Instead of building a virtual machine from scratch, which would be a slow and tedious process, Vagrant uses a base image to quickly clone a virtual machine. These base images are known as "boxes" in Vagrant, and specifying the box to use for your Vagrant environment is always the first step after creating a new Vagrantfile.

Installing a Box

If you ran the commands on the getting started overview page, then you've already installed a box before, and you do not need to run the commands below again. However, it is still worth reading this section to learn more about how boxes are managed.

Boxes are added to Vagrant with vagrant box add. This stores the box under a specific name so that multiple Vagrant environments can re-use it. If you have not added a box yet, you can do so now:

$ vagrant box add hashicorp/precise64

This will download the box named "hashicorp/precise64" from HashiCorp's Atlas box catalog, a place where you can find and host boxes. While it is easiest to download boxes from HashiCorp's Atlas you can also add boxes from a local file, custom URL, etc.

Boxes are globally stored for the current user. Each project uses a box as an initial image to clone from, and never modifies the actual base image. This means that if you have two projects both using the hashicorp/precise64 box we just added, adding files in one guest machine will have no effect on the other machine.

In the above command, you will notice that boxes are namespaced. Boxes are broken down into two parts - the username and the box name - separated by a slash. In the example above, the username is "hashicorp", and the box is "precise64". You can also specify boxes via URLs or local file paths, but that will not be covered in the getting started guide.

Using a Box

Now that the box has been added to Vagrant, we need to configure our project to use it as a base. Open the Vagrantfile and change the contents to the following:

Vagrant.configure("2") do |config|
  config.vm.box = "hashicorp/precise64"

The "hashicorp/precise64" in this case must match the name you used to add the box above. This is how Vagrant knows what box to use. If the box was not added before, Vagrant will automatically download and add the box when it is run.

You may specify an explicit version of a box by specifying config.vm.box_version for example:

Vagrant.configure("2") do |config|
  config.vm.box = "hashicorp/precise64"
  config.vm.box_version = "1.1.0"

You may also specify the URL to a box directly using config.vm.box_url:

Vagrant.configure("2") do |config|
  config.vm.box = "hashicorp/precise64"
  config.vm.box_url = "http://files.vagrantup.com/precise64.box"

In the next section, we will bring up the Vagrant environment and interact with it a little bit.

Finding More Boxes

For the remainder of this getting started guide, we will only use the "hashicorp/precise64" box we added previously. But soon after finishing this getting started guide, the first question you will probably have is "where do I find more boxes?"

The best place to find more boxes is HashiCorp's Atlas box catalog. HashiCorp's Atlas has a public directory of freely available boxes that run various platforms and technologies. HashiCorp's Atlas also has a great search feature to allow you to find the box you care about.

In addition to finding free boxes, HashiCorp's Atlas lets you host your own boxes, as well as private boxes if you intend on creating boxes for your own organization.

Next Steps

You have successfully downloaded your first Vagrant box and configured the Vagrantfile to utilize that box. Read on to learn about bringing up and access the Vagrant machine via SSH.

© 2010–2017 Mitchell Hashimoto
Licensed under the MPL 2.0 License.