How to Install VirtualBox Extension Pack

VirtualBox Is Already Great, but Installing This Makes It Even Better

VirtualBox is a great tool to try out alternate operating systems. It allows you to run an entire operating system as an app called a virtual machine, which is useful to access software for that other system in a pinch. VirtualBox does a good job on its own, but installing the VirtualBox Extension Pack makes the experience a lot better.

What Is the VirtualBox Extension Pack? 

As the name suggests, the Extension Pack an add-on that you install first on your machine's main OS (called the host, where OS you'll be running is the guest ). It includes a number of drivers and other software that help better integrate the two systems, such as: 

  • If you have USB 2 or 3 devices plugged into the host machine that you want the guest to be able to access, you'll need the Extension Pack.
  • If you're concerned about the security of your guest OS, you can encrypt it if you have the Extension Pack installed.
  • It's common to want to access your guest OS from another machine, for example if you're running it on a network server. The Extension Pack adds the ability to remote into the guest OS via RDP.
  • Suppose you have a webcam that only has drivers available for Windows, but you want to use it with a piece of macOS software. In this case you'll need the Extension Pack to pass the webcam's video through to the guest.

The Extension Pack refers to some extra tools installed on the host machine. There are also some similar items to be installed on OS running on VirtualBox, referred to as the Guest Additions. However, that these are two different things, and they're neither required by one another nor mutually exclusive.

Installing the Extension Pack on the Host OS 

The first step is installing the Extension Pack corresponding to the version of VirtualBox you're running. There are a couple of ways to kick off this process, but the actual installation is the same for all of them. 

  1. First, visit the VirtualBox website and download the Extension Pack.

    The Extension Pack is available for download from the VirtualBox website.
  2. The most straightforward way to launch the installation is using the normal method for your host OS, such as double-clicking the file in Windows. It should open with VirtualBox automatically.

  3. Alternately, open the File menu, then select Preferences.

    The File > Preferences Menu Option.
  4. Within the Preferences dialog, select Extensions.

  5. Then, click the button on the right captioned Adds a new package. A file picker dialog will open, where you can select your downloaded Extension Pack.

    Adding a new Extension packge in VirtualBox Preferences.
  6. First, a dialog will show explaining that the Extension Pack contains some system-level software. Click Install to continue.

    The Extension Pack Installer confirmation dialog.
  7. A Windows dialog will ask if it's OK for this application to make changes to your machine (it is). Then the installer will display a small progress bar while it sets up the Extension Pack.

    The Extension Pack Installer's progress bar.
  8. Next, review the License agreement, and click I Agree when you've reached the bottom.

Now that the Extension Pack is installed on the host OS, you can restart VirtualBox to have access to any of the features listed earlier in this article.