Scripted creation of VMs in VirtualBox

Jurjen Bokma

September 2010

Whereas VMWare has a rather unwieldy installer that needs to be run when an Ubuntu PC is installed, VirtualBox is neatly packaged for Ubuntu. It is possible to control VirtualBox from the command line, and we do so to install Windows machine using an ISO image of a CD that does a complete installation, including some applications like virus scanners and the like:

  1. user@host:~$ VMPATH=/mnt/scratch/virtualbox
    user@host:~$ VMNAME=VirtualBox-Windows
    user@host:~$ VMFILE=${VMPATH}/${VMNAME}/${VMNAME}.xml
    user@host:~$ VDISK=${VMPATH}/${VMNAME}/${VMNAME}-disk
    user@host:~$ INSTALLISO=/opt/iso/windows/unattend.ISO
    user@host:~$ install -d ${VMPATH}

  2. user@host:~$ VBoxManage createvm \
    --name ${VMNAME} \
    --ostype WindowsXP \
    --basefolder ${VMPATH} \

  3. Give the VM 512 MB of memory, and one CPU:

    user@host:~$ VBoxManage modifyvm ${VMNAME} \
    --memory 512 \
    --cpus 1

  4. user@host:~$ VBoxManage storagectl ${VMNAME} \
    --name "IDE Controller" \
    --add ide

  5. user@host:~$ VBoxManage createhd --filename ${VDISK} \
    --size 30000 \
    --variant Split2G \


    The Split2G doesn't seem to have any effect.

  6. user@host:~$ VBoxManage openmedium \
    dvd ${INSTALLISO}

  7. user@host:~$ eval $(grep '<Machine uuid=[{0-9a-f}]*' ${VMFILE}|tr -d '{}'|grep -o 'uuid=[^\ ]*')
    user@host:~$ UUID=${uuid}

  8. user@host:~$ VBoxManage showvminfo ${VMNAME}|fgrep '${VDISK}.vdi' \
    || VBoxManage storageattach ${VMNAME} \
    --storagectl "IDE Controller" \
    --port 0 \
    --device 0 \
    --type hdd \
    --medium ${VDISK}.vdi

  9. user@host:~$ VBoxManage showvminfo ${VMNAME}|fgrep '${INSTALLISO}' \
    || VBoxManage storageattach ${VMNAME} \
    --storagectl "IDE Controller" \
    --port 1 \
    --device 0 \
    --type dvddrive \
    --medium ${INSTALLISO}

  10. user@host:~$ VBoxManage startvm ${UUID} \
    --type gui