How Setup VMs using Gnome-Boxes

Gnome Boxes is a simple virtualisation software whose purpose is to provide an easy graphical user interface(GUI) to manage virtual machines on Linux. Using Boxes, we can access and use both local and remote virtual systems.  It is an alternative to tools like VMware, VirtualBox and Virt-manager.  However, it is targeted for basic users rather than system administrators who use advanced features.  As Gnome boxes is part of the GNOME environment, it is available on almost all Linux distributions.  Underneath, Boxes makes use of QEMU which in turn needs hardware virtualisation extensions (Intel VT-x or AMD-v). You can enable hardware virtualisation extension on your system by going to the BIOS settings. If your system does not support this, then you will not be able to use Boxes.  In this article, let us learn how to set up virtual machines using Gnome Boxes.

Installing Gnome-Boxes

If you are a Ubuntu user, execute

sudo apt-get install gnome-boxes
poornima@poornima-Lenovo:~$ sudo apt-get install gnome-boxes
[sudo] password for poornima:
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
The following extra packages will be installed:
augeas-lenses cpu-checker dmsetup ebtables gawk ipxe-qemu libaugeas0


16 upgraded, 47 newly installed, 0 to remove and 1247 not upgraded.
Need to get 15.0 MB/15.4 MB of archives.
After this operation, 60.8 MB of additional disk space will be used.
Do you want to continue? [Y/n] y

RedHat users can go with dnf:

sudo dnf gnome-boxes

Once installed, you can start the boxes by executing the command


Setting up virtual machine

When you start gnome-boxes for the first time, there are no boxes yet and you can proceed to create one by clicking on the 'New' button.

Freshly started gnome-box

Creating a box

Setting up a virtual machine using Gnome-boxes is pretty simple. We need to first have the required .iso file downloaded or have a link to the URL where it is available.

Selecting the source file

In the screenshot above, I have chosen the URL option, hence it is asking for entering the URL. Or else, you can browse for the location of .iso file and proceed from there. Gnome-box will now make preparations to create a new box by downloading the media (Fedora 22 Live Workstation in this case).

It will assign a default value of 1GB to memory and 21.5 GB of hard disk space to the virtual machine to be created. This can be customised if required.

VM configuration review


Once the Fedora screen shows up, select 'Install to Hard Drive' option and you will be taken through the usual installation screens of Fedora to select the language, date & time, location etc. Once selected, a summary of the installation to be done is displayed and you can proceed by pressing the 'Begin Installation' button.

Summary of installation to be done

It takes a while for the installation to complete and when done,  voila!!!  you can reboot the VM and start using it.

Screen showing that installation is complete

Below is the screen shot of Fedora 22 VM booted after installation and ready to be used.

Fedora is now up and running

Now, if you want to go back to the gnome-boxes main screen, click on the '<' button on the left side of the top bar.  It takes you to the screen which lists all the VMs that are installed.  You can launch any VM from here.

Gnome-boxes main screen showing the list of VMs

In order to edit the properties of a particular VM, select the required VM and click on the 'Properties' button that gets displayed.

VM properties

Do not expect too many features of the VM to be able to control from here as Boxes is meant for basic users. The "System" tab allows you to control the memory and disk space. But you cannot control resources like CPU.  "Devices"  tab helps in accessing the devices connected to the host OS. You can create snapshots of the VMs using the "Snapshots" tab.


Latest version of Gnome Boxes available is 3.16.2  and there are improvements to the software with every update.  Boxes is not a replacement for VMWare or Virtual box which are more mature.  You can give it a try only if you are looking for a safe and easy way to try out a new operating system.

B N Poornima 3:00 am


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