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How to Enable EFI on VirtualBox Virtual Machines Running Linux

Most modern PCs depend on the EFI partition to boot into operating systems. Here’s how to enable EFI support on a Linux virtual machine on VirtualBox.Circuit board

While BIOS-based machines are the standard for VirtualBox, in the real hardware world, almost all new PCs use EFI firmware. It’s easy to use the new standard to set up Linux virtual machines, even if it is officially experimental.

Here’s how you can easily set up an EFI-based Linux virtual machine on VirtualBox. But first, let’s find out what EFI really is.

What Is EFI?

EFI, also known as UEFI, stands for Extensible Firmware Interface. It’s intended to replace the old BIOS system that has existed since the original IBM PC was created in 1981.

Why was this done? Given that BIOS has been around so long, its limitations have long been apparent once PCs got more powerful. EFI allows for much larger boot partition sizes than BIOS.

It also makes Secure Boot possible, lessening the risk of the firmware being corrupted or taken over by malware. For these reasons, Microsoft has made UEFI support mandatory for PC manufacturers since Windows 8.

Not only do real PCs support EFI, but as OS support for it has grown, so it has in virtual machines, including Oracle VirtualBox.

Step 1: Enabling EFI on VirtualBox

VirtualBox EFI selection

To enable support for EFI in a Linux virtual machine, all you have to do is select a menu option.

In the VirtualBox machine selection, click on the virtual machine you want to enable EFI in, then click Settings. Switch to the System tab and check the box that says Enable EFI (Special OSes only). Linux is pretty special, right?

Now you’ll be able to boot and install a Linux virtual machine using EFI in VirtualBox.

Step 2: Installing and Booting a Linux Distro

Debian EFI paritition scheme

Installing a Linux virtual machine with EFI should be similar to installing one via BIOS. You can boot the installation media as usual. In this case, we’ll use Debian. For best results, it will be easier to create a brand new virtual machine.

The process should be nearly identical to a BIOS installation, but the partition scheme will be different, as it uses GPT instead of the old MBR style. The installation program should present a reasonable partition scheme for the virtual disk you’ve created.

Now You Can Boot a Linux VM Using VirtualBox

Now that you can change your VirtualBox Linux VMs from BIOS to UEFI, you can take advantage of its features.

If you want to learn more about the benefits of the new standard for PC firmware, read on.

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