VirtualBox Guest Additions

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This article aims to describe some of the more useful / easier to implement features of the VirtualBox Guest Additions.


The VirtualBox Guest Device

The Guest Additions package operates through a PCI/mmio device provided by the VM. A combination of memory-mapped packets, MMIO port writes, and IRQs allow the guest to communicate its feature support to the VM and for the VM to communicate events such as display changes and mouse movement. The PCI device has the vendor ID 0x80EE, same as the VirtualBox implementation of the Bochs display adapter, and a device ID of 0xCAFE. BAR0 is the MMIO port and BAR1 is a memory region that contains some shared state for the device, such as a bit mask for what events the guest wishes to receive. The format for the latter is unimportant for the features described on this page - you need only know that the region can be interpreted as an array of 32-bit unsigned integers and offset 3 contains the IRQ mask.

Communication between the guest and the host happens through packets in memory. These can be anywhere in physical memory, and are relatively short. The MMIO operations that read or populate packets are synchronous, so setting up one page to pass back and forth is feasible. The basic process for sending a message to the VM is to prepare a packet and then write its (physical) address to the MMIO port. Receiving works the same way, as you must prepare a packet with a request type and provide its physical address; after the MMIO port write finishes, the packet will be populated with the appropriate values if the request was successful. Communication from the VM is primarily initiated by an IRQ on the PCI device's interrupt line, which should then be followed up by appropriate packet requests, one of which should be of a special "Acknowledge Events" type.

This page contains some struct definitions which could alternatively be obtained from headers provided by VirtualBox, but those headers are rather heavy and assume they are being used alongside a robust set of system headers, so instead we will define these structs ourselves.

Pseudo-code examples in the following sections will assume the availability of these functions; adjust them to match your environment:

void * allocate_physical_page(uint32_t * physical); // Allocate one page of memory, providing its physical address as an output and virtual address as a return value.
void * map_physical_page(uint32_t physical); // Map a physical page into the virtual memory space.
void install_interrupt_handler(irq, int (*irq_function)(void)); // Install an interrupt request handler function.
void outportl(port, value); // Write a 32-bit value to an MMIO port.
void outports(port, value); // Write a 16-bit value to an MMIO port.
pci_device_t pci_find(vendor,device); // Return an object describing the requested PCI device, if found.
uint32_t pci_read_field(pci_device_t device, field, size); // Read a field from the given PCI device

Initializing the Device

Before we can do anything with the guest device, we need to tell it about ourselves. There are two protocols that current versions of VirtualBox support: 1.03 and 1.04. We will use 1.03, the so-called "Legacy Protocol", as it is slightly simpler.

#define VBOX_VENDOR_ID 0x80EE
#define VBOX_VMMDEV_VERSION 0x00010003
/* VBox Guest packet header */
struct vbox_header {
        uint32_t size; /* Size of the entire packet (including this header) */
        uint32_t version; /* Version; always VBOX_REQUEST_HEADER_VERSION */
        uint32_t requestType; /* Request code */
        int32_t  rc; /* This will get filled with the return code from the requset */
        uint32_t reserved1; /* These are unused */
        uint32_t reserved2;
/* VBox Guest Info packet (legacy) */
struct vbox_guest_info {
        struct vbox_header header;
        uint32_t version;
        uint32_t ostype;
static pci_device_t vbox_pci;
static int vbox_port;
static uint32_t * vbox_vmmdev;
static void vbox_guest_init(void) {
    /* Find the guest device */
    pci_device_t vbox_pci = pci_find(VBOX_VENDOR_ID, VBOX_DEVICE_ID);
    /* BAR0 is the IO port. */
    vbox_port = pci_read_field(vbox_pci, PCI_BAR0, 4) & 0xFFFFFFF0;
    /* BAR1 is the memory-mapped "vmmdevmem" area. */
    vbox_vmmdev = map_physical_page(pci_read_field(vbox_pci, PCI_BAR1, 4) & 0xFFFFFFF0);
    /* Allocate some space for our Guest Info packet */
    uint32_t guest_info_phys;
    struct vbox_guest_info * guest_info = allocate_physical_page(&guest_info_phys);
    /* Populate the packet */
    guest_info->header.size = sizeof(struct vbox_guest_info);
    guest_info->header.version = VBOX_REQUEST_HEADER_VERSION;
    guest_info->header.requestType = VBOX_REQUEST_GUEST_INFO;
    guest_info->header.rc = 0;
    guest_info->header.reserved1 = 0;
    guest_info->header.reserved2 = 0;
    guest_info->version = VBOX_VMMDEV_VERSION;
    guest_info->ostype = 0; /* 0 = Unknown (32-bit); we don't need to lie about being another OS here */
    /* And send it to the VM */
    outportl(vbox_port, guest_info_phys);
    /* (We could check the return value here as well) */

