QEMU is a free and open-source emulator and virtualizer that can perform hardware virtualization.



$ guix package -i qemu

Create a (Debian) virtual machine

Create disk

Before we get started, we need some sort of disk, to store our data:

  • qcow is a sparse bundle format that grows as you fill it
  • 8GB is the (maximum) size
$ qemu-img create -f qcow2 debian.qcow 8G

Boot from ISO

We also need a ISO to boot and install from:

$ wget https://cdimage.debian.org/cdimage/release/10.5.0/amd64/iso-cd/debian-10.5.0-amd64-netinst.iso

Now we can boot qemu with the sparse bundle (HDD) and ISO attached:

  • -m 512 is the assigned RAM in Megabyte (512 MB)
$ qemu-system-x86_64 -hda debian.qcow -cdrom debian-10.5.0-amd64-netinst.iso -boot d -m 512

Install and configure as desired. For this guide, we assume user root and panther.

After the installation has completed, shutdown the virtual machine.

Boot from HDD after install

$ qemu-system-x86_64 -hda debian.qcow -m 1024

Mount a shared folder

You essentially boot the VM, with the shared folder “attached”. if your VM is already booted, shutdown first.

-virtfs local,path=$QEMU_SHARE,mount_tag=host0,security_model=none,id=host0

This is what it looks like:

$ export QEMU_SHARE=/home/franz/shared_folder
$ qemu-system-x86_64 -hda debian.qcow -m 1024 -virtfs local,path=$QEMU_SHARE,mount_tag=host0,security_model=none,id=host0

Now that Debian is running…

Login as panther and create the shared folder:

$ mkdir shared

and mount it:

$ sudo mount -t 9p -o trans=virtio,cache=none,rw host0 /home/panther/shared -oversion=9p2000.L -oaccess=user

_If you don’t have sudo installed, you can also login as root with su - root.

Mount a shared folder via samba

Only you should add -net nic -net user,smb=shared_folder_path option to qemu-system-x86_64/qemu-system-i386 cli. So:

$ qemu-system-x86_64 ubuntu -m 6144 -enable-kvm -net nic -net user,smb=/home/panther/shared
  • You should installed samba already on the host.
  • Install cifs-utils in your QEMU VM.
sudo apt install cifs-utils
  • mount in your QEMU VM.
mount -t cifs // /mnt/

Port forwarding

This is especially useful to access the virtual machine SSH, or any running application.

-device e1000,netdev=net0 \
-netdev user,id=net0,hostfwd=tcp::2222-:22 \

More performance using KVM

So far, we’ve been running Qemu as user, and you’ll likely notice the weak performance.

To run Qemu with KVM (Kernel Virtual Machine) enabled, you have two options:

  1. Run with sudo like so:
$ sudo qemu-system-x86_64 -enable-kvm ....
  1. Add your user to the kvm group, and run without sudo, like so:
(users (cons (user-account
                 (name "franz")
                 (comment "default")
                 (group "users")
                 ;; Adding the account to the "wheel" group
                 ;; makes it a sudoer.  Adding it to "audio"
                 ;; and "video" allows the user to play sound
                 ;; and access the webcam.
                 (supplementary-groups '("wheel" "netdev"
                                         "audio" "video" "docker" "kvm"))
                 (home-directory "/home/franz"))

Now you can:

$ qemu-system-x86_64 -enable-kvm

Attach USB device

It’s easy to attach almost any USB device to qemu, including card readers, cameras, phones and hard disks. This is especially useful to work with legacy Windows tools.

1) Find the desired device parameter:

$ lsusb
Bus 004 Device 003: ID 05e3:0754 Genesys Logic, Inc. USB Storage
Bus 002 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0003 Linux Foundation 3.0 root hub
Bus 001 Device 004: ID 04f2:b67c Chicony Electronics Co., Ltd Integrated Camera
Bus 001 Device 012: ID 17ef:6099 Lenovo Lenovo Traditional USB Keyboard
Bus 001 Device 011: ID 072f:b100 Advanced Card Systems, Ltd ACR39U <----

2) Now that we have the device name, we simply append that to our qemu start command. Note Bus 001 becomes hostbus=1 and Device 011 becomes hostaddr=11.

-usb -device usb-host,hostbus=1,hostaddr=11

You might run into some permission issues, and qemu might throw an error. Here’s how-to assign yourself temporary permission, to access the specific device:

chmod a+w /dev/bus/usb/001/011

Here’s the full command, booting from qcow image with Windows 7:

qemu-system-x86_64 \
-enable-kvm \
-hda windows7.qcow -m 2048 \
-usb -device usb-host,hostbus=1,hostaddr=11

If you faced with an error like this:

qemu-system-x86_64: -device usb-host,hostbus=1,hostaddr=11: failed to open host usb device 1:6

you can add -device qemu-xhci before -usb option:

qemu-system-x86_64 \
-enable-kvm \
-hda windows7.qcow -m 2048 \
-device qemu-xhci -usb -device usb-host,hostbus=1,hostaddr=11

Access VNC

To enable VNC access to your VNC on local port 5900, simply append:

-vnc :0

You should be able to connect to the VM via VNC on

Bonus: Development setup

If we combine this with the shared folder, we have a flexibe setup for development:

You’ll need to adapt two lines to suit your setup:

  • QEMU_IMAGE=/your/imagefile.qcow
  • QEMU_SHARE=/your/shared/folder
$ export QEMU_IMAGE=/home/franz/virtual/debian_jekyll.qcow
$ export QEMU_SHARE=/home/franz/shared_folder
$ qemu-system-x86_64 -enable-kvm -hda $QEMU_IMAGE -m 1024 \
-device e1000,netdev=net0 \
-netdev user,id=net0,hostfwd=tcp::2222-:22,hostfwd=tcp::4000-:4000 \
-virtfs local,path=$QEMU_SHARE,mount_tag=host0,security_model=none,id=host0

In this case, we’d run Jekyll inside the VM. Here’s what this will look like:

  • Shared folder that hosts the git repository
  • SSH port 22 forwarded to 2222 for easy ssh -p 2222 panther@
  • Point your browser to to see the result

Tip: You will have to run your application on With jekyll, you can do jekyll --host For jekyll, you might also have to add --force_polling for your changes to get picked-up since inotify doesn’t work trough p9.

See also

PantherX & (unofficial) GNU Guix Wiki.

Last update: 2021-10-12 20:09:22 +0000

Inspired by the excellent Arch Linux Wiki