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VirtualBox USB Passthrough Guide

Olga Weis Olga Weis
Nov 29, 2023

Enabling VirtualBox USB passthrough functionality lets users in a VBox guest VM easily transfer data to USB peripherals. We are going to show you how to enable the USB in VirtualBox feature so you can use local USB devices in a VM with the same functionality of a direct connection. We’ll also talk about how to facilitate USB in VirtualBox with different operating systems. Additionally, we offer you to try the VBox USB passthrough feature with the help of USB Network Gate and work with your devices in any environment.

USB for Remote Desktop

How to access local USB in VirtualBox

An additional package, the VirtualBox Extension Pack, is required when implementing VirtualBox USB passthrough. Since the 6.1. or older versions of VirtualBox are no longer supported, you are recommended to install the latest version - VirtualBox 7.0 and the extension pack accordingly. This package interacts with the USB controllers and is not included in a base VirtualBox installation. Once you install the extension pack for VirtualBox 7.0, you should have no trouble using your USB devices in a VirtualBox VM.

VirtualBox VM

How to enable VirtualBox USB passthrough with Extension pack

After downloading the most current release of VirtualBox, you have to download the extension pack. Support for USB 1.0 is available in the open-source extension pack. Oracle’s proprietary extension pack provides support for USB 2.0 and 3.0 devices.

The Oracle extension pack is available from the company’s Downloads page. Choose the file for all supported platforms. After downloading the package, perform the following activities.
Click File | Tools | Extension Pack Manager.
 VirtualBox 5.0
Click the Install (+ icon) button
Plug the required USB device in a USB port of your host computer.
 VirtualBox 5.0
Now, head to Devices -> USB, and click on ‘USB device to share’.

As VirtualBox enables USB connection, the shared USB device will appear in your guest OS. The virtual machine will recognize the USB device and you’ll be able to get full access to device’s functionality from your guest OS. This way, you will be able to connect USB to VirtualBox remotely.

One thing you should remember is that only one machine can access a USB device at a time.

Considering that many virtualization apps offer limited or no support for local USB devices, the software solution, USB Network Gate, seems to be a real sigh of relief for many users.

USB Network Gate
Share USB over Ethernet on Windows

How VirtualBox USB Support Functions On Multiple Operating Systems

For current VirtualBox USB users, they recognize that their USB-reliant virtual machines must be ‘enabled’ in order to function. While otherwise convenient, VirtualBox USB software elicits frustration because VirtualBox USB support isn’t enabled by default.

Regardless of how much we’d like to connect to USB in VirtualBox (or updated versions) right off the bat, developers haven’t created a USB functionality that works at the moment.

However, VirtualBox USB support is NOT an impossibility- or even that difficult to enable in the first place. That being said, we’ll show you exactly how to connect to USB in VirtualBox for Mac and how to open a VirtualBox USB Linux.

VirtualBox USB Windows solution

VirtualBox offers remote display of a virtual machine. That means, started on one computer, a guest OS can be displayed on another PC and controlled from there too. To do this, VirtualBox uses VRDP, VirtualBox Remote Display Protocol, which is backwards compatible with Microsoft’s RDP protocol. The VRDP support makes VirtualBox an optimal solution for those who want to access their virtual machine over RDP Connection.

What about VirtualBox remote USB access? Well, displayed on a remote computer as VRDP data, VirtualBox guest OS is able to access USB devices of that remote computer in the same way as local USB peripherals of VM’s real host. VRDP is a simple way to remotely access USB in VirtualBox.You can access USB dongle in VirtualBox or get access to local printer from virtual environment.

USB Network Gate
Try VirtualBox USB passthrough solution

Make sure you enable Remote Desktop in Server Manager before you try to connect to Windows Server without VRDE.

If Server Manager wasn’t open at your log in, open it in the Start menu on Windows Server VM.

Select Local Server and make sure you enabled Remote Desktop on the properties section. Allow remote connections to this computer and click OK.

Server Manager

VirtualBox USB Support Mac | Understanding VirtualBox Mac USB Functionality

This section is for Mac users who are using a VirtualBox machine to run Windows.

VirtualBox Mac USB devices can “pass through” a Mac operating system and- instead- function on the virtual machine running Windows OS.

Follow the steps below to bypass Mac OS X and access a USB plugged into a USB port in your WINDOWS “Virtual Machine”.

