Jiff Slater
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30 Jul 2021
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Quickly Attaching USB Devices to VirtualBox Guests using VBoxManage
26 January 2012

I frequently develop inside VBox guests because I to ensure that my development environment is consistent across machines and operating systems.

Sometimes, I will need to connect a USB device plugged into the host computer to the guest VM. Because I start most VMs in headless mode, I would rather not launch the VM manager just to attach the USB device. Using VBoxManage, you can also mitigate this issue.

First (if you do not remember), find the name of the VM.
$ VBoxManage list vms
"archlinux" {3daf7395-3866-2348-bc54-947445b5e626}

List the USB devices attached to the host.
$ VBoxManage list usbhost
UUID: e2d15ede-83f1-45ad-98d5-1efa46b810eb
VendorId: 0x06c2 (06C2)
ProductId: 0x0033 (0033)
Revision: 1.0 (0100)
Manufacturer: Phidgets Inc.
Product: PhidgetSpatial
SerialNumber: 166112
Address: p=0x0033;v=0x06c2;s=0x000064bfc79cb786;l=0x06200000
Current State: Captured

Note that if the Current State is Captured, then you should make sure that the host has not already locked the device. In this case, it was already captured by the guest.

Connect the USB device to the guest, using the given UUID.
$ VBoxManage controlvm archlinux usbattach e2d15ede-83f1-456d-98d5-1efa46b810eb

You can also make this attachment permanent by creating a USB filter.

List the filters for the VM. Note the index.
$ VBoxManage showvminfo archlinux
USB Device Filters:

Index: 0
Active: yes
Name: Phidgets Inc. PhidgetSpatial [0100]
VendorId: 06c2
ProductId: 0033
Revision: 0100
Manufacturer: Phidgets Inc.
Product: PhidgetSpatial
Remote: 0
Serial Number: 166112

Place the filter after the last index. You can grab the VendorId and the ProductId from the previous usbhost output.
$ VBoxManage usbfilter add 1 --target archlinux --name Phidget --vendorid 0x06C2 --productid 0x0033

If you have problems setting the filter, first ensure that there are no existing global filters.
$ VBoxManage list usbfilters

You can later remove the filter by using a similar incarnation.
$ VBoxManage usbfilter remove 1 --target archlinux