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Boxes vs VirtualBox

Before trying this at home, make sure you have virtualization switched on in your BIOS setup.


Enabling virtualization in the BIOS setup.


Boxes opens in the collection view. Click New to launch the wizard and begin the installation of a new box.

The collection view in Boxes.

Click Continue at the wizard’s Introduction screen to display the Source Selection screen.

Screenshot from 2014-01-05 08:18:48

Choose from locally-stored .iso files, enter a URL or Select a file to navigate to your Continuous qcow image. (If Boxes isn’t running, and you insert a live image on a USB stick, a prompt will ask you if you want to launch Boxes to install it in a virtual machine.)

Click Customize to adjust the properties.

Boxes uses libosinfo to provide suitable default settings. The Customize button gives you access to the settings shown, System display name, Memory, and maximum Disk space allowed. When you’re happy with these values, click Create to launch the previously selected installer.

If you have virt-manager installed, launch it with the following command line for an alternate window into your virtual machine repository:

$ virt-manager -c qemu:///session

Screenshot from 2014-01-05 07:19:16

This interface can be used to fine tune your virtual machine properties, or install problematic OSes. (I used it for Debian and PC-BSD.)


VirtualBox opens in the VirtualBox Manager.

The VirtualBox Manager

Click New to prepare a virtual machine.

Screenshot from 2014-01-05 10:47:40

Name your virtual machine and specify the OS, distribution and version.

Screenshot from 2014-01-05 10:48:53

Drag the slider to specify the RAM.

Screenshot from 2014-01-05 10:50:29

Tell VirtualBox how you’ll define the hard drive…

Screenshot from 2014-01-05 10:51:09

…and what size.

Screenshot from 2014-01-05 11:01:36

Click the folder button to open the file selector, and Start to complete the setup of the (empty) virtual machine.

Screenshot from 2014-01-05 11:00:47

Back in the VirtualBox Manager, click Start to launch the installer you selected.


Boxes is very much a GNOME application. It was one of the first GNOME 3 demonstration apps, and was designed to automate as much of the virtual machine creation process as possible using sensible defaults. Boxes 3.12 will bring more refinements to the interface.

VirtualBox looks pretty much the same wherever you run it, so it provides the feel of running a Windows application from the comfort of your GNOME desktop. I use it to run Fedora on my Windows machine at work, but will only continue to do so as long as I can’t run Boxes.

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  • Eduard Gotwig

    wait wait!!!
    But Boxes can also show VNC desktops (remote desktops) and more!

    Its like “boxes” :D you see others “computer boxes” :D

    I am happy to see boxes, but I am sure if someone wants to take virtualization seriously he will go with raw qemu, virtualbox or others. But its good to have boxes, for a consistent interface especially for new users!

    • Michael Hill

      Thanks, Eduard. I’ll add something about remote boxes in another article. Boxes is serious enough for my uses, running jhbuild on a variety of virtual machines.

  • Ade Malsasa Akbar

    Thank you, now my doubt has been disappeared that Boxes = VirtualBox in function.

  • fedora hat

    It’s sad, but the main difference between vbox and boxes for me is, vbox works.
    tried boxes up to 3.10 and it is still buggy like hell. I hope 3.12 will be usable, because the idea is nice.

    • Michael Hill

      To be honest, I’ve found 3.9-3.11 to be rock solid for my purposes. I’m thrilled that the only place I actually *have* to run VirtualBox is on my Windows desktop at work.

    • Eduard Gotwig

      really depends where you run it, eh. You shouldnt run it under Ubuntu, IMO

      • Michael Hill

        True, I’ve only been running it with Fedora, openSUSE and Mageia as the host.

  • Santiago Caamaño

    install virt-manager for fine tunning, you don’t show settings windows on virtual box, for me more important than assing space disk and memory to a virtual machine.
    Are you kidding me?