A Beginner's Guide To GNOME Boxes

  GNOME Boxes provides a very easy way to create and run virtual machines on your computer .

GNOME Boxes integrates perfectly with the GNOME desktop and saves you the trouble of installing Oracle's Virtualbox.

You can use GNOME Boxes to install and run Windows, Ubuntu, Mint, openSUSE and many other Linux distributions in separate containers on one computer. If you aren't sure which Linux distribution to try next, use this guide which analyses the top 10 from Distrowatch based on last year's results.

As each container is independent you can be assured that changes you make in one container will not have any effect on other containers or indeed the host system.

The benefit of using GNOME Boxes over Oracle's Virtualbox is that it is easier to set up containers in the first place and there aren't so many fiddly settings.

To use GNOME Boxes you will need to be running a Linux based operating system and ideally, you will be using the GNOME desktop environment.

If GNOME Boxes isn't already installed you will be able to install it using the GNOME package manager.

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How To Start GNOME Boxes Within The GNOME Desktop Environment

Start GNOME Boxes
Start GNOME Boxes.

To start GNOME Boxes using the GNOME desktop environment, press the "super" and "A" key on your computer and click the "Boxes" icon.

Click here for a keyboard cheatsheet for the GNOME desktop environment.

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Getting Started With GNOME Boxes

Getting Started With GNOME Boxes
Getting Started With GNOME Boxes.

GNOME Boxes starts with a black interface and a message appears stating that you have no boxes setup.

To create a virtual machine click on the "New" button in the top left corner.

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Introduction To Creating GNOME Boxes

Introduction To Creating GNOME Boxes
Introduction To Creating GNOME Boxes.

The first screen you will see when creating your first box is a welcome screen.

Click "Continue" in the top right corner.

A screen will appear asking your for the installation medium for the operating system. You can choose an ISO image for a Linux distribution or you can specify a URL. You can insert a Windows DVD and choose to install Windows if you so wish.

Click "Continue" to move onto the next screen.

You will be shown a summary of the system that will be created highlighting the system that will be installed, the amount of memory which will be assigned to that system and how much disk space will be set aside.

It is highly likely the amount of memory set aside and disk space will be inadequate. To adjust these settings click the "Customise" button.

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How To Specify Memory And Disk Space For GNOME Boxes

Adjusting memory and drive space for GNOME Boxes
Adjusting memory and drive space for GNOME Boxes.

GNOME Boxes makes everything as simple as possible.

All you have to do to set aside the amount of memory and disk space you need for your virtual machine is use the slider bars as required.

Remember to leave enough memory and disk space for the host operating system to function properly.

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Starting A Virtual Machine Using GNOME Boxes

Starting GNOME Boxes
Starting GNOME Boxes.

After reviewing your decisions you will be able to see your virtual machine as a small icon in the main GNOME Boxes screen.

Every machine you add will appear on this screen. You can start a virtual machine or switch to a running virtual machine by clicking on the relevant box.

You are now able to set up the operating system within the virtual machine by running the setup procedure for the operating system you are installing. Note that your internet connection is shared with your host computer and it acts like an ethernet connection.

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Adjusting Display Settings Within Boxes

Adjusting Display Settings Within Boxes
Adjusting Display Settings Within Boxes.

You can change various settings whilst the virtual machine is running by either right clicking from the main boxes window and choosing properties or clicking on the spanner icon in the top right corner within a running virtual machine. (The toolbar floats in from the top).

If you click on the display option on the left side you will see options for resizing the guest operating system and for sharing the clipboard.

I have seen comments on forums stating that the virtual machine only takes up part of the screen and never uses the full screen. There is an icon with a double arrow in the top right which toggles between full screen and a scaled window. If the guest operating system still doesn't display in full screen you may need to change the display settings within the guest operating system itself.

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Sharing USB Devices With Virtual Machines Using GNOME Boxes

Sharing USB Devices With GNOME Boxes
Sharing USB Devices With GNOME Boxes.

Within the property settings screen for a GNOME Box there is an option called "Devices".

You can use this screen to specify a CD/DVD device or indeed an ISO to act as a CD or DVD. You can also choose to share new USB devices with the guest operating system as they are added and share USB devices already connected. To do this simply slide the slider into the "ON" position for the devices you wish to share.

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Taking Snapshots With GNOME Boxes

Taking Snapshots Using GNOME Boxes
Taking Snapshots Using GNOME Boxes.

You can take a snapshot of a virtual machine at any point in time by selecting the "Snapshot" option from within the properties window.

Click the plus symbol to take a snapshot.

You can revert to any snapshot in time by selecting the snapshot and choosing "revert to this state". You can also choose to name the snapshot.

This is a perfect way for taking backups of guest operating systems.

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GNOME Boxes And Debian
GNOME Boxes And Debian.

In the next article I will be showing how to install Debian using GNOME boxes.

This will enable me to get to a position where I can show how to install openSUSE over the top of a distribution which uses LVM partitions which was an issue that I came across whilst writing a guide to installing openSUSE.

If you have comments about this article or would like to make a suggestion for future articles either tweet me @dailylinuxuser or email me at everydaylinuxuser@gmail.com.

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