What Sucks Worse than Oracle's VirtualBox?

What Sucks Worse than Oracle's VirtualBox?

Summary: If you've ever tried Oracle's VirtualBox software, you already know what sucks worse. If you haven't tried it, you need to find out before you do.


Everything. If you can find a better product for the price (free), please leave a comment and a link in Talkbacks. Actually, if you can find something better for under $100US, enlighten me with a name and a link. I've used VirtualBox since the Innotek days. Sun bought Innotek in 2008 and I was unshaken. In 2010, Oracle purchased Sun, and although I was shaken, I was not repulsed. I've stuck with VirtualBox through it all and am glad that I have. VirtualBox is my favorite free, cross-platform, desktop-level virtualization product. Ever.

I've used everything else and still, VirtualBox (VB) is my chosen desktop virtualization software. Although VB isn't perfect, it's the best solution I have.

But, what is it about VB that makes it so great?

Other than simple brags of its coolness, here is a lengthy but incomplete list of VB's hard facts and features.

  • Open Source.
  • Free Software.
  • 64-bit Guests.
  • Full Virtualization.
  • Linux, Windows, Mac, DOS, Novell, Solaris Guests.
  • Cross-Platform Host Support.
  • Guest SMP Support up to 32 vCPUs.
  • USB Support.
  • Full ACPI Support.
  • Dynamic Screen Resolutions.
  • iSCSI Storage Support.
  • PXE Network Booting.
  • Snapshot Support.
  • Remote Machine Display.
  • Extensible RDP Authentication.
  • USB over RDP.
  • Guest and Host Shared Folders.
  • Guest Additions ( Think VMware Tools).
  • Command Line Capability.
  • OVF Support.
  • VM Import/Export.
  • Thick and Thin Provisioning.
  • Wizard-driven VM Creation.
  • Easy to Install and Operate.

VirtualBox is a Type 2 hypervisor. That is to say that it is virtualization host software that runs as an application on an established operating system. Alternatively, a Type 1 hypervisor is host software that runs on what's now known as "bare metal," a term that means onto a computer without an operating system. Type 1 hypervisors examples are Hyper-V, ESX/ESXi, Xen, XenServer, KVM and OpenVZ.

To illustrate further, Type 1 hypervisors run cloud-hosted environments, server virtualization environments and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) installations. Type 2 hypervisors run on local systems, usually desktop computers, to run a single guest VM.

But, why would anyone use a Type 2 hypervisor if Type 1 hypervisors exist? The answer is simple: convenience. It's convenient for me to fire up a Linux VM, when I need to perform some task, test a script, write an article using something other than Ubuntu, use Windows or to expand my knowledge of another Linux distribution.

I don't have to reboot my current system to an alternate operating system installation, I don't have to maintain expensive Type 1 hypervisor systems nor do I have to keep a dozen different computer systems in my garage. VirtualBox is convenient. It's fast. It's free. It is as the Mac people frequently state, "It just works." And, that, my friends, is a good thing.

What isn't perfect about VB, you ask? On installation, it disables your network interfaces, which should be a temporary inconvenience, but often results in a few reboots or power downs and some frustration. This only happens on Windows systems. I've never had any issues on Linux.

The other slightly annoying feature is that when you create a new VM, the default networking option is NAT (Network Address Translation), which for most people is probably OK but not for me. I like to use the Bridged option, assign a specific network interface type and sometimes use static IP addresses for my "permanent" virtual machines. Often, I'll boot up a new machine, realize that I haven't changed the network setup to Bridged, utter (shout) a list of curse words, power down the VM, make the changes and boot up.

It would be nice if I could change those networking options while the VM is running.

Other than those two minor annoyances, VirtualBox gives me everything I need in a desktop Type 2 hypervisor. Now you know why VirtualBox does not suck.

Do you use VirtualBox for your desktop virtualization software? Write back and tell me why or why not.

Topics: Hardware, Oracle, Virtualization


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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  • RE: What Sucks Worse than Oracle's VirtualBox?

    I use VirtualBox all the time. It's my chosen VM environment for migrating the legacy CMS I wrote years ago (which requires 32-bit only systems) to modern environments.

    I also have multiple VM images set up to download and test questionable software (I used it to test MagicTalk, which I'm writing about in the Google Voice series).

    I also use it to do Web searching for things like Windows errors and virus symptoms, when I'm not sure whether or not I'll wind up on a risky site.

    Overall, VirtualBox is one of my most useful day-to-day tools.

    Nice article.
    David Gewirtz
    • RE: What Sucks Worse than Oracle's VirtualBox?

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      • RE: What Sucks Worse than Oracle's VirtualBox?

        Nothing sucks worse than oracles virtualbox.
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      • RE: What Sucks Worse than Oracle's VirtualBox?

