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Quickly create and run optimised Windows, macOS and Linux desktop virtual machines.

Quickemu Screenshot

Made with 💝 for


Quickly create and run highly optimised desktop virtual machines for Linux, macOS and Windows; with just two commands. You decide what operating system you want to run and Quickemu will figure out the best way to do it for you. For example:

quickget ubuntu-mate 22.04
quickemu --vm ubuntu-mate-22.04.conf

The original objective of the project was to enable quick testing of Linux distributions where the virtual machine configurations can be stored anywhere, such as external USB storage or your home directory, and no elevated permissions are required to run the virtual machines. Quickemu now also includes comprehensive support for macOS and Windows.


  • macOS Monterey, Big Sur, Catalina, Mojave & High Sierra
  • Windows 10 and 11 including TPM 2.0
  • Ubuntu and all the official Ubuntu flavours
  • Over 360 operating system editions are supported!
  • Full SPICE support including host/guest clipboard sharing
  • VirtIO-webdavd file sharing for Linux and Windows guests
  • VirtIO-9p file sharing for Linux and macOS guests
  • QEMU Guest Agent support; provides access to a system-level agent via standard QMP commands
  • Samba file sharing for Linux, macOS and Windows guests (if smbd is installed on the host)
  • VirGL acceleration
  • USB device pass-through
  • Smartcard pass-through
  • Automatic SSH port forwarding to guests
  • Network port forwarding
  • Full duplex audio
  • Braille support
  • EFI (with or without SecureBoot) and Legacy BIOS boot
  • Graphical user interfaces available

Quickemu is a wrapper for the excellent QEMU that attempts to automatically "do the right thing", rather than expose exhaustive configuration options.

We have a Discord for this project: Discord

See this (old) video where I explain some of my motivations for creating Quickemu.

Replace VirtualBox with Bash &QEMU


Installing Requirements

For Ubuntu, Arch and nixos systems the ppa, AUR or nix packaging will take care of the dependencies. For other host distributions or operating systems it will be necessary to install the above requirements or their equivalents.

These examples may save a little typing

Debian (and direct derivatives such as MX Linux):

sudo apt install qemu bash coreutils ovmf grep jq lsb-base procps python3 genisoimage usbutils util-linux sed spice-client-gtk libtss2-tcti-swtpm0 wget xdg-user-dirs zsync unzip


sudo dnf install qemu bash coreutils edk2-tools grep jq lsb procps python3 genisoimage usbutils util-linux sed spice-gtk-tools swtpm wget xdg-user-dirs xrandr unzip


This is a work in progress (see issue 248 for other steps and changes that may enable running on MacOS)

brew install qemu bash coreutils grep jq python@3.10 cdrtools gnu-sed spice-gtk wget zsync


Graphical User Interfaces

While quickemu and quickget are designed for the terminal, a graphical user interface is also available:

Many thanks to Luke Wesley-Holley and Philipp Kiemle for creating the Quickemu icons 🎨

Quickgui for Ubuntu

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:yannick-mauray/quickgui
sudo apt update
sudo apt install quickgui

Install Quickemu


Quickemu is available from a PPA for Ubuntu users. The Quickemu PPA also includes a back port of QEMU 6.0.0 for 20.04 (Focal) and 21.04 (Hirsute). To install Quickemu and all the dependencies run the following in a terminal:

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:flexiondotorg/quickemu
sudo apt update
sudo apt install quickemu

Other Linux

git clone --filter=blob:none
cd quickemu

Now install all the Requirements documented above.

Other sources found the following releases have been packaged.





Ubuntu Guest

quickget will automatically download an Ubuntu release and create the virtual machine configuration.

quickget ubuntu 22.04
quickemu --vm ubuntu-22.04.conf
  • Complete the installation as normal.
  • Post-install:
    • Install the SPICE agent (spice-vdagent) in the guest to enable copy/paste and USB redirection
      • sudo apt install spice-vdagent
    • Install the SPICE WebDAV agent (spice-webdavd) in the guest to enable file sharing.
      • sudo apt install spice-webdavd

Ubuntu devel (daily-live) images

quickget can also download/refresh devel images via zsync for Ubuntu developers and testers.

quickget ubuntu devel
quickemu --vm ubuntu-devel.conf

You can run quickget ubuntu devel to refresh your daily development image as often as you like, it will even automatically switch to a new series.

Ubuntu Flavours

All the official Ubuntu flavours are supported, just replace ubuntu with your preferred flavour.

