My host OS is Ubuntu 14.04 and guest OS in VirtualBox is Windows 8.1. I can switch from host to guest by Alt+Tab, but can't from guest to host by the same method which only switches between windows in guest OS. How can I switch from guest to host? Thanks!

Btw, I still would like a way to switch between windows in guest OS.

  • You could try disabling Alt Tab in the guest OS as suggested here, but this may not stop the guest OS from intercepting the shortcut.
    – Wilf
    Apr 23, 2015 at 15:18
  • But I still would like a way switch between windows in guest OS.
    – Tim
    Apr 23, 2015 at 15:20
  • 3
    Does it have to be the same shortcut? You can press the host key (typically the right Ctrl key) - which tells VBox to release input to the host, and press alt-tab.
    – muru
    Apr 23, 2015 at 15:25
  • @TIm windows i think also has the super + tab key as well, which only some linux DE's implement
    – Wilf
    Apr 23, 2015 at 16:02

4 Answers 4


This is caused by the fact that Virtualbox "captures" keystrokes for the guest OS. You can disable this momentarily by pressing the "Host" key, which normally is the right Ctrl button.

Try pressing the right Ctrl button and then Alt+Tab-ing, you should go back to the host OS.

  • 1
    In ubuntu 16.04, I doublle click the host key, and then Alt + Tab can go back to host OS.
    – ax003d
    May 11, 2016 at 11:09
  • That works as well May 13, 2016 at 1:12
  • In ubuntu 18.04 guest, I click "host" key (which for me is CTRL key) once and let go, and right after that hit ALT-TAB the usual way. Similarly for the "windows" key: if I'm in a guest and want the host's Windows key, press Ctrl and release, then press "windows" key. Oddly, this causes both the guest and host to respond to it (at least with my windows 10 host), not the case with ALT-TAB but that's pretty handy anyways as on windows 10 you get the Start menu and taskbar without having to interact with VirtualBox.
    – Oliver
    Jul 22, 2020 at 21:02
  • I can confirm that pressing host key (right ctrl in my case) in Ubuntu 20.04 VirtualBox and then pressing Alt+Tab switches back to Windows 10 Host OS. Dec 5, 2020 at 21:51

How to switch to host:

  1. Press and release the right Ctrl key;
  2. Press and hold Alt key;
  3. Press Tab key at least twice;
  4. Release Alt key.
  • are you playing StarCraft? :-)
    – HongboZhu
    Jul 3, 2019 at 14:05

For me (Windows 10 host, Ubuntu guest) actually works the following: pres&release right Ctrl, then Alt+Tab


The switching function you are looking for is achievable in VMWare Player, via unity mode. At the moment VirtualBox doesn't offer this option.

Anyway, VMWare Player 12 is now available to be used under Ubuntu 15.10. It works.

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