Virtualbox, how to force a specific CPU to the guest

VirtualBox and CPUID basics

You need to set the VBoxInternal/CPUM/HostCPUID extradata of the virtual machine. This will make VirtualBox report custom results for the CPUID instruction to the guest. Depending on the value of the EAX register, this instruction returns information about the processor - things like vendor, type, family, stepping, brand, cache size, features (MMX, SSE, SSE2, PAE, HTT), etc. The more results you mangle, the higher the chances to fool the guest.

You can use the vboxmanage setextradata command to configure the virtual machine. For example,

vboxmanage setextradata WinXP VBoxInternal/CPUM/HostCPUID/80000003/ebx 0x50202952

will make CPUID return 50202952₍₁₆₎ in the EBX register, when called with EAX set to 80000003₍₁₆₎. (From now on, hexadecimal numbers will be written as 0xNN or NNh.)

Setting the CPU vendor string

If EAX is 0 (or 80000000h on AMD), CPUID returns the vendor as an ASCII string in registers EBX, EDX, ECX (notice the order). For an AMD CPU, they look like this:

| Register | Value      | Description                    |
| EBX      | 6874_7541h | The ASCII characters "h t u A" |
| ECX      | 444D_4163h | The ASCII characters "D M A c" |
| EDX      | 6974_6E65h | The ASCII characters "i t n e" |

(Taken from AMD CPUID Specification, subsection "CPUID Fn0000_0000_E")

If you concatenate EBX, EDX and ECX, you'll get AuthenticAMD.

If you have Bash and the traditional Unix utilities, you can easily set the vendor with the following commands:

vm='WinXP'  # UUID works as well
# The vendor string needs to have 12 characters!
if [ ${#vendor} -ne 12 ]; then
    exit 1
ascii2hex() { echo -n 0x; od -A n --endian little -t x4 | sed 's/ //g'; }

registers=(ebx edx ecx)
for (( i=0; i<${#vendor}; i+=4 )); do
    value=`echo -n "${vendor:$i:4}" | ascii2hex`
    # set value to an empty string to reset the CPUID, i.e.
    # value=""
    for eax in 00000000 80000000; do
        vboxmanage setextradata "$vm" $key $value

Setting the CPU brand string

If EAX is 80000002h, 80000003h, 80000004h, CPUID returns 16 ASCII characters of the brand string in registers EAX, EBX, ECX, EDX, totaling 3 * 16 = 48 characters; the string is terminated with a null character. Note that this feature was introduced with Pentium 4 processors. This is how the brand string can look on a Pentium 4 processor:

| EAX Input Value | Return Values   | ASCII Equivalent |
| 80000002h       | EAX = 20202020h | "    "           |
|                 | EBX = 20202020h | "    "           |
|                 | ECX = 20202020h | "    "           |
|                 | EDX = 6E492020h | "nI  "           |
| 80000003h       | EAX = 286C6574h | "(let"           |
|                 | EBX = 50202952h | "P )R"           |
|                 | ECX = 69746E65h | "itne"           |
|                 | EDX = 52286D75h | "R(mu"           |
| 80000004h       | EAX = 20342029h | " 4 )"           |
|                 | EBX = 20555043h | " UPC"           |
|                 | ECX = 30303531h | "0051"           |
|                 | EDX = 007A484Dh | "☠zHM"           |

(Taken from Intel Architecture Instruction Set Extensions Programming Reference, subsection 2.9, "CPUID Instruction", table 2-30. ☠ is the null character (numerical value 0).)

If you put the results together, you'll get Intel(R) Pentium(R) 4 CPU 1500MHz☠.

