22.6. FreeBSD as a Host with VirtualBox

VirtualBox is an actively developed, complete virtualization package, that is available for most operating systems including Windows®, Mac OS®, Linux® and FreeBSD. It is equally capable of running Windows® or UNIX®-like guests. It is released as open source software, but with closed-source components available in a separate extension pack. These components include support for USB 2.0 devices. More information may be found on the Downloads page of the VirtualBox wiki. Currently, these extensions are not available for FreeBSD.

22.6.1. Installing VirtualBox

VirtualBox is available as a FreeBSD package or port in emulators/virtualbox-ose. The port can be installed using these commands:

# cd /usr/ports/emulators/virtualbox-ose
# make install clean

One useful option in the port's configuration menu is the GuestAdditions suite of programs. These provide a number of useful features in guest operating systems, like mouse pointer integration (allowing the mouse to be shared between host and guest without the need to press a special keyboard shortcut to switch) and faster video rendering, especially in Windows® guests. The guest additions are available in the Devices menu, after the installation of the guest is finished.

A few configuration changes are needed before VirtualBox is started for the first time. The port installs a kernel module in /boot/modules which must be loaded into the running kernel:

# kldload vboxdrv

To ensure the module is always loaded after a reboot, add this line to /boot/loader.conf:


To use the kernel modules that allow bridged or host-only networking, add this line to /etc/rc.conf and reboot the computer:


The vboxusers group is created during installation of VirtualBox. All users that need access to VirtualBox will have to be added as members of this group. pw can be used to add new members:

# pw groupmod vboxusers -m yourusername

The default permissions for /dev/vboxnetctl are restrictive and need to be changed for bridged networking:

# chown root:vboxusers /dev/vboxnetctl
# chmod 0660 /dev/vboxnetctl

To make this permissions change permanent, add these lines to /etc/devfs.conf:

own     vboxnetctl root:vboxusers
perm    vboxnetctl 0660

To launch VirtualBox, type from a Xorg session:

% VirtualBox

For more information on configuring and using VirtualBox, refer to the official website. For FreeBSD-specific information and troubleshooting instructions, refer to the relevant page in the FreeBSD wiki.

22.6.2. VirtualBox™ USB Support

VirtualBox can be configured to pass USB devices through to the guest operating system. The host controller of the OSE version is limited to emulating USB 1.1 devices until the extension pack supporting USB 2.0 and 3.0 devices becomes available on FreeBSD.

For VirtualBox to be aware of USB devices attached to the machine, the user needs to be a member of the operator group.

# pw groupmod operator -m yourusername

Then, add the following to /etc/devfs.rules, or create this file if it does not exist yet:

add path 'usb/*' mode 0660 group operator

To load these new rules, add the following to /etc/rc.conf:


Then, restart devfs:

# service devfs restart

Restart the login session and VirtualBox for these changes to take effect, and create USB filters as necessary.

22.6.3. VirtualBox™ Host DVD/CD Access

Access to the host DVD/CD drives from guests is achieved through the sharing of the physical drives. Within VirtualBox™, this is set up from the Storage window in the Settings of the virtual machine. If needed, create an empty IDE CD/DVD device first. Then choose the Host Drive from the popup menu for the virtual CD/DVD drive selection. A checkbox labeled Passthrough will appear. This allows the virtual machine to use the hardware directly. For example, audio CDs or the burner will only function if this option is selected.

HAL needs to run for VirtualBox DVD/CD functions to work, so enable it in /etc/rc.conf and start it if it is not already running:

# service hald start

In order for users to be able to use VirtualBox DVD/CD functions, they need access to /dev/xpt0, /dev/cdN, and /dev/passN. This is usually achieved by making the user a member of operator. Permissions to these devices have to be corrected by adding these lines to /etc/devfs.conf:

perm cd* 0660
perm xpt0 0660
perm pass* 0660
# service devfs restart

All FreeBSD documents are available for download at https://download.freebsd.org/ftp/doc/

Questions that are not answered by the documentation may be sent to <freebsd-questions@FreeBSD.org>.
Send questions about this document to <freebsd-doc@FreeBSD.org>.