Cloning a Virtual Machine in VirtualBox

Update: As of version 4.1.0 and above, VirtualBox GUI has support for cloning a virtual machine. The following method still applies to older versions, however, you are encouraged to upgrade to the latest version for best experience.

VirtualBox has emerged as a viable free alternative to the popular vmware virtualization platform. While it contains less features than vmware, it still is very good at running virtual machines at fast speed without much problem, allowing you to test your software and perform lots of other useful experiments inside virtual machines without affecting your main system.

VMWare has a very nice feature that allows you to ‘clone’ a virtual machine easily from its main interface. It takes a few minutes depending on the size of harddisk, and gives you a copy of the machine at the end of the process. VirutalBox, while being pretty neat at doing other stuff, has no such option in its GUI. Here’s how you can clone a machine for VirtualBox with the minimal effort.

The cloning process involves these steps:

  1. Open a command prompt on your system.
  2. Navigate to the folder where the harddisk of the source vm resides
  3. Clone the virtual disk file into a new one
  4. Create a new machine with the new hard disk and same specs as the source machine

Open a command prompt and use the following commands to complete the second and third step.


cd E:\VM\VBOX\

set path=%path%;C:\Program files\Oracle\VirtualBox

vboxmanage clonehd MYXP.vdi MYXP_2.vdi

In the above, replace E:\VM\VBOX\ with the path where your virtual machines are stored. This can be found by going to VirtualBox preferences. The second line contains the installation path for VirtualBox (the one presented here is the default for VirtualBox 4.xx installation)

vboxmanage is the actual goodie that comes with VirtualBox and can be used for lots of neat stuff once you get hold of it. The last command creates a copy of the harddisk file as another virtual harddisk. This is MUST, because simply copying the hard disk file from explorer will not allow you to use that file as a valid hard disk.

Once you run the last command, it will show some progress and once complete, you will have a copy of the old hard disk file as a new one by the name MYXP_2.vdi

There is only one thing left to do now. Open Virtual box GUI and create a new virtual machine with the same specs as the one you created for the first machine (I am sorry, but at the moment this is the fastest and neatest way to do this step)
Select the hard disk you created by cloning earlier above and you will have a new machine with the same configuration and hard disk state as the previous one.

How to clear Facebook Share’s Cache

Facebook share is good, simple, lets us share almost everything on web in seconds. But Facebook caches already shared urls/pages for better performance. This causes issues at time when we update the title, picture being shared or the description of the page because Facebook still shows the older version of the page.

For modifying which image, title and description FB chooses, read this

I will discuss three simple ways to force facebook to go and fetch the latest stuff from the page being shared.

Method 1 :

Facebook treats each url as unique and caches the page based on that url, so if you want to share the latest url the simplest solution is to add a query string with the url being shared. In simple words just add ?v=1 at the end of the url. Any number can be used in place of 1,

This method is fairly simple but it doesn’t retain the share count for this page, as it treats this page as a different url hence the count for this url will be restarted from 0. Plus if someone else shares the original url without the querystring the information will still be the old one.

Method 2:

Using url shortner services like bit.ly. shorten your url form bit.ly and then use the new url for Facebook share. This too is a simple and quite popular method but has the same issues as the first one.

Method 3:

Facebook has a tool called Debugger (formerly known as URL Linter). This tool gives us an idea about how a url will be shared on Facebook, what content, which image will be fetched. Further details about this tool can be found here.

We can use this tool for any url and it fetches the latest title, description, excerpt and other stuff that will be shown while sharing the link. If you use an already shared URL with this tool then Facebook fetches the latest content, and also updates it cache with the latest content.

With this methos the url remains the same hence the share count will persist and the content will be updated. Someone else sharing the url will also see the latest content now. So this method is of course the best.

The Debugger tool can be accessed here.

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How will a page show up on Facebook Share. URL Linter

Facebook share is widely used these days to share web pages people like, on their profile. The sharing mechanism is quite simple, fetches the related image and excerpt from the url being shared to ensure that the person seeing the post gets an idea of what the shared page is about. A webdesigner has control over how the webpage will look when shared on facebook. How to control what image and text shows up when your page is shared is explained here.

This post is focused on how to test exactly what your page will look like, even the minor details. Facebook has a very simple tool for this called URL Linter.

Just paste the URL of the page to be tested and facebook will fetch the title, description/excerpt, image, the link shown with the post, and any other meta properties on the page. This is extremely helpful for any page which is expected to be shared alot on fb, so that it can be tested before making it public. Another advantage of using this url linter is that once you make changes to your page and try the linter it will go for the latest version and not show the cached copy while normal facebook share will show a cached copy for a url that has been shared previously.

I hope this post gives you an edge while using Facebook share.

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How to clear your DNS Cache in Windows

Windows usually caches the DNS records for faster resolution of web pages, at some point one needs to refresh that cache, this is how you do it,

Open the Command Line Interface of Windows, (Run -> type cmd)

and run the following command

ipconfig /flushdns