If you have Bash and the traditional Unix utilities, you can easily set the brand with the following commands:

vm='WinXP'  # UUID works as well
# The brand string needs to have 47 characters!
# The null terminator is added automatically
brand='              Intel(R) Pentium(R) 4 CPU 1500MHz'
if [ ${#brand} -ne 47 ]; then
    exit 1
ascii2hex() { echo -n 0x; od -A n --endian little -t x4 | sed 's/ //g'; }

eax_values=(80000002 80000003 80000004)
registers=(edx ecx ebx eax)
for (( i=0; i<${#brand}; i+=4 )); do
    eax=${eax_values[$((${i} / 4 / 4))]}
    register=${registers[$((${i} / 4 % 4 ))]}
    value=`echo -n "${brand:$i:4}" | ascii2hex`
    # set value to an empty string to reset the CPUID, i.e.
    # value=""
    vboxmanage setextradata "$vm" $key $value

If you have a Windows command prompt, you can set the brand to Intel(R) Core(TM)2 CPU 6600 @ 2.40 GHz1 by running:

set vm=your-vm-name-or-uuid
vboxmanage setextradata %vm% VBoxInternal/CPUM/HostCPUID/80000002/eax 0x65746e49
vboxmanage setextradata %vm% VBoxInternal/CPUM/HostCPUID/80000002/ebx 0x2952286c
vboxmanage setextradata %vm% VBoxInternal/CPUM/HostCPUID/80000002/ecx 0x726f4320
vboxmanage setextradata %vm% VBoxInternal/CPUM/HostCPUID/80000002/edx 0x4d542865
vboxmanage setextradata %vm% VBoxInternal/CPUM/HostCPUID/80000003/eax 0x43203229
vboxmanage setextradata %vm% VBoxInternal/CPUM/HostCPUID/80000003/ebx 0x20205550
vboxmanage setextradata %vm% VBoxInternal/CPUM/HostCPUID/80000003/ecx 0x20202020
vboxmanage setextradata %vm% VBoxInternal/CPUM/HostCPUID/80000003/edx 0x20202020
vboxmanage setextradata %vm% VBoxInternal/CPUM/HostCPUID/80000004/eax 0x30303636
vboxmanage setextradata %vm% VBoxInternal/CPUM/HostCPUID/80000004/ebx 0x20402020
vboxmanage setextradata %vm% VBoxInternal/CPUM/HostCPUID/80000004/ecx 0x30342e32
vboxmanage setextradata %vm% VBoxInternal/CPUM/HostCPUID/80000004/edx 0x007a4847

Computer: Intel(R) Core(TM)2 CPU 6600 @ 2.40 GHz

1 The HostCPUID values were taken from VirtualBox bug report #7865.

Here's an approach which allows masquerading the host CPU precisely as a specific CPU rather than try to second-guess the necessary settings. You'll need access to a machine running VirtualBox on that host CPU so you can dump its cpuid registers (it's probably best to choose an architecture which is reasonably similar to that of your actual CPU as model). If you don't have one to hand, you can ask around (I've had success on Reddit for example).

  1. Create a "model" file from the CPU you'd like to emulate:

    vboxmanage list hostcpuids > i7_6600U
  2. On the target host, ensure the VM you want to modify isn't running; you may want to take a backup just in case.
  3. Run the following script to load the model file (i7_6600U here) into the definition of your VBox VM (my_vm_name here):

    egrep -e '^[[:digit:]abcdef]{8} ' $model_file |
    while read -r line; do
        leaf="0x`echo $line | cut -f1 -d' '`"
        # VBox doesn't like applying leaves between the below boundaries so skip those:
        if [[ $leaf -lt 0x0b || $leaf -gt 0x17 ]]; then
            echo "Applying: $line"
            vboxmanage modifyvm $vm --cpuidset $line
  4. That's it, you can now run your VM and enjoy the masqueraded CPU (note: you only need to run the above script once).

If you ever need to rollback the CPU masquerade, you can use vboxmanage modifyvm $vm --cpuidremove $leaf for each of the leaves in the above loop (man vboxmanage is your friend).

This has been working flawlessly for a couple of months for me, masquerading a Kaby Lake CPU (i7_7500U) as a Skylake one (i7_6600U) on an Ubuntu 17.04 host running VBox 5.1.22. The approach should work on any host OS, provided you can create an equivalent of the little bash script above for that OS.