Added on Feb 23rd, 2015 and marked as cli virtualbox

VirtualBox command line tools

Nowadays, with tools like Vagrant and Docker, it is a given you can control your virtual machines from the command line, but I did not realise until recently that it is also possible to do the same with VirtualBox.

VirtualBox has a super useful utility called VBoxManage for this.

List all virtual machines

To get a list of all available virtual machines on your system:

VBoxManage list vms

This will display a compact list with each VM’s name and UUID.

List the running virtual machines

If you need a list of all running virtual machines, simply use:

VBoxManage list runningvms

Start a virtual machine

Start a virtual machine without the graphical user interface (i.e. headless):

VBoxManage startvm <name-of-the-vm> --type headless

Enter the virtual machine

Now you can access the virtual machine with SSH. You can connect just like with any (remote) SSH-server. In stead of the default port 22, you will need to specify the specific port that you added for the VM. For example:

ssh -p 3022 <user>@

If you forgot which portnumber you used, there’s a command that will show you the network rules:

VBoxManage showvminfo <name-of-the-vm> | grep Rule

NIC 1 Rule(0):   name = ssh, protocol = tcp, host ip = , host port = 3022, guest ip = , guest port = 22

When nothing is returned, you will need to add port forwarding. This can be done from the GUI (Network Settings > Port Forwarding), but you guessed it, there’s also a command line version to do this:

VBoxManage modifyvm <name-of-the-vm> --natpf1 "ssh,tcp,,3022,,22"

This wil map port 3022 on the host to port 22 on the guest.