I've installed Ubuntu Server under Virtualbox just to get a nice little shell. I've also installed the VirtualBox "Guest Additions" and set "Shared Clipboard: Bidirectional".

I still can't seem to get any copy-paste working. Am I missing something here?

I've installed gpm which gives mouse support in server mode (no X), and allows copy-paste using the mouse, but still the VirtualBox integration doesn't work.

7 Answers 7


Just trying this myself. Couldn't get it to work with gpm and a console only guest.

I strongly suspect that the clipboard integration rely's on having a running X server in the Guest.

A work-a-round is to install openssh-server on the guest and ssh using a terminal from your host to the guest. Then you have 'clipboard integration'

  • 5
    That's not a bad suggestion. In fact it's probably more efficient/responsive than using the VM window.
    – bukzor
    Feb 24, 2011 at 5:32
  • 1
    @James Brilliant idea !!! :) Mar 30, 2012 at 8:16
  • 2
    ran into this issue myself, this is definitely the only way I have found to work around this
    – adeleinr
    Dec 21, 2012 at 2:01
  • 2
    What IP address and port would you use to connect via SSH if the virtualbox is on a localhost?
    – DPSSpatial
    Feb 2, 2017 at 18:21
  • 1
    There are lots of questions and answers on other sites about how to configure Virtualbox so you can SSH into it. Here's a simple one that worked for me with a Windows host and a terminal-only Ubuntu Server guest inside Virtualbox Jan 2, 2018 at 21:35

Try to use PuTTY and connect via SSH to your virtual Linux system.

  • See also cygwin, with apt-cyg (apt-cyg install openssh-server)
    – Jonathan
    Sep 23, 2016 at 7:39
  • @JonathanLeaders You would only need a SSH client and not server on your Windows host.
    – phk
    Jan 1, 2017 at 23:00

I came up with a different workaround. Open a shared folder, and create an executable script in the shared folder. Put "#!/bin/bash" (or whatever/wherever shell you want to use), followed by the command(s) you want to execute. Like this:

cp foo bar
echo 'copied foo to bar'

Just replace "cp foo bar" with the long complicated string you wanted to cut and paste.

Depending on what you're doing, you might have to source the script rather than running it directly:

source ./myscript

EDIT: Oops! I forgot to add that you have to change the line endings from Windows-style to Unix-style line endings. In Emacs you can use

M-x set-buffer-file-coding-system

while in vim it would be

:set ff=unix


  • Irony: shared folder in VirtualBox is even harder to setup than shared clipboard.
    – SOFe
    Jul 17, 2019 at 5:38
  • 1
    @SOFe The problem is not that it is hard to set up, it is the shared clipboard just doesn't work in server mode (no windowing system) even if you have set it up. The shared folder at least does work.
    – jjanes
    Sep 25, 2022 at 0:18

If you're running a Server in a VM , then why don't you just ssh into the VM and use the terminal?

Think about it. It's a server with no graphical interface.

If you only had the sever version installed on a actual computer instead of the VM would you have been able to copy paste into it's command line prompt? You have no multitasking available in the same TTY unless you use some multimplexer like "screen" or "tmux" or a software such as "gpm" as v3.xx suggested.

  • Well, I can tell you in my case, it's because I've been waiting 25 minutes for SSH to connect to a Debian VM and am beginning to suspect it's just not going to work.
    – John Smith
    Dec 27, 2020 at 12:29

This is probably not a "solution", but it's how I was able to get some data off my ubuntu server VM. I set up a simple php file upload script on one of my servers, then shot the file up to it via curl. As soon as I was done I removed it.


I don't think that you will be able to copy/paste in Ubuntu Server, mostly because:

  1. If you try to do Ctrl+V, the OS will see that as a ^V control sequence.
  2. You can't do a copy/paste with a right-click menu as there are no mouse daemons that support that. (As far as I know anyways, someone feel free to correct me.)
  • 1
    The shortcut I'd expect to work is shift-insert. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – bukzor
    Oct 4, 2010 at 3:46
  • Not the point. This is a problem with the virtualization a guest additions.
    – GregB
    Apr 8, 2013 at 21:58

You need to use CTL+Shift+V to paste, copy as normal in the Host, and back in the VM add Shift as well if you wish to copy, so CTL+SHIFT+C ( then Cut with same + X ).


  • 3
    You are wrong. CTL+SHIFT+V is the keyboard shortcut for the Ubuntu terminal, but there is an issue with the guest additions in Ubuntu 12.04 which will cause copy/paste to periodically break in one, or both directions.
    – GregB
    Apr 8, 2013 at 21:57

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