        There are many freeware and opensource options. Why would you choose this?

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  • RE: What Sucks Worse than Oracle's VirtualBox?

    I have tried it for OS X and Linux and neither were satisfactory to me... OS X would never come up and always had a kernel panic... Ubuntu just didn't seem to like it either... If I use VMware, I never seem to have a problem even if it doesn't 100% support OS X.
    • RE: What Sucks Worse than Oracle's VirtualBox?

      @Peter Perry
      Yes, usability of VirualBox on Windows can't be compared with OSX. On OSX it always gives a kernel panic. On Ubuntu, I didn't have any issues because I am still using 10.04. OTOH, I have seen people who are using 10.10 and the latest have issues with Virutal Box.
      Ram U
    • Never had a problem in ~ 3 yrs on Ubuntu host

      @Peter Perry - have used VB on at least 5 different versions of Ubuntu including 11.04 64 bit and it's performed like a champ. I just import an appliance and it starts, stability is amazing. No problems with sound, USB, network . . . No issues with Unity. Earlier versions had some glitches with USB but that was ironed out many moons ago. The only gripe I could possible muster is that kernel updates would require re-installing 'guest additions' - but that seems to be a thing of the past now too.
    • differences in performance

      Between using it on Windows and Linux I have observed it is blazingly faster in Linux running the same VMs on the same hardware. 8 gig of ram, Core2Quad processor, VT enabled.
      Windows Host is 7 x64. I have VMs for Win8, Linux, and a Hackintosh install (just because).
      All are painfully slow in Windows. It took over an hour to get Windows 8.1 preview to install. Same with other versions even after I install Guest Additions.

      Also, lately the VM will crash in Windows if I try to boot with 3d acceleration enabled. It used to work great and these are both new developments and I don't recall at what update they started happening. :/
      • VM slow logon.

        Turn off IPv6 in the VM, usually via "Properties" for IP Networking Protocol in the adapter settings.

        Drove me crazy, too. It's still one extra heartbeat to connect, but after that, operation is pretty much normal.
  • RE: What Sucks Worse than Oracle's VirtualBox?

    I use vmare fusion and parallels and as for virtual box Last time. Checked it is only Availve in 32-bit while the other two are in64-bit
    • RE: What Sucks Worse than Oracle's VirtualBox?

      @Knix96 - VirtualBox has fully supported 64-bit hosts and guests for quite some time now.
      • RE: What Sucks Worse than Oracle's VirtualBox?

        yes i know but in mac OS its only available for 32-bit and only has support for 32-bit host.
  • RE: What Sucks Worse than Oracle's VirtualBox?

    I used it for 3 years and its still on my box, but I moved to Parallels on my Mac a couple of weeks back. VB worked very good when the host was Windows XP and I never had a complain but on Mac it locks out the hardware ports like USB without a warning and requires rebooting the whole machine and not just the VB instance. Also on Mac, Parallels coherence mode is just awesome.
    • RE: What Sucks Worse than Oracle's VirtualBox?

      I have the same issue with virtual box on Ubuntu. ie; if I try to connect to some USB devices it locks up and requires a reboot of the entire machine(host). But many USB devices work fine
  • Missing one feature.

    I cannot without jumping through hoops run a vm in the background a-la VMware Server 2. Other than that, and the fact it's not VMware (I need version 7 hardware support) I really like the tool.
  • Changing network devices

    You can right-click the icons at the bottom (when in windowed mode) that show drive/network activity and it will give you options for changes you can make (such as unmounting drive images, changing network settings, etc).
    • RE: What Sucks Worse than Oracle's VirtualBox?

      @php_developer Yes I know but when I start using USB ports to the limits like connecting serial convertors etc it just blows off on Mac. The only option left is to reboot Mac. As I said on Windows XP host all this extreme device interfacing works without a hitch. Parallels just works better on Mac. For Windows XP and Linux host VB is the go to solution and I have been using it for 3 years.
      • RE: What Sucks Worse than Oracle's VirtualBox?

        @pankaj@... Oops, replied to a wrong message and I cant see how to delete it. Sorry @php_developer, the message wasnt in response to u.
  • RE: What Sucks Worse than Oracle's VirtualBox?

    I use VMware Workstation, never tried VirtualBox
  • Kinda crappy

    I have it installed on Windows 7 64 bit, but I am not impressed. Tried to install the latest Ubuntu 11.04 in it and couldn't get the 3D Unity UI to work no matter the amount of command line work arounds I tried. Also enabled 3D Acceleration, allocated enough memory for video RAM. The interface and the setup process for a virtual hard disk is cumbersome and slow. VMWare is much faster and just works! Haven't tried it with Ubuntu though.
    Mr. Dee