to share! In my case, I'll share a folder called docs in my Documents. You can leave the Folder Name as it defaults to, or you can give it a different name. This is how the folder will be named in the VM! You can also make it auto-mount, and give it the path in the VM it will appear under. Remember, in Linux, your home directory is always /home/[your username]. In my case, I chose to mount under the docs directory my home directory. Click Ok until you exit Settings. Now start your VM!


Now you should see your shared folder in your home directory! Congrats!


Enjoy your new Ubuntu VM!

Now head over to the Post Installation guide to update your system and install some useful software!