Create Ubuntu VM in VirtualBox – Picture Guide

Installing Ubuntu Linux on a VirtualBox VM is a three-part process.

  1. Download the Ubuntu Image.
  2. Create a new VM in VirtualBox to host Ubuntu operating system.
  3. Install Ubuntu image on the newly created VM.

Installing an Ubuntu Linux image on Virtualbox VMs assumes prior knowledge in Hypervisors and the basic operation of VMs and Linux images.

If you are unfamiliar with using the Ubuntu Linux image (or any Linux image) and VMs, an introduction to Linux VMs and Virtualization with the hypervisor VirtualBox may be a good start. Head over to An Introduction to Linux VMs – A Beginner’s Guide prior installing Ubuntu on VirtualBox.

If you already have a VM and would like to connect to it via Remote Desktop from a Windows machine, head over to Remote Desktop from Windows to Linux Xrdp – Picture Guide.

The steps below describe in detail every step required to create an Ubuntu VM within VirtualBox on Windows 10. From downloading the Ubuntu iso, to your first login.

Part 1. Download Ubuntu Image

First things first, we have to download Ubuntu Linux! Well, technically the Ubuntu Linux image!

  1. The Ubuntu version used in this tutorial is 20.04. Download Ubuntu VirtualBox image from Ubuntu’s website here.
    • Extra Notes: Installation of this Ubuntu image is applicable to VirtualBox, Desktops, Laptops, and other VMs running on other hypervisors. This image is not specific not VirtualBox VMs as described in this article.
  2. Select the Download button to begin the Ubtunu image Download.
Download Ubuntu desktop for Virtualbox
Ubuntu Image Download for Virtualbox
  1. Once you select the Download button, the progress of the image download can be seen in the bottom of your browser. The Ubuntu Linux image file ends in .iso. Disk images are represented by .iso. Which means we are downloaded the disk image of Ubuntu, or the Ubuntu image, or, the Ubuntu iso.
Ubuntu image download progress
Ubuntu Image Download Progress
  1. The Ubuntu .iso can be seen wherever your Downloads are located. The 20.04 version of Ubuntu has an image size just over 2.5GB. Notice the name of the file shows us that it is Ubuntu version 20.04, the 64 bit version.
Ubuntu 20.04 downloaded image size
Ubuntu Image download complete

With the Ubuntu image (or .iso) downloaded, it is now time to create a new VirtualBox VM to host the image, aka, install Ubuntu!

Part 2: Create New VM in VirtualBox

We will use Oracle’s VirtualBox as the hypervisor to create the Virtual Machines on which we will install Ubuntu image. If you don’t already have VirtualBox, head on over to their website to download it.

