Tag Archive VM

Lessons learned on managing Windows Taskbar and Start Menu colouring in VirtualBox virtual machines

December 9th, 2019

In the last few weeks, I have had a few occasions when the colouration of the Windows 10 taskbar and its Star Menu has departed from my expectations. At times, this happened in VirtualBox virtual machine installations and both the legacy 5.2.x versions and the current 6.x ones have thrown up issues.

Lessons learned on managing Windows Taskbar and Start Menu colouring in VirtualBox virtual machines

Lessons learned on managing Windows Taskbar and Start Menu colouring in VirtualBox virtual machines

The first one actually happened with a Windows 10 installation in VirtualBox 5.2.x when the taskbar changed colour to light grey and there was no way to get it to pick up the colour of the desktop image to become blue instead. The solution was to change the Windows from Light to Dark in order for the desired colouration to be applied and the settings above are taken from the screen that appears on going to Settings > Personalisation > Colours.

The second issue appeared in Windows 10 Professional installation in VirtualBox 6.0.x when the taskbar and Start Menu turned transparent after an updated. This virtual machine is used to see what is coming in the slow ring of Windows Insider so some rough edges could be expected. The solution here was to turn off 3D acceleration in the Display pane of the VM settings after shutting it down. Starting it again showed that all was back as expected.

Both resolutions took a share of time to find and there was a deal of experimentation needed too. Once identified, they addressed the issues as desired so I am recording here for use by others as much as future reference for myself.

Shared folders not automounting on an Ubuntu 18.04 guest in a VirtualBox virtual machine

October 1st, 2019

Over the weekend, I finally got to fixing a problem that has affected Ubuntu 18.04 virtual machine for quite a while. The usual checks on Guest Additions installation and vboxsf group access assignment were performed but were not causing the issue. Also, no other VM (Windows (7 & 10) and Linux Mint Debian Edition) on the same Linux Mint 19.2 machine was experiencing the same issue. The latter observation made the problem intrinsic to the Ubuntu VM itself.

Because I install the Guest Additions software from the included virtual CD, I executed the following command to open the relevant file for editing:

sudo systemctl edit --full vboxadd-service

If I had installed installed virtualbox-guest-dkms and virtualbox-guest-utils from the Ubuntu repositories instead, then this would have been the command that I needed to execute instead of the above.

sudo systemctl edit --full virtualbox-guest-utils

Whichever configuration gets opened, the line that needs attention is the one beginning with Conflicts (line 6 in the file on my system). The required edit removes systemd-timesync.service from the list following the equals sign. It is worth checking that file paths include the correct version number for the Guest Additions software that is installed in case this was not the case. The only change that was needed on my Ubuntu VM was to the Conflicts line and rebooting it got the Shared Folder automatically mounted under the /media directory as expected.

Enlarging a VirtualBox VDI virtual disk

December 20th, 2018

It is amazing how the Windows folder manages to grow on your C drive and on in a Windows 7 installation was the cause of my needing to expand the VirtualBox virtual machine VDI disk on which it was installed. After trying various ways to cut down the size, an enlargement could not be avoided. In all of this, it was handy that I had a recent backup for restoration after any damage.

The same thing meant that I could resort to enlarging the VDI file with more peace of mind than otherwise might have been the case. This needed use of the command line once the VM was shut down. The form of the command that I used was the following:

VBoxManage modifyhd <filepath/filename>.vdi --resize 102400

It appears that this also would work on a Windows host but mine was Linux and it did what I needed. The next step was to attach it to an Ubuntu VM and use GParted to expand the main partition to fill the newly available space. That does not mean that it takes up 100 GiB on my system just yet because these things can be left to grow over time and there is a way to shrink them too if you ever need to do just that. As ever, having a backup made before any such operation may have its uses if anything goes awry.

Compressing a VirtualBox VDI file for a Windows guest running on a Linux Host

February 11th, 2016

Recently, I had a situation where my the VDI files for my Windows 10 virtual machine expanded in size all of a sudden and I needed to reduce them. My downloading maps for use with Routebuddy may have been the cause so I moved the ISO installation files onto the underlying Linux Mint drives. With that space, I then set to uncovering how to compact the virtual disk file and the Sysinternals sdelete tool was recommend for clearing unused space. After downloading, I set it to work in a Powershell session running on the guest operating system from its directory using the following command:

.\sdelete -z [drive letter designation; E: is an example]

From the command prompt, the following should do:

sdelete -z [drive letter designation; E: is an example]

Once, that had completed, I shut down the VM and executed a command like the following from a bash terminal session:

VboxManage modifyhd [file location/file name].vdi --compact

Where there was space to release, VDI files were reduced in size to return more disk space. More could be done so I will look into the Windows 10 drives to see what else needs to be moved out of them.

