Run 64-Bit Guests in VirtualBox Using Hardware Virtualization (Lenovo Host)

If you’ve ever tried to run a 64-bit guest in VirtualBox, you may have found that there are no 64-bit options available, only 32-bit options. This is because VirtualBox has no native support for 64-bit operating systems. In order to get it to support 64-bit guests, there are a couple extra steps you need to take. First, you need to install the VirtualBox Extension Pack, and then you need to go into your BIOS and enable hardware virtualization. Hardware virtualization is a special kind of built-in hypervisor support that’s built into most modern CPUs. Assuming you have a 64-bit CPU, hardware virtualization will allow you to virtualize the 64-bit extensions to run 64-bit guests. In this tutorial I will walk you through both the installation of the extension pack and the enabling of hardware virtualization, using a VirtualBox installation running on a Windows 7 host with a Lenovo BIOS.

Part 1: Installing the VirtualBox Extension Pack

To install the VirtualBox Extension Pack, go to the following URL:

You will see something that looks like this:

Downloading the VirtualBox Extension Pack from Oracle's website

Click on the second list item (underlined) and follow the directions.

Once the package is fully downloaded, go into your VirtualBox control panel, go to the File menu, and select Preferences.

Selecting Preferences from the VirtualBox control panel

This will bring up a window that looks like this:

The VirtualBox Preferences window

Go to the Extensions tab.

I have the VirtualBox Extension Pack installed in my VirtualBox Extensions

In my case I already have the VirtualBox Extension Pack installed, but it’s not currently working. I will reinstall it. To add an extension, click on the green plus sign on the right. To remove an extension, click on the red X right below that.

Find the file for the extension pack in your filesystem and click Open, then agree to the License Agreement and wait for it to install.

License Agreement for the Oracle VirtualBox Extension Pack

Congratulations! You now have the software needed to run 64-bit guests in VirtualBox. Now on to the firmware…

Part 2: Enabling hardware virtualization in the system BIOS

For this part of the tutorial I will be using the Lenovo BIOS designed for the Thinkpad laptops. The title says that this tutorial is specific to Lenovo hosts, but the methodology used here applies universally. Different brands of BIOS’s differ in look and feel, but they all have the same basic options, so you should be able to enable hardware virtualization in your own BIOS by doing something analogous to what I’m doing here.

First, enter your BIOS Setup Program by pressing the BIOS key at startup. This is typically either F1, F9, or F12, depending on the computer. Your computer will tell you what keystroke to use as it’s starting up. Probably best to hold it down to make sure you don’t end up loading your default operating system and skipping the setup. On my Thinkpad I tend to just rapidly press the F1 key over and over until the menu comes up.

The main menu for the Lenovo BIOS Setup Program

Select Config. That will bring you to the screen below. Most BIOS’s have a submenu or tab with a name like Config or similar.

The Config menu for the Lenovo BIOS Setup Program where all your hardware configuration information is stored

Select CPU. Remember that hardware virtualization is fundamentally a CPU functionality, so whatever BIOS submenu contains your CPU settings is where you’ll find it.

The CPU menu for the Lenovo BIOS Setup Program where all your CPU settings are stored

From this menu you will want to select the menu item for virtualization support. In this BIOS it’s Intel(R) Virtualization Technology. Most BIOS’s have this feature disabled by default, so you’ll have to enable it.

Enabling hardware virtualization from the Lenovo BIOS Setup Program

Hit Enter and then press the Down arrow to get to Enabled, then hit Enter again to select that value.

Exiting from the Lenovo BIOS Setup Program after enabling hardware virtualization

Hit F10 to save and exit. Remember that if you ever fuck up your computer by changing the BIOS settings, you can always go back into the BIOS Setup Program and restore the default settings (in this case by hitting F9).

Exiting from the Lenovo BIOS Setup Program after enabling hardware virtualization

Select Continue, then select Yes to confirm changes and exit. You will now see your computer go into its normal boot process. Congratulations! Hardware virtualization is enabled and you can now run 64-bit guests in VirtualBox. Enjoy.


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