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Most guides for installing Windows on VirtualBox to act as a template for quick Windows jobs tell you to take a few steps to prepare the Virtual Machine before installing Windows (the best guide I found: grahamrhay.wordpress.com; another fairly good guide: www.windowstablettv.com). Unfortunately, I didn't read these guides before installing and activating Windows on the VM I wanted to use as a template.

I want to know how to clone my already-active VM in such a way that would not require re-activation from Windows.

Looking in the template VM Definition file (the VBOX or XML file for the VM), the /VirtualBox/Machine/Hardware (XPath ID) node has no uuid attribute. But, if I try to use VBoxManage modifyvm <uuid|name> --hardwareuuid <uuid> to set a new UUID for the template VM, then the template VM loses its activation status! (Thankfully, I had made a backup of the template.) So, to accomplish my aim, I can't just follow those guides pretending that I haven't installed Windows yet.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Thankfully, I noticed something about all of my Virtual Machines that I hadn't prepared as those guides had outlined.

I ran VBoxManage showvminfo <uuid|name> and noticed that the UUID valued matched the Hardware UUID value, leading me to surmise that if any VM Definition didn't have a uuid attribute in the /VirtualBox/Machine/Hardware node, then the VM would use the "Machine UUID" value as the "Hardware UUID" value. So, for my template VM, it did have a "Hardware UUID" that I could use; I just had to find how to transfer it to any clones I would make.

To ensure that the UUID transfers, you can take one of two approaches:

  • You can edit the template VM Definition file directly. The "Hardware UUID" will only transfer to clones if the /VirtualBox/Machine/Hardware has the uuid attribute. So, copy the /VirtualBox/Machine uuid attribute and add it to the /VirtualBox/Machine/Hardware uuid attribute. You probably want to re-initialize the VirtualBox machine database after this, by closing/killing any VirtualBox process you're running. (VBoxSVC sometimes lingers on Windows; you may have to kill it from the Task Manager.)
  • You can clone your template and make a new template VM, and then use VBoxManage modifyvm <uuid|name> --hardwareuuid <uuid> to set the new template's "Hardware UUID" to the original template's "Machine UUID"/"Hardware UUID". I say you have to clone the VM to create a new template VM because if you try to set the "Hardware UUID" with this command on the original template, it won't add the uuid attribute to the /VirtualBox/Machine/Hardware node, since it can still imply it from the "Machine UUID", and thus won't copy this value to any clone it makes.
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It's not clear of which VM you're talking about in first point; also it's better to use VBoxManage modifyvm --hardwareuuid <uuid> –  CharlesB Apr 15 at 7:35
The modifyvm command will not set the /VirtualBox/Machine/Hardware node uuid attribute if you pass a UUID with the same value as the VM's /VirtalBox/Machine node uuid attribute. You must edit the VBOX file directly. –  palswim Apr 15 at 17:27

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