2. Installing Linux Mint on VirtualBox on OSX

This is part 2 of a series on installing Linux Mint on VirtualBox. Make sure to read lesson 1 first. In that post, I describe how to download and install VirtualBox. After you’re done with this, you may want to check out lesson 3 also. Thanks!

This tutorial walks you through the steps to install Linux Mint on VirtualBox. This tutorial shows VirtualBox running on a Mac, but the steps should be very similar on a Windows-based PC.

Download the Linux Mint 32-bit ISO

  1. Visit http://www.linuxmint.com.
  2. Click on the Download link.
  3. Choose the Cinnamon 32-bit version.
  4. This will take you to a list of download mirrors. Scroll down and locate a mirror that is close to you.

Download the Linux Mint 32-bit ISO (Part 2)

  1. Click on the name of the mirror to start the download.
  2. This will download the Linux Mint installer. It’s a very large file, approximately 1.24 GB in size.
  3. On my system, the file was saved as “linuxmint-17-cinnamon-dvd-32bit.iso.”
  4. This is the file that will be used to install Linux Mint into VirtualBox.

Start VirtualBox and prepare to install Linux Mint


Start up VirtualBox
Click “New” in the upper left-hand corner of the VirtualBox Manager window.
You’ll be asked to choose a Name, Type, and Version.

  1. For Name, put something like “Linux Mint 17” or similar.
  2. For Type, fill in “Linux” if it doesn’t choose it automatically; most likely, it will.
  3. Under version, change from the default to “Ubuntu (32 bit)“.
  4. Now click Continue.

Give the machine a little more RAM


By default, VB proposes to give the machine 512MB of RAM. If your host machine has 4GB of RAM or more, you should consider increasing this to 1GB (choose 1024KB in the dialog).
Click Continue

Create a virtual hard drive for the new machine


Click on “Create.” Accept the proposed hard drive type. The other options are really for special cases and can be safely ignored right now. Click “Continue.”
Now you are asked whether you want a “dynamically allocated” hard drive or a “fixed drive”. I usually use the default. However, you may choose to optimize for speed, in which case you might want “Fixed size”. It’s up to you. You are now taken to a “File location and size” menu. I would recommend accepting the default location, but unless your computer has a very small hard drive, I would recommend setting this number to 20GB or even larger.

Click on “Create” again.

Almost there! Now you will need to connect the Mint iso to the new machine


We are almost done! After creating the hard drive, you are dropped back to the VirtualBox Manager.
Your new virtual machine should be highlighted. When you click “Start” to start it, it tries to suggest a location where you might have saved the ISO file for Linux Mint.
It’s almost certainly wrong. You will need to click on the folder icon with the green up arrow to go locate the Linux Mint ISO file.

Connecting the Mint ISO to the new machine


This shows what the screen will look like after you’ve connected the Linux Mint ISO to the virtual machine.
Click Start to start the installation.
Your virtual machine will boot up and the installation should start.
Don’t worry if you see some strange stuff or even display corruption as it initializes.

The virtual machine is now booted and ready to install


You should see a screen that looks something like this.
There will probably also be a black box warning about “software rendering mode.”
That can be ignored.
Time to start the installation process.

Linux Mint Installation: starting the process


Double-click on the CD icon that says “Install Linux Mint”.
You’ll click “Continue” a few times until you get to a screen like this.
Generally, you want the first option (erase and install), not the second one (“Something else”).
NOTE: Remember you are not erasing a “real” disk, just the virtual disk that you created for this installation. There is no way to damage the host machine’s data while performing this installation.
Click on “Install Now.” Choose your time zone and keyboard layout.
Then choose a user name, computer name, and password; click “Continue” and off it goes.
It will give you a quick overview of what is about to be installed while it goes about its business.

Linux Mint: Installation Complete


On my reasonably old Macbook Air, installation took approximately 7 minutes from start to finish.
Click on “Restart Now” to restart the virtual machine with its new shiny Linux Mint self.
The graphical user interface will close and you will see a message asking you to hit “ENTER” to reboot. Go ahead and do that.
Wait for a few minutes and you should be prompted to log in.
There is an oddity in the login screen. You will see your user name above the login box.
Click on it.
Now you can enter your password and the login process should complete.

