A Beginner's Guide to GNOME Boxes

Run Windows or Linux guest operating systems from your Linux desktop

Starting GNOME Boxes screenshot

GNOME Boxes provides an 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. 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 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 settings.

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

How to Start GNOME Boxes Within the GNOME Desktop Environment

Start GNOME Boxes screenshot

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

Getting Started With GNOME Boxes

Getting Started With GNOME Boxes screenshot

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

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

Creating GNOME Boxes

Introduction To Creating GNOME Boxes screenshot

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

Click Continue in the top right corner.

A screen will appear asking you 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, too.

Click Continue to move to the next screen.

You'll see 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 likely the amount of memory set aside and disk space will be inadequate. To adjust these settings click the Customize button.

Specify Memory and Disk Space for GNOME Boxes

Adjusting memory and drive space for GNOME Boxes screenshot

To set aside the amount of memory and disk space you need for your virtual machine, use the slider bars as required.

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

Starting a Virtual Machine Using GNOME Boxes

Starting GNOME Boxes screenshot

After reviewing your decisions, you will 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 as an ethernet connection.

Adjusting Display Settings Within Boxes

Adjusting Display Settings Within Boxes screenshot

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

Click the display option on the left side to see options for resizing the guest operating system and for sharing the clipboard.

The icon with a double arrow in the top right 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.

Sharing USB Devices With Virtual Machines Using GNOME Boxes

Sharing USB Devices With GNOME Boxes screenshot

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

Use this screen to specify a CD/DVD device or 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.

Taking Snapshots With GNOME Boxes

Taking Snapshots Using GNOME Boxes screenshot

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

Click the plus symbol to take a snapshot.

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

This approach is a perfect way to take backups of guest operating systems.