How to use VirtualBox in Multipass on macOS

Note: Please see instead How to set up the driver.

If you want to (or have to) use Multipass with VirtualBox as the hypervisor, you need to tell Multipass so:

$ sudo multipass set local.driver=virtualbox

From then on, all instances started with multipass launch will use VirtualBox behind the scenes.


Finding Multipass instances in VirtualBox

Multipass runs as the root user, so to see the instances in VirtualBox, or through the VBoxManage command, you have to run those as root, too:

$ sudo VirtualBox

To list the instances on the command line:

$ sudo VBoxManage list vms
"primary" {395d5300-557d-4640-a43a-48100b10e098}

NOTE: You can still use the multipass client and the system menu icon, and any changes you make to the configuration of the instances in VirtualBox will be persistent. They may not be represented in Multipass commands such as multipass info , though.

Port forwarding

To expose a service running inside the instance on your host, you can use VirtualBox’s port forwarding feature, for example:

$ sudo VBoxManage controlvm "primary" natpf1 "myservice,tcp,,8080,,8081"

You can then open, say, http://localhost:8081/, and the service running inside the instance on port 8080 will be exposed.


An often requested Multipass feature is network bridging. You can add a second network interface to the instance and expose it on your physical network. You will need to stop the instance:

$ multipass stop primary

Find the network interface you want to bridge with (you want the identifier before the second colon):

$ VBoxManage list bridgedifs | grep ^Name:
Name:            en0: Ethernet
Name:            en1: Wi-Fi (AirPort)
Name:            en2: Thunderbolt 1
Name:            en3: Thunderbolt 2

And tell VirtualBox to use it as the “parent” for the second interface (see more info on bridging in VirtualBox documentation on the topic):

# Do not touch --nic1 as that's in use by Multipass
$ sudo VBoxManage modifyvm primary --nic2 bridged --bridgeadapter2 en0

You can then start the instance again and find the name of the new interface:

$ multipass start primary
$ multipass exec primary ip link | grep DOWN
3: enp0s8:  mtu 1500 qdisc noop state DOWN mode DEFAULT group default qlen 1000

And configure that new interface — Ubuntu uses netplan for that:

$ multipass exec -- primary sudo bash -c "cat > /etc/netplan/60-bridge.yaml" <<EOF
    enp0s8:                  # this is the interface name from above
      dhcp4: true
      dhcp4-overrides:       # this is needed so the default gateway
        route-metric: 200    # remains with the first interface
  version: 2
$ multipass exec primary sudo netplan apply

Finally, find the IP of the instance given by your router:

$ multipass exec primary ip address show dev enp0s8 up       
3: enp0s8:  mtu 1500 qdisc fq_codel state UP group default qlen 1000
    link/ether 08:00:27:2a:5f:55 brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff
    inet brd scope global dynamic enp0s8
       valid_lft 86119sec preferred_lft 86119sec
    inet6 fe80::a00:27ff:fe2a:5f55/64 scope link 
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever

All the services running inside the instance should now be available on your physical network under http://<the ip>/.

If you want to switch back to the default driver:

$ sudo multipass set local.driver=qemu

Instances created with VirtualBox don’t get transferred, but you can always come back to them.