I would like to start virtual machines in headless mode. The advantage: I can logoff from the desktop, and the machine will continue to run. However, starting the virtual machine blocks the Terminal from closing. Is there a clever solution to have everything like a service in the background? If I do 'sudo service ntp start' it will start, and then I can close the Terminal. I could do the following, but I'm not happy with it:

  • nohup VBoxHeadless -s "MyGuest" &
  • log in from a login shell (tty1-6) which is equipped with Byobu, start the VM, and instead of logging out I could detach with F6.

Better way of doing it?


Just found a solution here: Starting the the virtual machine with VBoxManage instead of VBoxHeadless solves my problem:

VBoxManage startvm <uuid|vmname> --type headless

For example, if your VM's name was Ubuntu and it had a UUID of 865b2700-471a-11e4-916c-0800200c9a66, you can run:

VBoxManage startvm Ubuntu --type headless


VBoxManage startvm 865b2700-471a-11e4-916c-0800200c9a66 --type headless

Note: If the name of your VM contains spaces, wrap the name in quotes (e.g. "My Ubuntu").

The machine goes nicely into the background. Now I can control the virtual machine with VBoxManage controlvm poweroff/pause/reset (section 3.3).

  • 1
    Nice trick. You can always use VBoxManage controlvm even if you started a machine VBoXHeadless. – Javier Rivera Nov 26 '12 at 7:53
  • Great find! Here's the command for those who don't know VBoxManage startvm Crunchbang --type headless – blockloop Nov 18 '13 at 17:56

Had the same problem but NOHUP was not working. The problem was caused by X forward on my SSH connection: https://forums.virtualbox.org/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=76342

Disabled X forward and then & and nohup where working fine

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