Virtual Box is TOO Small


I have been working on upgrading my laptop.  Since my laptop housed a bunch of my virtual machines for various presentations and labs, that means also upgrading and/or converting my virtual machines.

The new laptop is Windows 8.1.  With the new laptop I was interested in converting a bunch of my Virtual Box machines to Hyper-V machines.  That desire was put on hold after discovering that I needed to first convert the virtual disks and then import them.  That wasn’t what put me off to it for awhile though.

The fact that I had to install Virtual Box on the new laptop to do the conversion made it less desirable. You see, in order to make Virtual Box work, I had to uninstall Hyper-V from Windows 8.1 because HV disables settings that are required by Virtual Box to work.  Jumping through those hoops just makes me less inclined to hurry and try the conversion to Hyper-V.  Maybe someday down the road.

That said, with the new laptop supporting a resolution of 3200 x 1800, I found that my virtual machines started displaying extremely tiny resolutions.  No matter how I scaled the machine, the internal machine resolution was remaining tiny.

Come to find out, the virtual machine was using the 3200 x 1800 resolution of the host despite setting the virtual machine (internally) to resolution settings as low as 640 x 480 (which just produced a small window on the desktop).  In the settings for Virtual Box, I could not find a means to override that behavior.

What I did find though was a setting in the Windows 8.1 host control panel that affected the virtual machine size.  In the Display control panel there is a setting  saying “Let me choose one scaling level for all my displays”. That seems to help with this scaling issue.

As it appears, many applications automatically adjust the scaling on such a high resolution device.  Virtual Box does not automatically scale and just adopts the host machine resolution.  In my case, it was also always adopting the host machine max resolution.

I changed that setting, adjusted my resolution to 1920 x 1080, and then also adjusted the scaling factor to 150%.  This fixed the issue with the excessively small screen on the virtual machines.  Sure, I could have continued to use the windows “+” combination to zoom in an out constantly, but that was more of a hassle than convenience.

We’ll just have to see how it goes for the time being.  Maybe in a few weeks when I have time to try the Hyper-V conversion again, I will be able to jump back to the higher resolution.  We’ll find out then if that scaling issue is an issue for Hyper-V just as it is for Virtual Box.