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Best solution to work with USB in VirtualBox

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Everyone who has the use of VirtualBox on a day-to-day basis will at some point come across its chief shortcoming: there is no USB in a virtual machine and you can’t access the real ones unless you’ve made some adjustments. That problem with USB in VirtualBox is long-familiar amongst its users, yet the developers seem rather reluctant to finally introduce an automatic virtual machine USB passthrough.

But why is it so beneficial to have a VirtualBox USB passthrough?

  1. Software to access USB in VirtualBox
  2. USB in VirtualBox [Linux OS]
  3. Access network attached USB in VirtualBox
  4. USB in VirtualBox for Windows

Well, there is a plenitude of scenarios when having a USB in VM will prove to be useful: making a backup copy of your sensitive information on the external USB-drive, data communication with a VM on another subnet, or accessing files on a USB memory stick — just to name a few.

How to forward USB to VirtualBox
(software solution)

It’s a fact of life that a few if any virtualization apps have the advantage of seamless access to the local USB peripherals. That's why for many VM users USB Network Gate is nothing short of a perfect fit.

Thanks to cutting-edge USB redirection technology, USB over Ethernet tool makes it really easy for you to access USB devices in VirtualBox. And it’s not an issue at all, if some of said devices happen to be connected to a remote PC — with USB Network Gate you can operate those through the network, or even Internet.
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USB Network Gate

Share USB in VirtualBox
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USB Network Gate

So, to secure your VirtualBox a USB access, do the following:

  1. Download USB Network Gate.

  2. Install downloaded app on the computer that has your USB device attached.

  3. Use the app interface to share the device.

  4. Now you’ll need to Install the USB Network Gate on a VM.

  5. Start the app on a VM and use it to connect to the shared USB device from a VirtualBox.

USB Network Gate is a multi-platform software solution and is perfectly compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Accessing a USB from a VirtualBox on Linux

Let’s get a view of the process of obtaining access to a USB device from a VirtualBox on Linux using the example VirtualBox 5.2 and an Ubuntu-based Elementary OS host. It’s rather simple and straightforward, once you’ve got the gist of it.

  • First off, take care that you’ve got the most recent version of VirtualBox. If not, you’ll need to get the older version out of your way with the command:

    sudo apt purge virtualbox

  • Upon completion, run the next command to add the required repository:

    sudo add-apt-repository "deb contrib"
  • NOTE: Replace UBUNTU-RELEASE with an actual version of your Ubuntu. Use the command lsb_release -a, if you’re not sure which one is it.

  • Now, use this command to download and install the signature key for the repository:

    wget -q -O- | sudo apt-key add

  • Next thing to do is to install the current version of VirtualBox:

    sudo apt-get update
    ​sudo apt install virtualbox-5.2 dkms

  • And with that, Install the VirtualBox Extension Pack:

NOTE: You’ll only get USB 1.0 support with the open-source Extension Pack. For USB 2.0 and 3.0 you’ll have to get the closed source version by Oracle (it’s listed as “All supported platforms” file on the official Download page).

Virtualbox usb passthrough

On downloaded completion, run VirtualBox and go through these steps:

  • Go to the Extension tab and click +

  • Browse to your Extension Pack, select it and click Open

  • Click Install on a flyout

  • Agree with the End User License Agreement

  • Enter your sudo password

  • Wait till the end of the installation process

Finally, to grant your VirtualBox access to the USB subsystem, you’ll have to join the vboxuser group. Here’s the command to do that:

sudo usermod -aG vboxusers

NOTE: Replace USERNAME with your actual username.

Adding an attached USB device to the Virtual Machine.

Upon completion of all the steps listed above, log-off and log right back on. Run VirtualBox. Then go to the Settings tab of your VM (pick Settings from the menu invoked by the right button click on VM’s name) and click USB. Find USB Device Filters, and click + to add a new device.

From now on, you’ll be able to access the USB device any time you start up your virtual machine. And if each time it will be required to use another USB device, just return to the Settings, click on USB, and add that device too. You can do that as many times as you need until all of your USB peripherals are accessible from VirtualBox. After this is done, your VirtualBox will become a little easier to use and you won’t have to constantly seek a workaround to pass some data from a VM to a USB, or in the reversed direction. What a relief for your data center!

Accessing a USB from a VirtualBox on Windows

During the VirtualBox session, you’re able to view and control the guest OS of a virtual machine on a remote PC. For that purpose, VirtualBox has a specific protocol called VirtualBox Remote Display Protocol (VRDP), backward-compatible with RDP protocol from Microsoft. That’s why VirtualBox is a top choice for anyone with a need for unimpeded access to the VM through the RDP Connection.

But what about USB access? Well, even though VirtualBox guest OS doesn’t have virtual USB, thanks to VRDP you can easily and efficiently access any USB peripherals, both on a remote machine, and a VM’s real host.

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Share USB over Ethernet on Windows
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