  1. With VirtualBox open, select the blue star thing to create a new VM.
Create new Ubuntu VM in VirtualBox
Click New to Create a VM
  1. In the new window that appears, enter a name, select a location on which to store the VM, specify the VM type as Linux, and the Version as Ubuntu (64-bit).
    • Extra Notes: Keep in mind that if you decide to create a large VM, you must have enough space on the hard disk. This is particularly important if you choose a fixed size vs dynamically allocated hard disk storage option. More on that in a few steps.
Specify VirutualBox Ubuntu VM name storage location type as Linux and 64-bit
Specify Ubuntu VM Name, Folder, Type, and Version
  1. Choose the amount of memory to allocate to the VM. A good starting point is 1GB (1024MB) or 2GB (2048MB).
VirutualBox Ubuntu Linux VM Memory allocation
Choose Amount of memory for the Ubuntu VM. 1GB – 2GB
  1. Select the option to “Create a virtual hard disk now“. While there is a message suggesting a 10GB hard disk size, you do not actually specify the size of the hard disk here. You will have the option to select the size of the hard disk in a future step.
VirutualBox Ubuntu Linux VM Hard disk creation
Create VirtuaBox hard disk now
  1. Select which file type you would like the hard disk of the VM to be. Select VDI.
    • Extra Notes: Which file type should you use? VDI vs VHD vs VMDK? For you first Ubuntu VM, use VDI for the sake of simplicity. However, the three formats basically correlate to different vendors. Your selection will most likely be determined by whether or not you plan to copy/transfer/clone a VM to another provider’s hypervisor.
      • VDI: VirtualBox
      • VMDK: VMWare
      • VHD: Microsoft
VirutualBox Ubuntu Linux VM VDI Hard disk creation
VirtualBox VDI hard disk type
  1. VirtualBox gives the Hard disk option to either dynamically allocate space on the hard disk as the requirements grow, or create as a fixed size. Select Dynamically allocated.
    • Extra Notes: Fixed size allocates the space to the vm during VM creation. This means if you want a 10GB hard drive, when you create the VM, you will loose 10GB of hard drive space from your host machine. A dynamically allocated option will only allocate up to 10GB as it is needed. You may end up never even using 4GB! The amount of savings are clear. In addition, in most cases users will not see a performance difference between Dynamically allocated and Fixed size.
VirutualBox Ubuntu Linux VM Dynamically Allocated vs Fixed size hard disk
Dynamically Allocated VirtualBox hard disk storage
  1. Select the size of the VM’s hard disk. Again, a good starting point for a first Ubuntu VM is 10GB.
    • Extra Notes: The name (Ubuntu1) and location (your VM storage location) of the VM is displayed here for review. You do not need to change this. It is informational as you selected these options in previous steps.
VirutualBox Ubuntu Linux VM Hard disk creation size and location
Location and size of VirtualBox Ubuntu VM
  1. Press the Create button, and your new Ubuntu VM has been created!

Extra Notes

Before we move onto installing Ubuntu onto our newly created VM, lets take a look at some details. On the left side of VirtualBox you will notice the the new Ubuntu1 VM listed.

VirutualBox Ubuntu Linux VM Display
New Ubuntu VM in VirtualBox

Left clicking on the Ubuntu VM once will display details regarding the new VM. Notice the settings we specified during the creation of the VM such as the Location, Memory, and storage.

VirutualBox Ubuntu Linux VM creation details
VirutualBox Ubuntu Linux VM details

If you right click on the blue VM on the left, you can see even more information. Right click on the Ubuntu VM and select Show in Explorer.

VirutualBox Ubuntu Linux VM additional settings viewer
Show in Explorer to view Ubuntu VM Files in Windows Explorer

Clicking Show in Explorer will bring up the storage location of the files associated with the Ubuntu VM. As you can see, we have a .vdi file vs a VMDK or VHD.

VirutualBox Ubuntu Linux VM vdi files in windows explorer
VirtualBox Ubuntu vdi files in Windows Explorer

Now that the VM has been created, and we’ve explored some of the details of it’s configuration, its time to turn the VM into an actual Virtual Machine! Part three will detail installing the downloaded Ubuntu image onto our newly created VM!

Part 3: Install Ubuntu on VirtualBox VM

Time to actually install the Ubuntu OS onto the machine, the Virtual Machine.

