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VirtualBox USB Passthrough Tutorial

Mar 4, 2020
VirtualBox USB Passthrough Tutorial

If you work with virtual machines, there’s a good chance you will need to know how to connect USB in VirtualBox at some point. Fortunately, setting up USB passthrough in VirtualBox is not hard to implement. To begin, you need to have installed VirtualBox and its guest additions on a guest OS running on Linux or Windows. The VirtualBox extension pack also needs to be installed on your machine. This article shows how to connect USB devices to VirtualBox as well as sharing the attached devices.

  1. USB passthrough with no limitations
  2. Access a USB device in a VirtualBox Guest

Keep in mind the native connectivity methods can only provide access to the USB devices by one computer at a time.

Software solution to implement VirtualBox USB passthrough with no limitations

There is a lack of robust support for accessing local USB devices in many of the virtualization applications on the market. You may find that you are having difficulty with VirtualBox not recognizing USB connections. As a result, you get the following error: "Failed to attach the USB device to the virtual machine". The solution to eliminating this issue is handy software.

failed to attach USB device to virtual machine

USB Network Gate is a software solution that makes it simple to set up VBox USB passthrough on your guest operating system. It can solve a lot of USB connectivity problems for users of virtual machines.

Try VirtualBox Passthrough app now
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VirtualBox USB Passthrough with USB Network Gate

USB Network Gate employs redirection technology that enables you to access USB devices over a network such as a LAN or the Internet. The software tool also enables you to use USB peripherals in VirtualBox. You will be able to access USB devices that are connected to any network-attached machine when using this communication application.

You can set up VirtualBox access to USB peripherals with just three steps:

  1. Download USB Network Gate and install it on the computer to which the USB device you want to share is attached.

  2. Use USB Network Gate’s interface to share the device.

  3. Now, install the software on the virtual machine which needs access to the device. Launch the program and connect to the shared device to mount USB on VirtualBox.

USB Network Gate offers a true cross-platform solution which can be used in mixed environments including VirtualBox USB Windows 10 support as well as compatibility with Linux and Mac machines.

Try VirtualBox Passthrough app now
14-day free trial

Access a USB device in a VirtualBox Guest

VirtualBox 5.0 provides support for USB 3.0 devices if you install its Extension Pack. After the extension pack is in place, start your Virtual Machine whether running as a guest on a Linux or Windows computer.

  1. After the VM completes its startup procedure, plug the USB device into an open USB port on the physical host.

    For this example, we are using a USB drive. In order to enable VirtualBox USB connectivity, navigate to Devices => USB and select the USB device you want to share.

    The illustration below shows VirtualBox USB flash drive access. Connect USB to Virtualbox

  2. The device should be mounted in the VirtualBox guest OS immediately after it is clicked. The picture below shows the USB drive mounted on VirtualBox Linux (Ubuntu) and a Windows guest OS as a separate drive. USB drive mounted on VirtualBox

  3. This implementation enables data to easily be copied in and out of the VirtualBox USB. Passthrough does not imply truly sharing the device and it can only be accessed on one guest OS at a time.

How to mount USB on VirtualBox with filters

Automatically mounting USB devices in VirtualBox VMs can be accomplished by using filters. Setting up a VirtualBox USB filter is relatively easy. Right-click on the VM and choose the USB tab. Enable the USB controller and select the “+” sign on right side of the window to display the available USB devices. Select the USB device that needs to be automatically accessed from within VirtualBox and click on it. In our example below, we add a filter so the Logitech USB Optical Mouse is set up when using VirtualBox.

Mount USB on VirtualBox

Click “OK” to confirm after the filter has been added. Now the device will not show up on the host operating system when it is connected. Instead, it will automatically be passed to the VirtualBox guest host.

VirtualBox USB speeds

VirtualBox 5.0’s support for USB 3.0 speeds is a marked improvement in the application. Unfortunately, VirtualBox USB is not working at the speed I would like to see. As you can see in the illustration below, write speeds for USB 3.0 maxed out at around 21MB per second with reads performing better at about 40MB per second. USB 2.0 speeds also underperformed which should be considered if you are planning to run a server from within a VirtualBox guest.

VirtualBox USB Transfer Speeds

Any type of USB device can be accessed in the same manner as the VirtualBox Flash Drive sharing example presented here. There might not be much utility in using the procedure for keyboards or a mouse that are easily handled with VirtualBox guest additions. Devices such as printers, drives, scanners or other peripherals can be shared in VirtualBox which enables you to increase the functionality of your guest VM machines.

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