VBoxHeadless - Running Virtual Machines With VirtualBox 4.0 On A Headless Ubuntu 10.10 Server - Page 2

4 Connecting To A VM From A Remote Desktop

4.1 Windows XP

You can use the built-in Remote Desktop Connection utility to connect to the VM:

Type in the hostname or IP address of the host (not the guest!):

And voilà, you should be connected to the VM:


4.2 Linux

On Linux desktops, you can use the rdesktop command to connect to the VM. Open a terminal (on Ubuntu, for example, it's under Applications > Accessories > Terminal)...

... and type in the following command:

rdesktop -a 16

( is the host IP address, not the one of the guest - replace it with your own IP address or hostname; -a 16 means 16 bit colour depth.)

And voilà, you should be connected to the VM:


4.3 If The Remote Desktop Connection Doesn't Work...

If the remote desktop connection doesn't work, you've probably missed the step where I install the VirtualBox extension pack in chapter 2. Please install the extension pack now, stop your virtual machine (see chapter 3.3), and modify your virtual machine to accept remote desktop connections:

VBoxManage modifyvm "Ubuntu 10.10 Server" --vrde on

(If the extension pack is already installed when you create your virtual machine, remote desktop connections are automatically enabled.)

Then start your virtual machine again.


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From: at: 2010-12-31 08:17:48

Good read for newcomers! Thanks falko, I'm sure this article will become handy in future Google searches.

If I may add, can you also post the commands to run the VM's at system startup, I'm using webmin, since cron didnt work for me, maybe you have a better automated command? 

Also, for those who want to get a complete replacement for the closed-source, out-dated, and end-of-life VMware Server, phpvirtualbox will add web interface capabilities to the virtualbox.


From: Anonymous at: 2011-01-07 19:54:07

Unfortunately phpVirtualbox isn't yet compat with 4.0 (Just went looking for such a thing and came across this post after checking out phpVirtualbox's page). So, stuck with my scripts and the CLI now, not too bad.

From: Mark at: 2011-01-10 10:21:05

Ahhh Thank you for this post about the extension pack! I've been trying to get VRDE to work for 2 hours now. Almost gave up until I found this! VB needs to make this point about the extension packs in their docs ASAP. Especially in the VRDE how-to sections!

From: Anonymous at: 2011-01-23 14:27:18

yes, phpvirtualbox is now compatible with v4.

From: at: 2011-01-25 23:04:29

sorry bad tutorial,   using the  closed-source version in a tutorial without warning for the restricted policies is imho opinion a bad practice, 

also rdp can be replaced by a module that implements vnc instead of rdp  witch is free either gpl lgpl or other.... 



From: Anonymous at: 2011-01-27 08:15:26

b4 version 4.0, it was painful to move the Vms in VirtualBox , not anymore

To move a VM use Virtualbox 4.x new export format .ova. If you setup your VM with "Virtio-net" network card you can even move from Windows Host to Linux Host without changing a bit ! (with SATA drivers at least, have not tried IDE, even for XP.)

To start - stop the Vms as a service :    http://www.glump.net/howto/virtualbox_as_a_service   . Very handy. No need for nohup (or a detached Screen windows which is another solution over SSH).


From: Matthew F at: 2011-02-06 08:12:21

Just wanted to thank you for writing this article. I'd have preferred to use KVM if my machine supported hardware virtualizaion, but this VMWare headless setup works very well :-)

From: eljuanlux at: 2011-05-26 23:33:16

Hi there, just say thanks about this fantastic tutorial, i spent like 2 days triying to enable de VBoxVRDP and i could't because of the extra pack and thanks to you, today i did it,

Thanks man,


Best Regards, 


From: Anonymous at: 2011-06-27 11:58:55

Thanks for writing this article.

 It helped me.

From: Alexius Diakogiannis at: 2011-01-05 10:11:27

Hi, great job but there is a problem

 If you wish to use  VBox as a vmware alternative then your main problem is that when you will connect to the host machine through ssh and start the VM's, these will stop working as soon as you close your SSH connection (at least in Ubuntu 9.10 that I did my last test). That is because the proccess that is initiated is binded to my SSH sessio. Is there a work around on that to make it a true vmware alternative?

From: at: 2011-01-10 06:16:25

Actually you can get around that issue by using nohup together with & on VBoxHeadless


 nohup VBoxHeadless --startvm "vmname" --vrdp=config &

 Even when your ssh session has ended the VBoxHeadless process will carry on. If you want to start the VM when it boots you can include the above code in a .sh file and change the permissions as 775. Then using crontab -e and enter the following

@reboot /home/janantha/vboxkickstart.sh


From: K_light at: 2011-04-09 23:41:20

I tried your method ubuntugeek2010 but mine won't run at boot :(

From: at: 2011-01-26 22:42:11


Had exactly the same error come up myself just now.

It seems that if VirtualBox is running more than one VM it must be given a specified port.

If nothing is set, by default the port of the first VM host fired up will be TCP port 3389.

e.g. to set a VM to use port 3390

VBoxManage modifyvm "VM name" --vrdeport 3390

Then fire up the VM as normal:

 VBoxHeadless --startvm "VM name" &
Oracle VM VirtualBox Headless Interface 4.0.2
(C) 2008-2011 Oracle Corporation
All rights reserved.

VRDE server is listening on port 3390.

Other VM's will need a different port.

HTH, as there were hardly any results when googling that error.

From: Anonymous at: 2013-06-23 15:01:54

Thanks for the solution, it worked. I only have one add to the explanation, the cause of this problem is probably not because you may be running more than one VM, but, in windows, it mainly occurs because the OS has its own rdm server running on port 3389.

From: Anonymous at: 2011-01-10 17:50:28

VM in Headless servers would be useful when we can start and shutdown the VM as part of the OS. The need to log-in into the host (even SSH) make this more like an application rather than a service. (I have seen some hacks to start the VM along with the system but that was not straight forward. Shutting down VM along with the host might be even more complex.). Hopefully in a future version VBox will start and shutdown along with (some of) the Virtual machines automatically (like apache).

From: Anonymous at: 2011-01-14 18:31:47

It's a simple bash script away! Take any of the scripts in /etc/init.d and modify it to launch and stop vbox. Mine suspends the VM at host shutdown, but I added an option to gracefully shutdown the guest.

From: schtebo at: 2011-01-10 20:39:23

for rdp you have to install extension pack in virtualbox 4.0. 

VBoxManage extpack install Oracle_VM_VirtualBox_Extension_Pack-4.0.0-69151.vbox-extpack

From: Jarod Liu at: 2011-01-19 02:57:13

sudo VBoxManage extpack install Oracle_VM_VirtualBox_Extension_Pack-4.0.2-69518.vbox-extpack
VBoxManage modifyvm "WinXP" --vrde on
VBoxHeadless --startvm "WinXP"
Oracle VM VirtualBox Headless Interface 4.0.2
(C) 2008-2011 Oracle Corporation
All rights reserved.
VRDE server failed to start.
VRDE server is inactive.
I've no idea what's wrong. please give me some hint to hunt the problem.