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Using VRDP to view VirtualBox virtual machines remotely

In last week’s blog, I wrote about my first experiences with Sun’s xVM VirtualBox 1.6.2. I  like the interface and the features available to this free desktop virtualization product. Among these great options is one that lets users configure the VirtualBox server to view virtual machines remotely with VRDP, or VirtualBox Remote Desktop Protocol.

VRDP is a compatible implementation of Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) that is configured for easy console access to the guest platform from remote systems. This is different from a web-based interface that the competition has in that it is configurable per virtual machine. Let’s take a look at how to configure VRDP for a virtual machine in these steps below.

The first step is to enable VRDP, or remote console as it is called within the interface. By default, VRDP is disabled for all virtual machines and is enabled with a specified security method. The security methods are referred to as null, guest and external. The null method is a no-security model in that any VRDP connection will be accepted, and this configuration is documented by Sun as being designed for a testing and private network only configuration. To enable VRDP on a virtual machine, click on the settings tab while the virtual machine is powered off and configure the remote display option:

VRDP Configuration

Once VRDP is configured, the virtual machine will accept connections the next time it starts. The tricky part is the port and IP address configuration. On default configurations, 3389 would be used for the VRDP session on the host. If your host is a Windows system and is running Remote Desktop, another port should be specified. VRDP can also remotely start the virtual machine with VboxHeadless headless command. Once the virtual machine is running, a connection is made to the host system running VirtualBox and the specified port if not 3389. This connection will provide the redirected console within a standard rdesktop or mstsc session, and will be at all states and regardless if the guest is using a network interface. In this configuration, an operating system could be installed and the virtual BIOS can be accessed as well as other tasks below the operating system.

More information on the VRDP implementation can be found in the VirtualBox online user manual from the VirtualBox community website in section 7.4.