Migrating to Windows 10

August 10th, 2015

While I have had preview builds of Windows 10 in various virtual machines for the most of twelve months, actually upgrading physical and virtual devices that you use for more critical work is a very different matter. Also, Windows 10 is set to be a rolling release with enhancements coming on an occasional basis so I would like to see what comes before it hits the actual machines that I need to use. That means that a VirtualBox instance of the preview build is being retained to see what happens to that over time.

Some might call it incautious but I have taken the plunge and completely moved from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10. The first machine that I upgrade was more expendable and success with that encouraged me to move onto others before even including a Windows 7 machine to see how that went. The 30-day restoration period allows an added degree of comfort when doing all this. The list of machines that I upgraded were a VMware VM with 32-bit Windows 8.1 Pro (itself part of a 32-bit upgrade cascade involving Windows 7 Home and Windows 8 Pro), a VirtualBox VM with 64-bit Windows 8.1, a physical PC that dual booted Linux Mint 17.2 and 64-bit Windows 8.1 and a HP Pavilion dm4 laptop (Intel Core i3 with 8GB RAM and a 1 TB SSHD) with Windows 7.

The main issue that I uncovered with the virtual machines is that the Windows 10 update tool that is downloaded onto Windows 7 and 8.x does not accept the graphics capability on there. This is a bug because the functionality works fine on the Windows Insider builds. The solution was to download the appropriate Windows 10 ISO image for use in the ensuing upgrade. There are 32-bit and 64-bit disk images with Windows 10 and Windows 10 Pro installation files on each. My own actions used both disk images.

During the virtual machine upgrades,most of the applications that considered important were carried over from Windows 8.1 to Windows without a bother. Anyone would expect Microsoft’s own software like Word, Excel and others to make the transition but others like Adobe’s Photoshop and Lightroom made it too as did Mozilla’s Firefox, albeit requiring a trip to Settings in order to set it as the default option for opening web pages. Less well known desktop applications like Zinio (digital magazines) or Mapyx Quo (maps for cycling, walking and the like) were the same. Classic Shell was an exception but the Windows 10 Start Menu suffices for now anyway. Also, there was a need to reinstate Bitdefender Antivirus Plus using its new Windows 10 compatible installation file. Still, the experience was a big change from the way things used to be in the days when you used have to reinstall nearly all your software following a Windows upgrade.

The Windows 10 update tool worked well for the Windows 8.1 PC so no installation disks were needed. Neither was the boot loader overwritten so the Windows option needed selecting from GRUB every time there was a system reboot as part of the installation process, a temporary nuisance that was tolerated since booting into Linux Mint was preserved. Again, no critical software was lost in the process apart from Kaspersky Internet Security, which needed the Windows 10 compatible version installed, much like Bitdefender, or Epson scanning software that I found was easy to reinstall anyway. Usefully, Anquet’s Outdoor Map Navigator (again used for working with walking and cycling maps) continue to function properly after the changeover.

For the Windows 7 laptop, it was much the same story albeit with the upgrade being delivered  using Windows Update. Then, the main Windows account could be connected to my Outlook account to get everything tied up with the other machines for the first time. Before the obligatory change of background picture, the browns in the one that I was using were causing interface items to appear in red, not exactly my favourite colour for application menus and the like. Now they are in blue and all the upheaval surrounding the operating system upgrade had no effect on the Dropbox or Kaspersky installations that I had in place before it all started. If there is any irritation, it is that unpinning of application tiles from the Start Menu or turning off of live tiles is not always as instantaneous as I would have liked and that is all done now anyway.

While writing the above, I could not help thinking that more observations on Windows 10 may follow but these will do for now. Microsoft had to get this upgrade process right and it does appear that they have so credit is due to them for that. So far, I have Windows 10 to be stable and will be seeing how things develop from here, especially when those new features arrive from time to time as is the promise that has been made to us users. Hopefully, that will be as painless as it needs to be to ensure trust is retained.