Since Microsoft released the Windows 8 developer Preview, Oracle has been running to keep up with the technical changes which have effectively broken a chain of VirtualBox releases. Consequently Windows 8 has failed to run, or failed in part – notably graphics adapters and decent screen resolutions – hobbling attempts to use Windows 8 fully.
The good news is that Oracle recently released the first beta version of their desktop desktop virtualization software, VirtualBox 4.2.
This has much improved support for Windows 8 as a guest OS.
I have Windows 8 RTM version running in VirtualBox 4.2 and (fanfare) everything seems to work! The VirtualBox 4.2 Guest Additions install correctly first time, the improved graphics driver works well inside Windows 8, to give you multiple screen resolutions, auto resize, full screen and seamless mode.
VirtualBox automatically detects and changes the settings while typing ‘Windows 8’ into the name field of the virtual machine, therefore you do not need to modify most of the settings before power on.
However you may find a glitch with Guest Additions and the default display settings for the virtual machine, depending on your physical and virtual hardware. The default display settings for Windows 8 may have it crashing! I got the usual part-drawn, blocky display, my Windows 8 virtual machine even started to crash and close while exiting from full screen mode.
Checking the VirtualBox forums, it seems the world-weary Oracle staff are still having issues with changing display behaviours in Windows 8 even at this late stage.
Full screen mode is not working properly with enabled 3D acceleration which appears to be a problem with the legacy built-in VGA display card on my host machine. 3D acceleration inside the virtual machine requires a good display card with dedicated display memory and a standards-compliant interface to the physical hardware.
If you un-check ‘Enable 3D Acceleration’ from the virtual machine’s display settings, that seems to work with the Windows 8 VM with Guest Additions; it runs smoothly by adjusting the screen sizes, minimize and maximize and full screen mode with a proper exit.
You can get the VirtualBox 2.0 Beta from the Oracle downloads page. This includes the Guest Additions ISO image for 2.0. Select the appropriate package or executable for your platform. You will also need the 2.0 Beta Extension pack (one file, all platforms) providing support for USB 2.0 controllers and some other devide support. Just get it and install it (without any VM’s running) through the VirtualBox Host application – select File > Preferences > Extensions and point it at the extensions file to install.
Installing VirtualBox 4.2 guest additions tools is very easy from the Devices menu in the virtual machine guest dock. Restart the virtual machine after Guest Additions is installed. It runs fairly fast and at most takes few seconds for VirtualBox Guest Additions to adjust screen size after each start or change or graphics mode of your of virtual machine.
In my screen shot, you can see my running Windows 8 RTM in Oracle VirtualBox 4.2 in full screen mode. Note that I am only running office applications, mail and web browsers, NOT games. You can try games, but with the state of Microsoft’s native graphics drivers and Oracle’s Guest Additions, all bets are off. AJS