How to add a USB device to VirtualBox in Windows

VirtualBox is one of the preferred virtualization software in the industry. It has come a long way from only supporting USB 1.0 devices to now even USB 3.0 devices. But if you take a quick look at File Explorer or Device Manager in a Windows virtual machine, you’ll see that USB devices like flash drives don’t show up.


Your keyboard and mouse work fine for the most part, but USB devices connected to the host system don’t show up in the Windows virtual machine. Do not lose hope! We will explain how you can add a USB device to a VirtualBox virtual machine.


Why are USB devices not enabled by default?

When you connect a USB device to the host machine, it mounts it and allows you to use it. But to use the USB device in the virtual machine, you need to unmount it from the host OS and then mount it in the virtual machine. There is built-in support for adding USB devices in VirtualBox. But that is only compatible with USB 1.0 devices that are rarely used. In contrast, newer versions of VMWare support USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 devices out of the box.

If you check your USB drives, most of them will be USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 devices. But if you try to add them in VirtualBox, you will see a “USB device could not be connected [name]” error. You see the error because VirtualBox lacks the binary packages to provide these features.

A simple solution is to download the VirtualBox extension pack which enables compatibility with USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 devices. Remember that you will be enabling support not only for flash drives, but also for other devices such as network adapters, hard drives, webcams, and more.

You will need to download and then install the VirtualBox Extension Pack on your host system. After that, you will need to add the USB device using the virtual machine settings menu. For Windows and Mac, the process of adding a USB device is GUI-oriented. However, on Linux, you have to put in a bit more effort to mount USB devices. Check out our guide on VirtualBox vs. VMware Player to understand the differences between the two virtualization programs.

How to add a USB device to VirtualBox

The process of adding a USB device to a Windows virtual machine in VirtualBox consists of two steps. First, you need to download the extension pack and install it. Next, you need to enable USB device support and add a device to the list.

1. Download and install the extension pack

To download the VirtualBox extension pack, repeat the following steps.

  1. Launch any web browser on your host machine. Then visit the official VirtualBox download page.
  2. Scroll down and locate the VirtualBox 6.1.32 Oracle VM VirtualBox Extension Pack section. Click on the All supported platforms button to start the download.
  3. Open the file download location and double click in the VirtualBox extension pack file. VirtualBox will automatically start with a pop-up window to begin the installation.
  4. Click on the Install button. Scroll down and accept the EULA by clicking the I agree button.
  5. UAC will appear. Click on the okay button to start the installation.
  6. You will see the message that the installation was successful.
  7. To verify that the extension pack is now added to VirtualBox, click File > Preferences.
  8. Click on the Extensions option in the menu. You will see the recently added extension pack with its version name.

2. Add a USB device to the virtual machine

To add a USB device to the virtual machine, repeat the following steps.

  1. Throw VirtualBox on your system. The right button of the mouse in the Windows virtual machine and then select Settings context menu options.
  2. Click on the USB option present in the vertical menu. You will notice that the Enable USB Controller the option is checked automatically. But it only offers support for USB 1.1 controller.
  3. Then click on the USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 controller radio button. Choose the option that matches the generation of the USB device you want to connect to the virtual machine.
  4. Then navigate to the USB device filters section and click the add USB devices icon with a + sign on it.
  5. You will see a list of available devices. Click on the USB device you want to connect to the virtual machine.
  6. The name of the USB device will now appear in the USB device filters section. You can add more devices to this list. VirtualBox will mount all of these devices to your virtual machine once you start it.
  7. Now click on the okay button to save the current settings. Now, Select the virtual machine and then click the beginning button to turn it on.
  8. Wait for the virtual machine to start. Open the File Browser application and click this computer. You will see the list of all available storage devices, including the USB devices you added earlier.
  9. If you want to access the USB device on the host machine, you will need to shut down the virtual machine first.

In the case of a USB flash drive, you can expel from the virtual machine. It will automatically mount on the host operating system and be accessible through File Explorer.

How to remove a USB device from a VirtualBox

Once you add USB devices to a virtual machine in the USB settings, VirtualBox will mount them every time you power on the virtual machine. It will continue to do so unless you remove devices from the list or change the USB controller settings.

Here’s how to remove a USB device from a virtual machine in VirtualBox:

  1. Start VirtualBox on your system. The right button of the mouse on the virtual machine and then select Settings context menu options.
  2. Click in the USB option present in the vertical menu. Scroll down to the USB Device Filters section.
  3. Click on the name of the USB device in the list to select it. Then click on the Delete selected USB filter icon (the one with a cross).
  4. Then click on the okay to apply the changes and close the Settings window.
  5. Navigate to the top and click on the beginning button to turn on the virtual machine.
  6. Open File Explorer and click this computer. You will notice that the removed USB device does not appear in the application.

To reconnect the USB device to the virtual machine, you will need to add it to the USB device filters section again.

Add and use USB devices in VirtualBox easily

Unlike VMWare, VirtualBox does not support USB 2.0 and 3.0 devices out of the box. You must download and install the extension pack, and then add each USB device to the virtual machine. But once you add these devices to the list, they can be used in the virtual machine. Be sure to add only the devices you need to the virtual machine.

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