Virtualization with Boxes

Jarret B

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May 22, 2017
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There seem to be many apps out there that support Virtualization of other Operating Systems (OS). Boxes is a little different.

Boxes has a few pre-built Operating System Virtualizations you can download, but you can create your own.

Installing Boxes

There are two ways to install Boxes. The usual ways are ‘sudo apt install’, or through Flatpak.

For Ubuntu, simply install Boxes with the command ‘sudo apt install gnome-boxes -y’.

Using Flatpak, use the commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:flatpak/stable
sudo apt install flatpak gnome-software-plugin-flatpak -y
flatpak remote-add flathub
flatpak install flathub org.gnome.Boxes

The commands should install Flatpak and the Gnome extension. Notice that the second line will add the Flathub Repository. The last line will install Boxes from the Flathub Repository.

Pre-Built Machines in Boxes

After you start Boxes, click on the ‘New’ or ‘+’ button in the top-left corner of the window.

The initial screen shows only three Operating Systems to choose from: Ubuntu 16.04, openSUSE Leap 42.2 and Fedora 27 Workstation.

NOTE: I initially used the command ‘sudo apt install gnome-boxes’. If you use Flatpak, then you will get a more updated list of OSs to choose from in the list, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1.jpg


Using the Flatpak version, the initial list is: Red Hat Enterprise 9.0, Fedora Workstation 37, Fedora Silverblue 37, Ubuntu 22.04, openSUSE Leap 15.4, openSUSE Tumbleweed, Debian 11, Endless OS Basic and GNOME OS Nightly.

I’ll select openSUSE Tumbleweed. Once selected, it downloads.

NOTE: If you select Red Hat, it prompts you to log into your Red Hat account.

After downloading openSUSE Tumbleweed, you still have to select a Template. Then specify the Memory, Storage Limit and whether to use EFI, as shown in Figure 3. The ISO will then boot and let you ‘Try’ or ‘Install’ the OS as the menu allows for the ISO.

Adding a Different OS

If you click on ‘Download and Operating System’, there is a search bar to enter a download path to an ISO. The best option is to download the file yourself, if it isn’t in the list, and then select ‘Create Virtual Machine from File’.

It will prompt you to select an ISO file. Once you do, it will prompt you to choose the type of OS as a template if the program does not find one itself. I used Puppy Linux, but it did not recognize it, so I chose Ubuntu 22.04 as a Template, as shown in Figure 2 (yes, it should’ve been Arch, but it worked).

Figure 2.jpg


Once you have selected a Template, click on ‘Next’.

You will set some hardware specs for the virtual machine, as shown in Figure 3. Here, you can set Memory Size, Storage Limit and whether to use EFI.

Figure 3.jpg


After you have made your selections, choose ‘Create’. The ISO should boot and you can make your selections from the ISO menu that appears. After the OS loads, you eventually get to the main screen, after a few minutes, as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4.jpg


I can now install Puppy Linux to the Virtual Machine Hardware which was specified during setup.

After the installation has completed, I can close Puppy Linux and an icon should appear for Puppy Linux, as you can see in Figure 5. Just click on the icon to start the machine when you want to run it.

Figure 5.jpg


Once a machine is running, there are three icons in the upper right corner of the window. The first one is two arrows that make the machine full screen. To exit full screen, move the mouse cursor all the way to the top of the screen. A bar should appear and you can see the three icons again. Select the one with the arrows again to cause the machine to be in a window again.

The second icon is a keyboard. Clicking on it will drop a menu of key entries to inject into the machine. The key combinations are: CTRL+ALT+BACKSPACE, CTRL+ALT+DEL, CTRL+ALT+F1, CTRL+ALT+F2, CTRL+ALT+F3, CTRL+ALT+F7, and CTRL+ALT+F9.

The third and last icon are three dots. When you click on this icon, the drop-down menu has the following options (which may or may not be grayed out): Send File, Take Screenshot, Force Shutdown, Restart and Preferences.

The Preferences option allows you to change the number of CPUs, memory, disk space, as well as enable 3D acceleration and other options.

Since that installation worked well, let’s try another one.

I download Kali Linux, so we’ll try this one. I set the template to ‘Ubuntu’, since ‘Debian’ didn’t work, and allowed the default hardware settings.

If you choose a distro that doesn’t seem to install properly, then try a different Template. With Kali, the Ubuntu Template worked just fine, while the Debian Template failed.

It’s testing a program like this that can help you see where things may go wrong and determine a fix for them.

If you do virtualization, try Boxes. It definitely is an easier interface.


Boxes has a simple interface with fewer options to seem too confusing. There are other options which are hidden under ‘Preferences’, but less than other virtualization programs.

For a quick start to getting a machine going, this is a very good option to choose.

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