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I'm trying to run VBoxClient --clipboard, but I keep getting an error message,

VBoxClient: Failed to connect to the VirtualBox kernel

I see that systemctl is showing the process loaded,

UNIT                           LOAD   ACTIVE SUB       DESCRIPTION              
virtualbox-guest-utils.service loaded active exited    Virtualbox guest utils   
virtualbox.service             loaded active exited    LSB: VirtualBox Linux kernel module

I also see with lsmod that vboxdrv, vboxvideo, vboxpci, vboxnetadp, and vboxnetflt are all loaded.

What's going on here?

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VBoxClient is a guest-extension. It's made for guests, not hosts. If you're not running a version Linux as the guest in which you're launching VBoxClient, it won't do anything. This is the equivalent to adding the guest-additions CD to Windows guest.

To clarify matters, you can purge the guest packages entirely from the host,

sudo apt --purge remove 'virtualbox-guest-*'

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