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I run Windows XP in a Virtual Box on my Ubuntu 14.04 laptop. I've set the shared folder access so I can access (read and write) the files on my ext4 /home partition.

However, I've often wondered how this set up works. To my knowledge, Windows cannot access an ext4 filesystem natively, and even with additional programs, only reading an ext4 partition is considered "safe". So how does the VirtualBox integrate ext4 access to Windows XP so seamlessly?

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Network accesses must follow some common protocols, in this case Samba, not normal file system formats because different OSes cannot understand each other's specific file systems and they don't have access to the low level sectors of drives on the other systems either

The shared folder appears in my computer's network branch just like a shared folder from windows

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/create-shortcut-map-network-drive#1TC=windows-7

map network drive

After powered on the virtual machine you can manually map the drive like in the above picture. Or if you select auto mount when creating the shared folder then it'll be mapped automatically. I haven't used virtualbox for a long time so I'm not really sure about this but indeed VMWare will automatically map the network drive if you select the option

auto mount shared drive

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    Actually it's just a share like normal, you can map the folder to a drive like any other network folders. The VMWare's way is different. It may use some custom instruction to transfer data between host and guest – phuclv May 26 '14 at 12:05
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    @shortstheory: It goes over a special "network provider" that is different from the usual SMB and WebDAV providers; however, it still works the same way. Windows does not see ext4; it only talks the VirtualBox shared folder protocol. (VBox has a custom one, qemu uses 9p.) – grawity May 26 '14 at 12:28

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