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Get Higher Screen Resolution in Virtual Box running Ubuntu

Virtualization offers you a great opportunity to set a virtual environment to test different operating systems without the hazard of damaging the main (or host) operating system. However, sometimes the installed system acts different in the virtualized environment. For example, the installed Ubuntu in VirtualBox by default sets the 800x600 screen resolution.

Even if the user activates the full screen mode, the resolution still remains the same. Unfortunately, if you open the Screen Resolution dialog (System > Preferences > Screen Resolution) from the Ubuntu menu, you won’t see any suitable high resolution picks.

However, there is a solution for this problem. First of all, before starting the virtual Ubuntu environment, check if there are no images mounted in the virtual CD/DVD drive for the current virtual machine.

Now start the Ubuntu virtual machine. When the Ubuntu OS is completely loaded, make sure the mouse is not being captured by the guest environment (if it is, press the right Ctrl button to release capture). Navigate through the Devices menu to reach the Install Guest Additions option.

After you click on this option, a virtual image will be automatically mounted in the current guest system (Ubuntu in this case) and the user will most likely see a Autorun option.

Click on Cancel, as the mounted image does not contain Autorun files. Now, go to the Terminal (Applications > Accessories > Terminal).

Now, depending on your system, type in the terminal (for 32bit systems):
sudo bash ./VBoxLinuxAdditions-x86.run

For 64bit systems, type:
sudo bash ./VBoxLinuxAdditions-amd64.run

You may be asked for your account password. Type it if asked for and press Enter. The installation process shall now begin.
IPB Image

Restart your virtual environment. Still, after this process we will not see any additions to the screen resolutions list. We have to do one more thing – edit the xorg.conf file.

In your Guest OS
, edit your xorg.conf file by running
sudo gedit /etc/X11/xorg.conf

Take a backup of xconf.conf in case something goes wrong. Here is what I ended up with.

Section "Screen"

Section "Screen"
Identifier "Default Screen"
Device "Generic Video Card"
Monitor "Generic Monitor"
DefaultDepth 24
SubSection "Display"
Modes "1680x1050" "1024x768" "800x600"

Save the file and restart the virtual environment. Now your virtual Ubuntu environment can work on a high resolution, so you can work in the full screen mode. Hope it works for you. Enjoy the bigger view :)


  1. That's really useful! 800x600 really is small nowadays. In full screen, it doesn't really look that good. Now, it can have a 1680x1050 resolution. Cool!

  2. I really thought this would do the trick, but for the life of me, I can't get the guest additions script to run (VBoxLinuxAdditions-x86.run). Just get a "No such file or directory" message in the terminal (and yes, the guest additions iso is mounted on the Ubuntu desktop). I feel like I'm doing something wrong at a basic level, but I don't know what it could be.

    I am admittedly a noob when it comes to the Terminal, but still... any ideas? Running VirtualBox 3.04 and Ubuntu 9.04 on a MBP 2.2 GHz C2D running 10.5.8.

  3. You need to move to VBoxLinuxAdditions directory:

    cd /
    cd media/VBOXADDITIONS_3.0.4_50677/
    sudo sh VBoxLinuxAdditions-x86.run

    Hope this works for you :)

  4. Yeah... the devil's in the details when you're not familiar with the Terminal. But I finally figured out I had to use the cd command and that did the trick. Got the extra screen resolutions working. Even added the 1440x900 resolution of my MBP screen and it works great. :D

    Looking forward to playing with Ubuntu now. Thanks.

  5. how come i cannot type anything when im being asked for the password? :(

  6. Might be problem with your theme, try switching to different theme !

  7. what theme? im a newbie here in ubuntu stuff. No character or anything could be displayed whenever im asked for the password. :(

  8. Change the theme of ubuntu, you will find a option for it!

  9. sorry, changing the theme didnt solve the problem. :(

  10. Which version of ubuntu and virtual vox ur using ?

  11. latest virtualbox and ubuntu 9.10

  12. screenshots of what is happening when im asked for the password?

  13. hi i tried the command sudo bash ./VBoxLinuxAdditions-x86.run but the install wont complete because it says that it does not have administrative privileges. :( it never asked for a password.

  14. Here's what worked for me. It's actually a "click and drag" trick.

    1. Open up a terminal
    2. Open the "additons image" (should be the CD image on the desktop.
    3. Click and drag the "autorun.sh" file into the terminal, then press "enter"
    4. You will be prompted for your password.
    5. Click and drag the appropriate "additions" file you need into the terminal and then hit "enter". (If your guest is linux, drag the VBoxLinuxAdditions-x86 into the terminal, if you're using a 64 bit system...windows...)
    6. Wait for everything to finish, hit enter to close the terminal after it completes installation.
    7. Restart, then you should be all set!

    Hope this works! It did for me!

  15. Click and drag simplified it enough for me!
    Other instructions worked great
    Got the resolution I wanted
    Only question is "If you make the xorg.conf folder from scratch is it supposed to work?"

  16. Might be problem with your theme, try switching to different theme !

  17. That's really useful! 800x600 really is small nowadays. In full screen, it doesn't really look that good. Now, it can have a 1680x1050 resolution. Cool!