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I want to configure 1 shared folder /home/host/shared and put symlinks to other shared items in that shared directory to make them accessible by the guest machine like /home/host/shared/d1 --> /home/host/a_linked_dir. This is so that I can modify the files & directories as I use the VM without having to change the config in Virtualbox and so that multiple VMs can easily be configured to use a single shared folder. However, putting s symlink /home/guest/shared/link --> /home/host/shared/f1 doesn't allow the guest machine to access the linked directory and instead just points to a target non-existent on the guest machine.

Is there a way to use symlinks between the host & guest VMs in Virtualbox?

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This is working as designed. If your guests were allowed to access files/directories outside of the original share - which is exactly what would happen in your proposed scenario - then security on the host would be pointless.

I think your best bet is going to be (2) things:

  1. Create a higher-level share so that any new directories will automatically be part of the shared filesystem(s).
  2. Use relative links (on the host) so that the directory structures (on the guests) stay intact. This way, the mount point on the guests won't matter.

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