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COM Port in Virtual Machine (Hyper-V, VMware, VirtualBox)

Olga Weis Olga Weis Sep 15, 2020

The virtual environment offers many benefits including server consolidation, increased utilization and faster recovery times after failure. A physical machine can host multiple virtual machines, and all of them may share peripherals, resources, and serial port connections. Forwarding serial to VMware, Hyper-V or any other environments makes the serial port hardware usage more efficient.

If you or any applications on the virtual machine you are working on have to have access to a serial port on host OS, Serial to Ethernet Connector is one of the easiest ways to connect COM port in virtual machine. It runs Linux or Windows. With the help of the software tool you will have an opportunity to get access to COM in VMware, Hyper-V, Citrix, or any other virtual environment.

To start working with a COM port, download and install the app, it will display a list of devices available to you, find the one you need and connect to it.

In this guide, we will give you step-by-step instructions on how to access COM port in a virtual machine. With these settings, you will get all functionality you need to access serial port right in your guest machine as it was plugged in directly. You may also communicate with the virtually created port with the Serial to Ethernet Connector without any additional settings.

Serial to Ethernet Connector enables access to serial port in Hyper-V, VMWare, Citrix XenDesktop and other virtualization software.
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Access Serial Ports in Hyper-V

Hyper-V Manager never displays COM so you would not even know whether you have them or not. To be able to work with COM port in virtual machine you need to follow these steps, once the Hyper-V connection is established:

  1. In the lower left corner of the app click ‘Show Options’ button.
  2. Go to ‘Local Resources’ tab
  3. Next to ‘Local devices and resources’ box click ‘More…’
  4. Click ‘Ports’ checkbox
  5. Sign into the virtual machine in ‘General’ tab.

Resources of the host machine should be visible to you in the virtual environment. After these settings are done, you will get access to COM port in virtual machine.

Hyper-V serial port

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Work with Serial Ports in VirtualBox

VirtualBox is another virtualization software that can come in handy for creating virtual serial ports in a virtual machine. After you enable a VirtualBox serial port, the guest operating system gets a UART device, which makes it possible to receive and send data via a serial connection. The configuration details of each connection may differ based on the host OS.

VirtualBox: serial port setup

What may help you create a virtual serial port in VirtualBox is the VBoxManage command or the Settings tab. By using one of these methods, you can set up up to four virtual COM interfaces for each guest OS.

Most importantly, you need to configure the Port Mode and Port Number.

When setting the Port Number, it is recommended to choose a traditional value. Also, you will need to enter an I/O base address and IRQ.

VirtualBox COM port

Here is what you have to do in the virtual environment – configure serial port settings:

The available Port Mades are: Disconnected, Connected to Host Device, and Connected to Host Pipe.

Below, we’ll consider some of the VirtualBox serial port configuration options:

Raw File: the option for sending the virtual serial port output to a file. You can specify any file. All you need is to make sure you have the privileges to write and create.

VirtualBox serial port

TCP Socket: it’s helpful when you need to redirect serial data over the TCP/IP network. With this option, you can establish a direct connection between a remote computer and the VM’s COM port over TCP. The available roles are the TCP client and TCP server.

1. TCP Server: you should specify the port number (it can be 23 or 2023) in the address/path field and uncheck the box of the current Pipe/Socket. Note that in the UNIX-like systems, the port number has to be more than 1024.

2. TCP Client: For this type of connection, the other end should connect via TCP, while specifying the hostname: port in the Path/Address field. When you check the "Connect to Existing Pipe/Socket" box, the TCP socket goes into the client mode.

VMware serial port access

VMware offers its own method to connect the host’s peripherals to a virtual machine. With VMware, you are able to create from 1 to 4 virtual serial ports in your VM. After being added, the virtual ports give you a way to communicate with real serial ports residing on your host machine and to output to a file or a named pipe.

Why use VMware for serial port connection? The scenarios are many. For example, it would let you control your modem or printer from a guest OS. Or you could exchange data between a virtual and real or two virtual machines when debugging a serial port device, etc.

If you want to know how to add a virtual COM port to VMware, here’s a simple guide:

  1. First, make sure your virtual machine is powered off.
  2. Then, choose the virtual machine and go to Player > Manage > Virtual Machine Settings.
  3. In the VM settings, open the Hardware tab and click the Add button.
  4. When the Add Hardware wizard opens, select the Serial Port option
  5. Click Finish to complete the procedure.

Once done, you can choose where the virtual port that you’ve just added will send data. You will have the following options:

  • “Use a physical parallel port” - if you choose this, your VMware serial port’s data will be redirected to a hardware serial port of your host machine.
  • “Use output file” - in this case, the virtual port’s output is sent to a file that you specify.
  • “Output to named pipe” - this option lets two guest systems connect directly. Also, you can use it to exchange data between a virtual machine and a program on your host computer.

If you choose to output to the named pipe, you should make some configurations for your named pipe:

If you have a Windows host, you can either opt for the default pipe name or enter the one you prefer. It’s important that the name does not differ on the server and client. You should use the same name that will begin with \\.\pipe\

E.g.: \\.\pipe\namedpipe

When you have a Linux host, the name of the pipe can be /tmp/socket or another UNIX socket name. Make sure the name is the same on both the server and the client.

If your goal is to redirect some debugging info to a utility installed on the host, you should do the following:

In the first drop-down list, select This end is the server. In the second drop-down list, select The other end is an application.

Want to connect to another VM? Choose the server in the first drop-down list and The other end is a virtual machine in the second one.

VMware ESXi and serial port connections

VMware provides the ESXi Server - a software product for computer virtualization enterprise-wide. This solution is designed to simplify the centralized management of corporate desktops and software.

When it comes to COM port connections, the ESXi Server offers the ability to send data to the named pipe and to network serial ports.

With ESXi, a serial port may be accessed via a server or client connection. Depending on the connection type you select, the system will either wait for a connection or initiate it. A server connection is usually selected when it’s required to control a virtual machine over a serial port. While a client connection is more preferable when you use a serial port for logging. In this case, the VM will be able to connect to the logging server once the guest OS starts and disconnect if it stops.

What serial ports ESXi can work with

VMware ESXi allows you to work with up to 32 serial ports. The serial ports that are residing on your motherboard can be easily redirected to a virtual machine from an ESXi host.

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