  1. Select the Ubuntu VM from the left panel and click Start.
    • Extra Notes: If you click the drop down arrow you will see there are actually three options, Normal Start, Headless Start, Detachable Start. Normal vs headless vs detachable:
      • Normal: Start with a GUI (user interface)
      • Headless: Start with no GUI
      • Detachable: Start with GUI with the option to keep VM running even if you close the GUI.
VirutualBox Ubuntu Linux VM Normal vs Headless vs Detachable Start
Select Normal Start
  1. Select the location of the Ubuntu image file. This is the .iso we downloaded from the Ubuntu website that was just over 2.5GB.
Ubuntu Select start up image for VirtualBox Creation
Select start up image for new VM
  1. After selecting the image, it will show the details. This should match what you downloaded in Part 1.
Ubuntu Image selected for new VirtualBox VM
Ubuntu Image selected for new VirtualBox VM
  1. After pressing Start, the machine will being booting into the Ubuntu installer. Just wait for the checks to complete.
Ubuntu Pre install boot VirtualBox
VM is booting into the Ubuntu Installer located on the image (.iso)
  1. On the first screen, select Install Ubuntu.
    • Extra Notes: If you select Try Ubuntu, it will not install the operating system. The operating system will be running from the .iso that is mounted. Once you reboot the OS, or unmount the disk drive containing the .iso, you will no longer have an Ubuntu VM.
Install Ubuntu vs Try Ubuntu
Select Install Ubuntu
  1. Choose your language.
Select Language Ubuntu Install
Select Language for Ubuntu OS
  1. Select Minimal Installation. Select Download updates while installing Ubuntu.
    • Extra Notes: For your frist Ubuntu VM, you don’t need games, media players, and extra software that comes along with a normal installation. A minimal installation is quicker, and will take up less space.
    • Downloading the updates while installing Ubuntu will ensure you have the latest versions of software available. Bug fixes, security patches, features, “improvements”. All these will be included if you select this method. Also, you won’t have to update software after installing Ubuntu.
Ubuntu minimal vs normal installation
Minimal Ubuntu install for speed and less resources
  1. Select Erase disk and install Ubuntu. Then, select Install Now.
    • Extra Notes: Warning: This will delete all your programs, documents, photos, music, and any other files in all operating systems. This is a standard warning that makes more sense if you were installing Ubuntu from a disc that was inserted into your laptop or desktop that already had some other operating system installed on it.
    • That’s not us. We are installed Ubuntu on a Virtual Machine. The hypervisor (VirtualBox) as allocated 10GB of space from our host OS for this VM. That space is represented with the Ubuntu1.vdi file we explored earlier. Therefore, this warning is not applicable to us.
Ubuntu Erase disk and install Ubuntu Warning
Erase disk and install Ubuntu Warning
  1. Select Continue.
    • Extra Notes: “If you continue, the changes listed below will be written to the disks. The partition tables of the following devices are changed: SCSI3 (0,0,0) etc… “
    • This message is a result of the “Erase disk and install Ubuntu” option we chose in the previous step. The dialog box is informing us of what changes will take place on our actual hard disk if we continue with the install. The reason we select continue here is for the same reasons described in the previous step, we are not a laptop or desktop. We are a virtual machine.
Ubuntu changes listed below will be written to disks
Continue: Changes written to disk are expected
  1. Select time zone and press Continue.
Ubuntu select time zone location
Select Location
  1. Specify your name, the computer name, password, etc. Select Continue. Once you do this, Ubuntu will begin installing!
Ubuntu Install computer name password username
Specify user/computer credentials
  1. Ubuntu is now officially installing on this Virtual Machine!
Ubuntu Install copying files
Ubuntu copying files during install
  1. Clicking the “Retrieving file” box at the bottom of the page will display which files are being downloaded during the installation. After the files are downloaded, Ubuntu will install them.
Ubuntu retrieve files during install details
Details of files being retrieved during Ubuntu install
  1. Installation complete! Select Restart now.
Restart Ubuntu VM after install complete
Restart Now to complete install!
  1. Once you press Restart Now, the screen will go black and a message will state “Please remove the installation medium, then press ENTER:”
Remove Ubuntu install medium press enter
Remove Ubuntu iso image then restart VM
  1. At the top of the VM’s window (Not in Ubuntu, the VirtualBox Windows Window), click on Devices. Ensure the Ubuntu image (.iso) is not checked. It will most likely be unchecked already, but just make sure it’s not checked.
Unmount Ubuntu install image iso before restarting VM VirtualBox
Ensure Ubuntu .iso is Unmounted
  1. After rebooting, the installation is complete and we are at the login prompt! Notice the ubuntu-20.04-desktop-amd64.iso image is not checked. It is not mounted into the VM.
Ubuntu image not mounted after install login prompt
Ubuntu image not mounted. Login Prompt for new VM!
  1. Installation complete! Welcome to Ubuntu Linux, running on a VirtualBox Virtual Machine! Well done, well done indeed.
Ubuntu 20.04 Desktop Installation Complete on VirtualBox
Ubuntu 20.04 Desktop installation Complete!

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