Auto-resize Guest Display

The first feature of the Guest Additions we'll look at is "Auto-resize Guest Display", which will allow your OS to be informed of the best resolution to use on the display adapter. The VirtualBox display adapter is itself based on the Bochs/Qemu display adapter, though it uses a different PCI vendor and device ID. It allows for any resolution to be set (in older versions, it required widths to be multiples of 4). With this capability enabled, we can receive interrupts when the host window size changes, and querying the guest device will tell us what resolution we should set the display to.

We'll need to define some new packets, install an interrupt handler, and also set some bits in the VMMDevMem space.

/* VBox Guest Capabilities packet */
struct vbox_guest_caps {
        struct vbox_header header;
        uint32_t caps;
/* VBox Acknowledge Events packet */
struct vbox_ack_events {
        struct vbox_header header;
        uint32_t events;
/* VBox GetDisplayChange packet */
struct vbox_display_change {
        struct vbox_header header;
        uint32_t xres;
        uint32_t yres;
        uint32_t bpp;
        uint32_t eventack;
/* We'll use separate pages for our packets for simplicity. */
static uint32_t vbox_display_phys;
static uint32_t vbox_ack_phys;
static vbox_display_change * vbox_display;
static vbox_ack_events * vbox_ack;
/* Adjust as necessary for your interrupt handling. */
static int vbox_irq_handler(struct regs * r) {
    outportl(vbox_port, vbox_display_phys); /* Request display change information. */
    outportl(vbox_port, vbox_ack_phys); /* Acknowledge events */
    /* vbox_display now has information on our display size. If it changed we can tell our display driver to update. */
    set_new_graphics_mode_maybe(vbox_display->xres, vbox_display->yres, vbox_display->bpp);
    /* You probably want to make sure you have a way of informing your userspace that the
       display resolution is changing, so your window manager or whatever updates. */
    /* Don't forget to acknowledge the interrupt itself if you need to. */
    return 1;
static void vbox_guest_init(void) {
    /* Install an interrupt handler. */
    int irq = pci_read_field(vbox_pci, PCI_INTERRUPT_LINE, 1);
    install_interrupt_handler(irq, vbox_irq_handler);
    /* We need to tell the VM that we support this capability. The Guest Capabilities request tells the VM about our ability to support seamless and auto-resize modes. */
    uint32_t guest_caps_phys;
    struct vbox_guest_caps * guest_caps = allocate_physical_page(&guest_caps_phys);
    guest_caps->header.size = sizeof(struct vbox_guest_caps);
    guest_caps->header.version = VBOX_REQUEST_HEADER_VERSION;
    guest_caps->header.requestType = VBOX_REQUEST_SET_GUEST_CAPS;
    guest_caps->header.rc = 0;
    guest_caps->header.reserved1 = 0;
    guest_caps->header.reserved2 = 0;
    guest_caps->caps = 1 << 2; /* set bit 2, which indicates we support "graphics" (auto-resize guest display). */
    outportl(vbox_port, guest_caps_phys);
    /* We'll also set up the packets we'll use later for AcknowledgeEvents and GetDisplayChange */
    vbox_ack = allocate_physical_page(&vbox_ack_phys);
    vbox_ack->header.size = sizeof(struct vbox_ack_events);
    vbox_ack->header.version = VBOX_REQUEST_HEADER_VERSION;
    vbox_ack->header.requestType = VBOX_REQUEST_ACK_EVENTS;
    vbox_ack->header.rc = 0;
    vbox_ack->header.reserved1 = 0;
    vbox_ack->header.reserved2 = 0;
    vbox_ack->events = 0;
    vbox_display = allocate_physical_page(&vbox_display_phys);
    vbox_display->header.size = sizeof(struct vbox_display_change);
    vbox_display->header.version = VBOX_REQUEST_HEADER_VERSION;
    vbox_display->header.requestType = VBOX_REQUEST_GET_DISPLAY_CHANGE;
    vbox_display->header.rc = 0;
    vbox_display->header.reserved1 = 0;
    vbox_display->header.reserved2 = 0;
    vbox_display->xres = 0;
    vbox_display->yres = 0;
    vbox_display->bpp = 0;
    vbox_display->eventack = 1;
    /* Finally, we need to enable interrupts for the capabilities we've advertised. We're just going to enable all of them. */
    vbox_vmmdev[3] = 0xFFFFFFFF;

