I have a penchant for VirtualBox because it gives me a playground for experimentation.
I can intentionally install viruses in the virtual machine (called the guest OS) with little fear of my real computer (the Host OS) getting infected. I can install entire virtual networks with little trepidation of breaking my real network. And I can test out different operating system before changing my Host OS to that OS.
But the other day something odd happened after I spun up my VM…
The guest OS launched fine, well for the first 10 seconds, but then it unceremoniously burped up an error about Guru Meditation?
If you’ve ever seen this error, it’s pretty disconcerting and hard to dismiss. You only have two options:
You can click OK or hit Ignore but both usually return the same result: the application quits. When you launch it again, it barfs up the same rude error you tried to avoid.
Some crazy spiritual stuff about a meditating guru.
What’s all this about?
Getting spiritual with Guru Meditation
The first time I ever saw this error, I envisioned a Tibetan monk, perched on his aerie ledge in the Himalayas. His legs are crossed Indian style and his wrists are propped face-up on his knees. I don’t know why but that’s the first thing that comes to my mind.
I did some research on this and it turns out the phrase “Guru Meditation” finds its origins from one of the first personal computers called the Amiga. Sold by Commodore in the mid 80’s, these relics of time would sometimes spit up Guru Meditation errors on software failure.
Guru Meditation refers to an error so arcane that you were basically forced to look for a Guru to fix the problem.
Today, you going to help you become a little more Guru when I show you how to fix this positively baffling error. I promise you my solution doesn’t involve meditation, burning incense or any obscure incantations. With the alchemy of a little common sense and some patience we can fix this problem in no time.
Instead of being solemn about this recondite message, let’s get a little goofy and have fun finding the answer.
Getting Goofy with Guru Meditation
Nine times out of Ten when you see a “Guru Meditation” error in Virtualbox it’s related to your system memory. But we don’t have to guess. VirualBox logs all errors to a little file aptly named Vbox.log.
Let’s check it out.
I’m logged into my computer with user account vhudson and my Virtual Machine is simply named “Windows 8.1” so my log file is located here:
C:\Users\vhudson\VirtualBox VMs\Windows 8.1\Logs
Just replace “vhudson” with your computer username and “Windows 8.1” with the name of that refractory VM that keeps going bonkers.
Let’s take a look in here to see what’s going on.
Open VBox.log in Notepad and press Ctrl + End key on your keyboard to zip down to the last line. You should see the Guru Meditation stuff in proximity to the last line. If not, just press Ctrl + f and enter the phrase “Meditation”
There’s a lot of abstruse test in the log but if you look closely you can probably figure out what happened.
I highlighted the last two lines.
00:03:21.283578 Console: VM runtime error: fatal=false, errorID=HostMemoryLow message="Unable to allocate and lock memory. The virtual machine will be paused. Please close applications to free up memory or close the VM"
and then this:
00:03:21.322610 Changing the VM state from 'RUNNING' to 'GURU_MEDITATION'.
The errorID in the first line is telling us the memory on the Host OS is low.
Hmm… so why is that?
Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc to open the Windows Task Manager.
You’ll probably see something similar to the above screenshot. The memory value is almost at the ceiling. I’ve got a total of 8GB of RAM on my Host OS and I’m at 7.6GB (which is only 96% full!)
Alright, so now we need to find out what’s specifically causing the problem.
If you click over to the Process tab and sort by Memory you may find the culprit. A bunch of chrome.exe processes are usually near the top of the list busy slurping up memory, but in my case none had the avarice to debilitate my computer.
I can’t blame Chrome today because after closing VirtualBox I noticed an immediate drop in memory usage. The graph took a veritable nose dive.
Ah, so VirtualBox is killing VirtualBox?
I exonerated Chrome by my new discovery and decided to take a closer look at the VirtualBox settings.
In VirtualBox, select your intractable VM from the left pane and then press Ctrl + s to open the Settings pane.
Click System in the left navigation and check out the Base Memory slider on the right side.
My poor VirtualBox was attempting to allocate half of my physical memory to the VM.
Ultimately, I was apportioning too many resources to VirtualBox. After changing the value from 4096 MB (4GB) to 2048 (2GB), my Guru Meditations went poof!
The Bottom Line
If you notice VirtualBox is experiencing an accretion of errors lately, check out Vbox.log. A quick look inside will often point you in the right direction. Even if the error isn’t immediately obvious, you could always copy the error and paste it into Google to see what other people did to fix it.
In the case of Guru Meditation, you’ll usually find that you can fix the problem by managing your memory allocations to the guest OS. Try decreasing the base memory value by half and see what happens.
I hope this helped you! If so, please share the goodness in the comments below. Oh, and if it didn’t help let me know too. I like bad news just as much as good news. I really want to make sure VirtualBox works for you.