The VirtualBox Interactive Shell

This post is unfinished and unresolved but I've got a lot of information so I thought I'd post it anyway. I wrote it back in Sept 2015 but am just posting it in Apr 2016.

The reason why it was unresolved is because I kept having errors on disks I created this way, so I decided it wasn't worth it. I also never really figured out how to use the interactive shell to do anything useful. Here's the original post.

My goal was to be able to create VirtualBox images quickly and easily without having to run an OS X installer every time. I tried cloning images and resizing but it wouldn't work. So I figured if I could mount the filesystem on the host and install the files it would work. I was wrong.

Booting to UEFI Interactive Shell

So if you don't have a bootable disk for some reason, VirtualBox will boot up to the UEFI Interactive Shell. An easy way to get this is to go to a VM settings and remove all disks and start the VM up.

Normally, OS X boots to it's own EFI boot loader located at /System/Library/CoreServices/boot.efi. This isn't a standard location for EFI boot loaders. The following statement makes me think that the location of the OS loader is part of the volume header.

The OS loader is usually located through a file ID pointer in the HFS+ volume header. This info can be set with the bless command-line tool. OSX86 project

So if you install the OS X file system by using a file copy, it will not be bootable (that's what I did).

I attempted many things to try to get the machine to boot including booting to a working drive and running the bless command on the non-booting drive, running the bless command on the host computer while the non-booting drive was mounted, trying to use the Interactive Shell to select the correct drive, installing rEFInd, booting to the install image and repairing the disk, and other things.

I eventually found that running the OS installer or using Carbon Copy Cloner's block copy fixed it.

Either way, I decided to write down everything I learned about the Interactive Shell, since it might be useful someday.


Output of ver command.

UEFI Interactive Shell v2.0
Copyright 2009-2011 Intel(r) Corportation. All rights reserved. Beta build 1.0
UEFI v2.31 (EDK II, 0x00010000)

This is probably contained in the file /Applications/ However, when I ran strings on that file the text wasn't in it (or in any other file in the folder).

I tried the Tianocore shell and for some reason it didn't have the bcfg command.

List of commands

This is the list of commands printed when you type help. Add -b to any command to show one screen at a time (like less/more). Typos are part of the real text printed by this shell.

