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To get USB drives to work with VirtualBox when using Ubuntu as a host, you need to add your user to the vboxusers group.


To add your username to the vboxusers group in Ubuntu, go to System > Administration > Users and Groups, click on "Manage groups", scroll down to the "vboxusers" group and click "Properties", then check the box next to your username and click OK:

VirtualBox usb drive

"Users and groups" is not installed by default in Ubuntu 12.04 and newer, so you'll have to install it firstly:
sudo apt-get install gnome-system-tools

Then log out and log back in, plug in an USB stick (or whatever you may need), start a VirtualBox machine and select the USB device in the lower right. Using this, the USB device won't be accessible each time you start the VM.

To have an USB device available each time you start a VM, open VirtualBox, select a VM, click on "Settings" and on the USB tab, click the "+" icon on the right - this will display a list of your USB devices which you can add to your VM.

Update - method 2: to do this from the command line, simply run the following command (the command below will add your username to the "vboxusers" group):
sudo adduser "$(whoami)" vboxusers
Then log out and log back in and your computer's USB devices should be accessible from VirtualBox.
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