I have Ubuntu 10.10 and using VirtualBox 3.2. As a Guest OS I have another Ubuntu in the VirtualBox.

I am starting Guest Ubuntu automatically using following command once my Host Ubuntu boots:

VBoxHeadless -startvm Ubuntu --vrdp on

Then I can access to it with ssh or tsclient.

Now I need to shutdown automatically Guest Ubuntu once I shutdown my Host Ubuntu. Does anybody know any safe method to automatically shutdown Guest Ubuntu with a command line? I have found out two ways one can shutdown Guest OS but I am not sure whether they are safe or not. Here are they:

VBoxManage controlvm Ubuntu acpipowerbutton


VBoxManage controlvm Ubuntu poweroff

6 Answers 6


If you open up Gnome Power management preferences, you can set what actions to take when the power button. If you set it to shut down, it will shut down gracefully when you press the virtual power button with the VBoxManage controlvm Ubuntu acpipowerbutton command.

  • 4
    As covered by this answer on Superuser, there is a slightly alternative approach: VBoxManage controlvm <vm> savestate. The command will save the VM state and then stop it (as opposed to a shutdown). Since this is the most upvoted answer on this very popular question, I would suggest adding this to this answer.
    – Etheryte
    Sep 30, 2020 at 20:34

Don't do this:

VBoxManage controlvm Ubuntu poweroff

It is equivalent to pulling the power plug on a real computer. You don't want to do this!

Use the ACPI shutdown method (check the power management setting like Egil suggests) or maybe give the save state method (savestate) a try.

  • 1
    should probably put the don't do this! part before the command. I read the first two lines and ran the command!
    – nsane
    Feb 23, 2017 at 5:52
  • 1
    @nisargshah95 May I refer you to the example given by this thread. Always read the all the instructions first and always make an effort to understand any command before running it. Especially true in Linux. Apr 13, 2017 at 7:15
  • 2
    I understand, but in the most common case, after reading the command, a person would infer that it is the solution (without reading any further)
    – nsane
    Apr 13, 2017 at 7:43
  • I agree @nsane – I've suggested an edit so that this doesn't happen to others. Mar 2, 2018 at 17:57

If you are shutting down the vm when the server does, yo have to wait for the vm(s)

(In this shellscript 'root' is the invoker, and 'theuser' is the owner of 'thevm')

I know the vms have finished when the output of the command VBoxManage list runningvms returns an empty string.

I use this in my shell script

    su -c "VBoxManage controlvm thevm acpipowerbutton" -s /bin/bash theuser
    while [ "`su -c 'VBoxManage list runningvms' -s /bin/bash theuser`" != "" ]
        echo waiting for VMs to shutdown
        sleep 3

You should poweroff your virtual Ubuntu just like you do poweroff your real hardware. From a commanline on a ssh session remotely issue:

sudo poweroff

If you want to save the machine state (similar to suspend/hibernate) use the second point in @htorque's answer.


One problem with shutting down a vm with the savestate option is if you have to move that vm to another computer. You may run into a problem if the new computer uses a different processor and perhaps other differences in hardware. When a vm restarts from a saved state, it needs its environment back, which won't happen if the processor is different. A vm that has been properly shut-down, looks at the current hardware when it is restarted and normally will bring in some or all of the new drivers it needs.


I usually shutdown the VM (Linux) by $ sudo shutdown -h now I guess it is the most gracefull way of terminating the VM because it is shutdown (not poweroff) and provides grace time and (possiblly) the message to the login users.

  • 3
    The question relates to shutting down the guest OS from the host. This would not have the... er... intended effect, if you ran it from the host machine.
    – Dave
    Jul 21, 2017 at 12:01

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