attrib          -Displays or changes the attributes of files or directories.
cd              -Displays or chagnes the current directory.
cp              -Copies one or more source files or directories to a destination.
load            -Loads a UEFI driver into memory.
map             -Defines a mapping between a user-defined name and a device handle.
mkdir           -Creates one or more new directories.
mv              -Moves one or more files to a destination within a file system.
parse           -Command used to retrieve a value from a particular record which was output in a standard formatted output.
reset           -Resets the system.
set             -Displays, changes or deletes a UEFI Shell environment variables.
ls              -Lists a directory's contents or file information.
rm              -Deletes one or more files or directories
vol             -Displays the volume information for the file system taht is specified by fs.
date            -Displays and sets the current date for the system.
time            -Displays or sets the current time for the system.
timezone        -Displays or sets time zone information.
stall           -Stalls the operation for a specified number of microseconds.
for             -Starts a loop based on for syntax.
goto            -moves around the point of execution in a script.
if              -Controls which script commands will be executed based on provided conditional expressions.
shift           -moves all in-script parameters down 1 number (allows access over 10).
exit            -Exits the UEFI Shell or the current script.
else            -Else identifies the portion of the code executedd if the if was FALSE.
endif           -Ends the block of a script controlled by an 'if' statement.
endfor          -Ends a 'for' loop.
type            -Sends the contents of a file to the standard output device.
touch           -Updates the time and date on a file to the current time and date.
ver             -Displays the version information for the UEFI Shell and the underlying UEFI firmware
alias           -Displays, creates, or deletes aliases in the UEFI Shell environment.
cls             -Clears the standard ouptut and optionally changes the background color.
echo            -Controls whether script commands are displayed as they are read for the script file, and prints the given message to the display.
pause           -Pauses a script and waits for an operator to press a key.
getmtc          -Gets the MTC from BootServices and displays it.
help            -Displays the list of commands that are built into the UEFI Shell.
connect         -Binds a driver to a specific device and starts the driver.
devices         -Displays the list of devices managed by UEFI drivers.
openinfo        -Displays the protocols and agents associated with a handle.
disconnect      -Disconnects one or more drivers from the specified devices.
reconnect       -Reconnects drivers to the specific device.
unload          -Unloads a driver image that was already loaded.
drvdiag         -Invokes the Driver Diagnostics Protocol.
dh              -Displays the device handles in the UEFI environment.
drivers         -Displays a list of information for drivers that follow the UEFI Driver Model in the UEFI environment.
devtree         -Displays the tree of devices compliant with the UEFI Driver Model.
drvcfg          -Configures the driver using the platform's underlying configuration infrastructure.
setsize         -Adjust the size of a file.
comp            -Compares the contents of two files on a byte for byte basis.
mode            -Displays or changes the console output device mode.
memmap          -Displays the memory map maintained by the EFI environment.
eficompress     -Compress a file using EFI Compression Algorithm.
efidecompress   -Decompress a file using UEFI Decompression Algorithm.
dmem            -Displays the contents of system or device memory.
loadpcirom      -Loads a UEFI driver from a file in the format of a PCI Option ROM.
mm              -Displays or modifies MEM/MMIO/IO/PCI/PCIE address space.
setvar          -Changes the value of a UEFI variable.
setmode         -Sets serial port attributes.
pci             -Displays PCI device list or PCI function configuration space.
smbiosview      -Displays SMBIOS informatino.
dmpstore        -Manages all UEFI NVRAM variables.
dblk            -Displays the contents of one or more blocks from a block device.
edit            -Full screen editor for ASCII or UCS-2 files.
hexedit         -Full screen hex editor for files, block devices, or memory.
bcfg            -Manages the boot and driver options that are stored in NVRAM.
ping            -Ping the target host with IPv4 stack.
ifconfig        -Modify the default IP address of the UEFI IP4 Network Stack.

Moving around the filesystem

ls fs1:\

09/11/2015  19:22           0
08/25/2015  00:16           0 .file
09/11/2015  21:37 <DIR>   175 .fseventsd

Yup, that's Mac OS X.

A weird thing is that when I ran ls fs1:\System it didn't list "Library", it listed "System". And when I tried to list that it said it was empty.

Configuring boot options

To see the current boot options, use this command.

bcfg boot dump -v

To set the boot disk, you'd do something like this.

bcfg boot dump -v
bcfg boot add 3 fs0:EFI[Your path][Your EFI name].efi
bcfg boot mv 3 0

If you want to remove it use this.

bcfg boot rm 3

I tried to add Apple's boot.efi like this.

bcfg boot add 3 fs1:\System\Library\CoreServices\boot.efi "10.6"

It didn't work, I don't remember what it said. It had something to do with not being able to find a file there (I'm guessing because it saw fs1:\System\System and nothing else).

NVRAM variables

The only NVRAM variable that appears to be settable is boot-args.

3.12.2. Specifying boot arguments

It is currently not possible to manipulate EFI variables from within a running guest (e.g., setting the "boot-args" variable by running the nvram tool in a Mac OS X guest will not work). As an alternative way, "VBoxInternal2/EfiBootArgs" extradata can be passed to a VM in order to set the "boot-args" variable. To change the "boot-args" EFI variable:

VBoxManage setextradata "VM name" VBoxInternal2/EfiBootArgs <value>

When I ran dmpstore I clearly can see differences in variables for Boot0001 between a bootable disk and a non-bootable disk. I didn't figure out the differences.

So to set single user mode boot run the following command.

VBoxManage setextradata "VM name" VBoxInternal2/EfiBootArgs -s

To see the settings run the following command.

VBoxManage getextradata "VM name" VBoxInternal2/EfiBootArgs

And to turn that off run the following command.

VBoxManage setextradata "VM name" VBoxInternal2/EfiBootArgs ""

Published: 2015-09-08, last edited: 2020-05-11

Copyright © 2024 James Reynolds