Installing Windows 7 inside VirtualBox 4.0 on Mac OS X

I wrote recently that VirtualBox 4.0 has been released. Although I’ve used VirtualBox a bit in the past, I’ve never used it as a primary tool… until now. I’ve decided to, for now at least, forgo use of VMware Fusion on my Mac and give VirtualBox 4.0 a whirl. I make heavy use of both Mac OS X and Windows 7 on my laptop and need both OSs to run simultaneously. I’ve enjoyed great success with Fusion and hope that I’ll be able to say the same about VirtualBox.

Before I installed Windows 7 x64 (or any 64-bit OS, for that matter), I had to enable IO APIC at the virtual machine properties > System tab > Extended Features. Select the checkbox next to Enable IO APIC. Failure to make this setting change will result in the new VM being unable to boot from the Windows 7 x64 installation media with error code c0000225. Once rectifying the situation by enabling IO APIC, the Windows 7 installer started up and the correct HAL (Hardware Abstraction Layer) was applied to my virtual machine.

On my Mac OS X laptop (dual core 2.66 GHz processor, 8 GB RAM, OS X 10.6.4) with 1 GB of RAM assigned to my Windows 7 x64 VirtualBox-based VM, it took less than 5 minutes for the Windows installation to complete and for me to be presented with a desktop. My laptop does have a solid state drive (SSD) and I was booting from a Windows 7 x64 ISO image, so it’s possible that the SSD really shined in this case. Either that, or VirtualBox is really, really fast.

After getting to the initial desktop, I installed the Oracle VirtualBox Guest Additions. This step is pretty common in the virtualization world and adds drivers that are optimized for the virtualization platform. In VirtualBox, the following elements are included in the Guest Additions:

  • Mouse pointer integration with the host.
  • Shared folders between the guest and the host.
  • Improved video support including the ability to resize the VM window.
  • “Seamless Windows” – this is sort of like VMware Fusion’s Unity mode in which applications running inside the VM can appear to be running as standalone applications on the host.
  • Shared clipboard for copying and pasting between guests and the host.

My only gripe so far is that I don’t like the fact that I can’t even view virtual machine settings while the virtual machine is running. The Settings option is grayed out when the VM is operating. Other than that, this very cursory look at VirtualBox is very, very positive. I’ll continue to report back as I use the tool.

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