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In VirtualBox, Ubuntu guest, Windows 7 host, I click this "Auto-mount" box, but it doesn't seem to have any effect. I have to edit fstab to get it to mount. So what is it for?

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Make sure that the additions are installed, and that you have added your username as a member of the vboxsf group (sudo usermod -aG vboxsf <your username>).

Then you need at least to log out (or reboot) for the change to take effect.

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You may also invoke "newgrp vboxsf" to make the addition to vboxsf effective for the current terminal. – ElazarR Dec 3 '15 at 12:29
    
Thanks, worked perfectly. Isn't this something that the installer of the guest additions should do? – Gigo yesterday

In Ubuntu this should auto-mount shared folders under /media/sf_share_name. I've had permissions issues with the auto-mounts and still use the fstab.

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I had the same permissions issue. Then I have noticed the answer of @private_meta (below) that refers to the vboxsf group. Following his comment, all you have to do is add your user to vboxsf group: $ sudo adduser <your username> vboxsf . Then you would have access to the auto-mounts under /media/sf_share_name/ . You may have to "newgrp vboxsf" to make the addition to vboxsf group effective in your current terminal. – ElazarR Dec 3 '15 at 12:25

You can find information on that in the VirtualBox Manual,

http://www.virtualbox.org/manual/ch04.html#sf_mount_auto

Maybe your user is not in the vboxsf user group, maybe you didn't look correctly where to find it. Are you sure you installed the latest guest additions?

You can check all that, but you can refer to the manual for details if it helps.

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There is no vboxsf group. I added it, but it didn't seem to change anything. – endolith Mar 2 '11 at 15:42
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@endolith Have you installed the Guest Additions in your Ubuntu guest? The auto-mount (and really the shared folders feature in general) won't work without them. – Goyuix Mar 2 '11 at 16:37
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@Goyuix: Yes, virtualbox-ose-guest-utils virtualbox-ose-guest-dkms virtualbox-ose-guest-x11 are all installed. I wouldn't be able to mount from vboxsf at all, otherwise, would I? – endolith Mar 2 '11 at 20:29

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