Mouse Integration

Mouse Integration provides mouse position information using an absolute coordinate system. It does not provide information on mouse buttons, though, and that continues to go through the standard PS/2 (or USB) mouse devices. If your OS supports USB devices, mouse integration can implemented through a USB tablet devices instead of the mechanism described in this article.

Mouse Integration operates entirely over the guest device. Once enabled, mouse movements are sent to the guest through mouse packet requests and a corresponding interrupt. It is important to note that the format of the coordinates in these packets is based on a range from 0 to 0xFFFF which needs to be scaled to the display resolution. Why this approach was taken over using actual pixel coordinates (scaled or otherwise) is unknown.

/* The Mouse packet is used both to advertise our guest capabilities and to receive mouse movements. */
struct vbox_mouse_absolute {
        struct vbox_header header;
        uint32_t features;
        int32_t x;
        int32_t y;
static uint32_t vbox_mouse_phys;
static vbox_mouse_absolute * vbox_mouse;
static int vbox_irq_handler(struct regs * r) {
    outportl(vbox_port, vbox_mouse_phys);
    /* The mouse coordinates are scaled to the range (0x0,0xFFFF) independently in each dimension, so let's convert to pixels.
       If you prefer to have a more accurate mouse (subpixel support, etc.) you can convert to something else. */
    unsigned int x = ((unsigned int)vbox_mouse->x * display_resolution_width) / 0xFFFF;
    unsigned int y = ((unsigned int)vbox_mouse->y * display_resolution_height) / 0xFFFF;
static void vbox_guest_init(void) {
    vbox_mouse = allocate_physical_page(&vbox_mouse_phys);
    vbox_mouse->header.size = sizeof(struct vbox_mouse_absolute);
    vbox_mouse->header.version = VBOX_REQUEST_HEADER_VERSION;
    vbox_mouse->header.requestType = VBOX_REQUEST_SET_MOUSE;
    vbox_mouse->header.rc = 0;
    vbox_mouse->header.reserved1 = 0;
    vbox_mouse->header.reserved2 = 0;
    vbox_mouse->features = (1 << 0) | (1 << 4); /* bit 0 says "guest supports (and wants) absolute mouse"; bit 4 says we'll query absolute positions on interrupts */
    vbox_mouse->x = 0;
    vbox_mouse->y = 0;
    outportl(vbox_port, vbox_mouse_phys);
    vbox_mouse->header.requestType = VBOX_REQUEST_GET_MOUSE; /* Change the packet to a Get packet for use in the interrupt handler. */

Other Stuff

VirtualBox also provides a mechanism for writing to its log files, though this is not managed through the guest device. Simple writing bytes to port 0x504 will produce log entries.

See Also

External Links

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