An Introduction to GNOME Boxes (virtualization) on Linux

GNOME Boxes is a system virtualization application that is a core part of the GNOME desktop environment. Based on the QEMU machine emulator, it offers a simplified and user-friendly approach to the whole OS virtualization idea. This post is just an introduction to its capabilities and a statement that it finally works in other distributions besides Fedora.

Once you launch Boxes, you are greeted with a message to press the “New” button to add a new system. Doing so will let the application quickly search in your home folder to find any supported image files. You may either select from the list, navigate your disk, or even insert a URL address.

Launch GNOME Boxes

Next, we can customize the disk size that we will allocate to the new virtual machine as well as the size of the RAM that will be dedicated to it while it is active. This can be changed at any time the particular box isn’t active, but on the bad side, we can’t choose a destination/disk location yet.

Customize Disk Size

When these options are set, press the “Create” button on the top right and let the machine do its thing. At this time, you can click on the options button on the top right again and force a shutdown or pause the box.

Create Virtual Machine

Selecting the “Properties” option will let us look into the basic operational details of the active box. For example, we can see the CPU usage, the network traffic, and the available USB devices.

Set VM properties

Properties page in GNOME Boxes

We can also create a snapshot at any time and recall it to bring the machine back to the saved state at any time in the future.

Create a snapshot in GNOME Boxes

Finally, we can go back to the overview menu and see the boxes as thumbnails. By right-clicking on a box, we get a set of options like shutting down the machine or pausing it, and even making the selected box a “favorite”.

Favorite management

That basically sums up the GNOME Boxes abilities. It is a simple virtualization app that is aimed at those who just want to quickly take a look at a system without fiddling with too many options and choices. It is not a highly sophisticated solution like Oracle’s Vbox, or VMWare, but I believe it has a place in our systems thanks to its simplicity and user friendliness. The upcoming version 3.22 will be in the same context, bringing subtle performance improvements, better concurrent notifications handling, and stricter validation of SPICE URLs. Give Boxes a try, and see how you like it.

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