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The VirtualBox manual states:

[..] some Linux distributions already come with all or part of the VirtualBox Guest Additions. You may choose to keep the distribution's version of the Guest Additions but these are often not up to date and limited in functionality, so we recommend replacing them with the Guest Additions that come with VirtualBox.

Right now, the latest guest extensions on the VirtualBox Web page are version 5.2.10, while the virtualbox-guest-x11 package is version 5.2.10 as well. It seems to me that using the package instead of downloading the ISO from the official Web page would have the advantage of automatic updates at no obvious disadvantage. Am I missing something here or is the recommendation from the manual just outdated and/or not applicable to recent Ubuntu versions?

2 Answers 2

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The context you describe is true right now. This is because 18.04 has just been released and is up-to-date. But it might drift apart from upstream pretty soon.

In the near future, ubuntu might not update and follow the release cycle of updates of virtualbox.

For example, in 17.10, I have vbox 5.1.34 while latest vbox is 5.2.10. Except a similar situation to happen with extensions in the near future for 18.04 too.

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  • That's very helpful, thanks. I'll stick with installing the official guest extensions on every update then. Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 10:11
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Downloading from the official website doesn't mean foregoing automatic updates!

Here's what you do to keep up to date. The instructions come from the Linux download page. You need a terminal to do this (well, you can do it via a GUI, but it's easier to explain this way).

Start by uninstalling what you have. Don't worry — it won't delete your data, but of course you should always have a backup anyway.

sudo apt remove 'virtualbox*'
sudo apt autoremove    # This step is optional but recommended

Now add the VB repository.

wget -q https://www.virtualbox.org/download/oracle_vbox_2016.asc -O- | sudo apt-key add -
wget -q https://www.virtualbox.org/download/oracle_vbox.asc -O- | sudo apt-key add -
sudo add-apt-repository 'deb https://download.virtualbox.org/virtualbox/debian bionic contrib'

Finally, install VB plus a couple of optional but oft-required dependencies.

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade       # This step is optional but recommended
sudo apt install build-essential dkms linux-headers-generic virtualbox-5.2

When you run VirtualBox, it handles the installation and updates of Guest Additions.

Caveat

Whenever VB creates a new version (rather than a bug-fix), e.g. from VirtualBox 5.2 to VirtualBox 6.1, you will have to uninstall the old version (e.g. virtualbox-5.2) and install the new one (e.g. virtualbox-6.1). You won't have to change your repositories. Unfortunately, the VB team hasn't got its head around generic dependencies yet.

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  • You don't need the extensions on the host. And you don't need the full vbox install in the guest either.
    – solsTiCe
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 11:51
  • That's correct, @solsTiCe. My instructions are for the host, not the guest. Have I misunderstood the OP? Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 17:10
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    @PaddyLandau: I have Ubuntu 18.04 as a guest in a VM and want to keep the guest extensions up to date. Maybe this was not clear in my original post. Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 11:21
  • @AndreasUnterweger Thank you for the clarification. I did indeed misunderstand your question. Sorry for that Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 18:32

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