Reboot to Welcome Screen; Pesky software rendering issue


Once logged in, you should see a screen that looks a lot like the above screen shot.

There is a pesky issue with graphics rendering. That’s why you see the “Running in software rendering mode”. We will fix that in just a minute. For now, you can click on the black box to dismiss the warning. You are now inside your very own virtual Linux machine. You’re just like Amazon, except on a smaller scale. Congratulations!

Feel free to poke around and click on things. Once you’re done, you need to shut down the virtual machine in preparation for changing settings on the machine.

Shutting down the virtual machine in order to customize settings


One of the important things to learn about any new OS environment is how to gracefully shut it off. This is especially true with VirtualBox, as you will need to completely shut down the virtual machine in order to make any changes to settings.

  1. Click on the Menu in the lower left-hand corner.
  2. Click on the bottom icon (it looks like a power button). As you pause over the icons, a tool tip displays in the lower right-hand side of the menu.
  3. You will be given various options – choose “Shut down” and the virtual machine will be gracefully powered down.

Fixing the software rendering issue (step 1)


Verify that the machine is powered off. In the VirtualBox Manager, you should see “Powered Off” under the name for the machine in the list of virtual machines.

Fixing the software rendering issue (step 2)


Above the list of virtual machines, you should see a gear icon entitled “Settings”.
Click on “Settings”.

  1. Click on Display
  2. Click the check box to “Enable 3D Acceleration”
  3. Click “OK”

That’s it. Now when you restart your virtual machine, there should be no more warning about software rendering and the machine itself should feel snappier and more responsive – unless you still see the warning. 😦 It seems to reappear occasionally. There is another fix for it; send me an email (ben.chapman@emory.edu) if you still see the warning every time you boot.

OK – now you have a shiny new virtual machine. Once you have this set up, you can do almost anything you could do with a real machine. However, in the next lessons we will touch on a couple of convenience features that will help you get more from your new virtual machine.

Alternative: Suspending the machine once you’re done exploring


NOTE: You cannot make settings changes to a suspended machine, but I did want to throw this in, as this is the primary way to manage machines once you have the proper settings.

One of the neat things about virtual machines is that you can just put them into “sleep” or hibernation mode. This requires some disk space, as it will make a complete copy of the virtual machine’s RAM before shutting down, but generally disk space is plentiful, and this will enable you to resume the machine whenever you want.

Here are the steps:

  1. Click the red Window Close icon in the upper left-hand corner of the virtual machine window. This will bring up a window that asks you what you want to do. Choose “Save the machine state” if it is not already chosen.
  2. Click on OK. It will take a few moments to save the execution state of the running machine. Once saved, the window for the machine will disappear and you can close the VirtualBox application.
  3. If you choose “send the shutdown signal”, it will try to gracefully shut the machine down. You will need to do this if you are changing any options for the machine, such as the hard disks or RAM or similar.
  4. Finally, if you choose “Power off the machine”, this will shut down the machine as if the power had been suddenly turned off. This is not recommended, unless you’re in a state where you cannot get the machine to function and this is the only way to shut the virtual machine down. This is the equivalent of pulling the power cord on a real computer. Not recommended!




10 thoughts on “2. Installing Linux Mint on VirtualBox on OSX

  1. I chose a 20GB dynamically allocated hardrive, but when I get to the step that you describe as “You’ll click “Continue” a few times” then I get hung up by a screen saying

    “For best results please ensure that this computer:

    x has at least 8.5 GB of available drive space

    And continue is grayed out. It would seem that I need to use a fixed hard drive.


    • Can you double check a couple of things? First, how much free disk space do you have on the host machine? Second, have you triple-checked that you’ve allocated 20GB on the dynamic disk? I know that these seem obvious, but that’s all I can think of right this second. A screen shot of the page where you’re seeing the error might be helpful as well.

      Good luck! Ben

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