  1. Open VirtualBox and ensure Windows VM isn’t running

  2. Click the “Settings” option

  3. Select “Ports” (3rd option in the top-right icon menu)

  4. It will appear by default as “Serial”- click the “USB” option usb option

    Note: choose the USB 2.0, as it is much faster than using the USB 1.1 option.

  5. Physically connect the USB device you want to bypass Mac OS X.

    Quick Explanation: we’re now specifying the selected USB device to pass through to Windows VM(Virtual Machine) on this screen. Once established, as long as the Windows VM is running, the USB device will function on Windows VM whenever the USB device is plugged in.

    If the VM is closed when the USB is plugged in, it will function on the normal Mac OS X.

  6. Click the green “plus” icon and see a list of USB devices eligible for passthrough. For this example, we’re selecting “SanDisk Cruzer Blaze”

  7. Click/Select it
    It should now be listed under “USB Device Filter” USB Device Filter In the above screenshot, you can see that the USB controller was moved to USB 3.0. Go ahead and ignore that because USB 3.0 does not currently work on Windows 7 VMs.

  8. Return to the main VirtualBox screen

  9. Safely eject & remove the USB device from your computer

  10. Start Windows Virtual Machine
ready to use

(If this is your first time selecting “USB 2.0”, you’ll most likely see the screen shown above, so don’t be alarmed.)

From here, you can freely connect your USB device to your Mac, and it will behave as if physically plugged into a Windows computer.

Not too bad, right?

Note: when you look in the Mac OS X “Finder”, you won’t see the USB device anymore. However, if you close the virtual machine and reinsert the USB device, it will appear as normal on your Mac OS X.

VirtualBox USB Linux Support | Understanding VirtualBox Linux USB Functionality

If you’re a Linux user, then your VirtualBox USB support set-up will be a bit different. So, if you’ve ever wondered how to access USB on VirtualBox Ubuntu, we’ll show you exactly how to open a USB on Ubuntu VirtualBox below.

  1. Install the VirtualBox Extension Pack.

    Note (1): By default, VirtualBox only supports .x1 USB devices. The VirtualBox Extension Pack includes USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 support, as well as intel cards for VirtualBox RDP and PXE boot.

    VirtualBox Extension Pack

    Note (2): You MUST install the VirtualBox Extension Pack On The SAME VERSION of your currently installed VirtualBox.

  2. After download is complete enter your sudo password

    VirtualBox Preferences And navigate as follows:
  3. FIle -> Preferences -> Extensions

  4. Click the “add” button to implement the VirtualBox Extension Pack to your hard disk.

  5. Select the appropriate extension pack

  6. Click “Install”

    Note: By checking the description, you’ll see the features and functions added to your VM

  7. After reading the VirtualBox licensing terms and conditions, click “Agree”

Let’s add your “User” to the “vboxusers” Group

Your user must appear in the “vboxuser” group in order for VirtualBox to “see” your USB devices.

  1. Open up a Terminal Window (Ctrl+Alt+T)

  2. Run the following command

  3. Insert your real username in place of the current username

    “sudo gpasswd -a yourusername vboxusers”

  4. Log out and in again to see the changes reflect

  5. See what group your user account belongs to by running:

    “groups yourusername”

Now it’s time to Enable USB Control & Add New USB Filters

  1. Select “Settings” for The Specified VM(Virtual Machine)

  2. On The Left Pane, Click “USB”

    Note: Choose either USB 2.0 Controller or USB 3.0 Controller (FYI: only one controller type can be enabled

  3. Insert your USB device

  4. Click the “add” button (this lets you ‘add’ a new USB filter)

    “virtualbox add new usb filter” “virtualbox add <new> usb filter”

  5. Locate and select your USB device

  6. Click “OK”

Last But Not Least

Run your Virtual Machine to see your USB devices in the “Guest” OS. Don’t forget that host Operating systems can’t see a USB device if VirtualBox is using it.

How To Unmount USB Devices From Guest Operating Systems.

  1. Select “Devices” -> “USB”
  2. Uncheck the USB device you want to unmount

Note: If you want to mount the USB in VirtualBox again, just go to your “Devices” list and reselect the USB device.

As you can see, enabling VirtualBox USB support can be accomplished in just a few easy steps. From VirtualBox mac USB support to how to access USB on VirtualBox ubuntu (Linux), your preferred USB devices will always be within reach.

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