Using PowerISO to overcome major missing feature in VirtualBox

! Warning: this post hasn't been updated in over three years and so may contain out of date information.

Sun VirtualboxOne of the great things about modern computers is that they have multiple cores and gigabytes of memory. This means that it is practical to run multiple operating systems on one machine using virtual machines (VMs). There are a raft of VM products available for desktop PCs. The best by far in my view is VMware Workstation. It however has one big problem: it costs $189, whereas there are many good-enough products that are free. So my VM product of choice – after trying many of them – is Sun’s xVM VirtualBox.

Whilst it serves its purpose the vast majority of the time, I recently came across a fundamental problem with it: it doesn’t support shared folders, or copying files, when the “guest” (VM) is Solaris. It is possible to copy files from a Solaris box to a Windows or Linux guest; from a Windows box to a Linux guest etc, but Solaris guests cannot do this. A search for solutions yielded various complicated ways of mounting/ unmounting USB drives or setting up Samba and the like to share files over the network. There seemed to be no simple way around the problem though.  I have hit upon what I feel is a fairly simple work-around myself, so I’m sharing it with others here.

The solution I used for getting files from Windows onto the Solaris guest may surprise people: I used ISO images. However it doesn’t involve burning real CDs/ DVDs; just creating .iso files. To do this, I used a program called PowerISO. The free version will create images up to 300Mb, so it’s likely to be usable in many situations. There are other programs capable of creating ISO’s too if you prefer to use them, but I like PowerISO (I bought the full product), so I’m describing that here.

The steps to transferring files from Windows to Solaris are:

  1. Open PowerISO and a Windows Explorer window.
  2. Navigate to the required files in Explorer and drag them to PowerISO
  3. Go to File menu -> Image Properties in PowerISO and turn off “Enable file optimization” (this’ll save lots of time in the next step)
  4. Save to an ISO file. I found 200Mb took around 10 seconds to save on a 5400 RPM laptop disk.
  5. Now switch to Solaris guest and select Devices menu -> Mount CD/ DVD-ROM
  6. Add your ISO image to the list and mount it.
  7. A File Browser window will open up in Solaris. Copy the files from there to where you want them on the Solaris file system

And that’s it: job done. To then transfer more files:

  1. Eject the “CD” on Solaris
  2. Select Devices -> Unmount CD/ DVD-ROM from the menu
  3. Now delete the files from PowerISO, drag some new ones across and save again. Say yes when prompted whether to overwrite them.
  4. Repeat steps 5 and 7 above

UPDATE

No sooner did I write this post than the Sun VirtualBox team let me know via twitter that a new version of VirtualBox is due in a few weeks, that will fix this problem. This is great news, even though it renders my work-around unnecessary almost as soon as I find it 🙂

One thought on “Using PowerISO to overcome major missing feature in VirtualBox

  1. Using PowerISo virtual iso mounter to install virtual system in vBox is not working due vbox doesn’t recognize bootable media inside it reporting error ! I have checked iso file no errors !!! Not so shiny virtual tech brings more problems as it solve ! I’m very disappointed by vBox developers ! Who needs more problems ??? Every damn existent are one to many !!! Do we rely need to burn media to install os in vbox ??? At my opinion they rely do sloppy work !!!

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