Fix Android Screen Resolution in VirtualBox

You can change the window size with a few commands

Android Screen Resolution VirtualBox screenshot

After learning how to install Android within VirtualBox, the one thing you may notice if you followed that guide is the window that runs Android is quite small. This guide shows you how to increase the screen resolution. It isn't as easy as flicking a switch, but by following these instructions you can change it to something that works for you.

There are basically two main parts to amending the screen resolution. The first is to change the VirtualBox settings for your Android installation and the second is to tweak the boot menu option within GRUB to reset the screen resolution. We show you how.

The instructions in this guide apply to Windows 10, 8.1, and 7, and Linux.

How to Fix the Virtualbox Screen Resolution for Android

Follow these steps to add a custom screen resolution in Virtualbox for Android:

  1. Open up a command prompt. How you do this depends on what operating system you're using:

    • If you're using Windows 10, type "command" into the search bar and select the Command Prompt app.
    • If you're using Windows 8.1, right-click the Start button and select Command Prompt.
    • If you're using Windows 7, press the Start button and type "cmd.exe" into the Run box.
    • Within Linux, open up a terminal window. If you're using Ubuntu, press the super key and type "term" into the dash, then select the terminal icon. Within Mint, open up the menu and select the terminal icon within the menu. (You can also press Ctrl+Alt+T at the same time).
  2. If you're using Windows, run the following command:

    cd "c:\program files\oracle\virtualbox"

    This assumes you used the default options whilst installing VirtualBox.

    In Linux, you don't have to navigate to the folder for VirtualBox since it's part of the path environment variable.

  3. If you're using Windows, run the following command:

    VBoxManage.exe setextradata "WHATEVERYOUCALLEDANDROID" "CustomVideoMode1" "desiredresolution"

    If you're using Linux, the command is very similar except you don't need the .exe:

    VBoxManage setextradata "WHATEVERYOUCALLEDANDROID" "CustomVideoMode1" "desiredresolution"

    Replace WHATEVERYOUCALLEDANDROID with the name of the virtual machine you created for Android and replace the desired resolution with an actual resolution such as 1024x768x16 or 1368x768x16.

  4. Open VirtualBox and start your Android virtual machine. 

  5. Select the Devices menu, then choose CD/DVD devices. If the Android ISO appears, place a tick next to it. If the Android ISO doesn't appear, select Choose a virtual CD/DVD disk file and navigate to the Android ISO you downloaded previously.

  6. Now select Machine and Reset from the menu.

  7. Choose the Live CD - Debug Mode option.

  8. A load of text zooms up the screen. Press return until you're at a prompt that looks like this:

    /Android #

    Type the following lines into the terminal window:

    mkdir /boot
    mount /dev/sda1 /boot
    vi /boot/grub/menu.lst

  9. The vi editor takes a bit of getting used to if you haven't used it before, so here's how to edit the file and what to enter.

    The first thing to note is there appears to be four blocks of code all starting with the following text:

    title Android-x86 4.4-r3

    The only one you're interested in is the first block. Using the arrow keys on our keyboard, move the cursor down to the line just below the first "title Android-x86 4.4-r3".

  10. Now, use the right arrow and place the cursor just after the bit in bold below:

    kernel /android-4.4-r3/kernel quiet root=/dev/ram0 androidboot.hardware=android_x86 src=/android-4.4-r3
  11. Press the letter I on the keyboard and enter the following text:

  12. Replace yourdesiredresolution with the resolution you wish to use, for example, UVESA_MODE=1024x768.

    The line should now look as follows:

    kernel /android-4.4-r3/kernel quiet root=/dev/ram0 androidboot.hardware=android_x86 UVESA_MODE=1024x768 src=/android-4.4-r3

  13. Press Escape to exit insert mode, then press : (colon) on your keyboard and type wq (write and quit).

  14. Before resetting your virtual machine, remove the ISO from the virtual DVD drive again. To do this select, the Devices menu, and CD/DVD Devices. Untick the Android ISO option.

  15. Finally, all you have to do is reset the virtual machine by selecting Machine and Reset from the menu.

When you start Android the next time it automatically resizes to the new resolution as soon as you pick the menu option within GRUB. If the resolution isn't to your liking, follow the instructions above again and choose a different resolution where required.

Now that you have tried Android within VirtualBox, why not try Ubuntu within VirtualBox? VirtualBox isn't the only virtualization software. If you're using the GNOME desktop you can use Boxes to run virtual machines.