  • kubuntu (Kubuntu)
  • lubuntu (Lubuntu)
  • ubuntu-budgie (Ubuntu Budgie)
  • ubuntucinnamon (Ubuntu Cinnamon)
  • ubuntukylin (Ubuntu Kylin)
  • ubuntu-mate (Ubuntu MATE)
  • ubuntu-server (Ubuntu Server)
  • ubuntustudio (Ubuntu Studio)
  • ubuntu (Ubuntu)
  • ubuntu-unity (Ubuntu Unity)
  • xubuntu (Xubuntu)

Other Operating Systems

quickget also supports:

  • alma (Alma Linux)
  • alpine (Alpine Linux)
  • android (Android x86)
  • archcraft (Archcraft)
  • archlinux (Arch Linux)
  • arcolinux (Arco Linux)
  • batocera (Batocera)
  • blendos (BlendOS)
  • cachyos (CachyOS)
  • centos-stream (CentOS Stream)
  • debian (Debian)
  • deepin (Deepin)
  • devuan (Devuan)
  • dragonflybsd (DragonFlyBSD)
  • elementary (elementary OS)
  • endeavouros (EndeavourOS)
  • endless (Endless OS)
  • fedora (Fedora)
  • freebsd (FreeBSD)
  • freedos (FreeDOS)
  • gentoo (Gentoo)
  • ghostbsd (GhostBSD)
  • haiku (Haiku)
  • holoiso (HoloISO)
  • kali (Kali)
  • kdeneon (KDE Neon)
  • kolibrios (KolibriOS)
  • linuxmint (Linux Mint)
  • lmde (Linux Mint Debian Edition)
  • mageia (Mageia)
  • manjaro (Manjaro)
  • mxlinux (MX Linux)
  • netboot (
  • netbsd (NetBSD)
  • nixos (NixOS)
  • openbsd (OpenBSD)
  • openindiana (OpenIndiana)
  • opensuse (openSUSE)
  • oraclelinux (Oracle Linux)
  • popos (Pop!_OS)
  • reactos (ReactOS)
  • rebornos (RebornOS)
  • rockylinux (Rocky Linux)
  • siduction (Siduction)
  • slackware (Slackware)
  • solus (Solus)
  • tails (Tails)
  • truenas-core (TrueNAS Core)
  • truenas-scale (TrueNAS Scale)
  • vanillaos (Vanilla OS)
  • void (Void Linux)
  • vxlinux (VX Linux)
  • xerolinux (XeroLinux)
  • zorin (Zorin OS)

Or you can download a Linux image and manually create a VM configuration.

  • Download a .iso image of a Linux distribution
  • Create a VM configuration file; for example debian-bullseye.conf
  • Use quickemu to start the virtual machine:
quickemu --vm debian-bullseye.conf
  • Complete the installation as normal.
  • Post-install:
    • Install the SPICE agent (spice-vdagent) in the guest to enable copy/paste and USB redirection.
    • Install the SPICE WebDAV agent (spice-webdavd) in the guest to enable file sharing.

macOS Guest

quickget automatically downloads a macOS recovery image and creates a virtual machine configuration.

quickget macos catalina
quickemu --vm macos-catalina.conf

macOS high-sierra, mojave, catalina, big-sur and monterey are supported.

  • Use cursor keys and enter key to select the macOS Base System
  • From macOS Utilities
    • Click Disk Utility and Continue
      • Select QEMU HARDDISK Media (~103.08GB) from the list (on Big Sur and above use Apple Inc. VirtIO Block Device) and click Erase.
      • Enter a Name: for the disk
      • If you are installing macOS Mojave or later (Catalina, Big Sur, and Monterey), choose any of the APFS options as the filesystem. MacOS Extended may not work.
    • Click Erase.
    • Click Done.
    • Close Disk Utility
  • From macOS Utilities
    • Click Reinstall macOS and Continue
  • Complete the installation as you normally would.
    • On the first reboot use cursor keys and enter key to select macOS Installer
    • On the subsequent reboots use cursor keys and enter key to select the disk you named
  • Once you have finished installing macOS you will be presented with an the out-of-the-box first-start wizard to configure various options and set up your username and password
  • OPTIONAL: After you have concluded the out-of-the-box wizard, you may want to enable the TRIM feature that the computer industry created for SSD disks. This feature in our macOS installation will allow QuickEmu to compact (shrink) your macOS disk image whenever you delete files inside the Virtual Machine. Without this step your macOS disk image will only ever get larger and will not shrink even when you delete lots of data inside macOS.
    • To enable TRIM, open the Terminal application and type the following command followed by pressing command on the hard disk when files are deleted:
sudo trimforce enable

You will be prompted to enter your account's password to gain the privilege needed. Once you've entered your password and pressed in the form of two questions that require you to type response as though you said "no":

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This tool force-enables TRIM for all relevant attached devices, even though such devices may not have been validated for data integrity while using TRIM. Use of this tool to enable TRIM may result in unintended data loss or data corruption. It should not be used in a commercial operating environment or with important data. Before using this tool, you should back up all of your data and regularly back up data while TRIM is enabled. This tool is provided on an "as is" basis. APPLE MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF NON-INFRINGEMENT, MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, REGARDING THIS TOOL OR ITS USE ALONE OR IN COMBINATION WITH YOUR DEVICES, SYSTEMS, OR SERVICES. BY USING THIS TOOL TO ENABLE TRIM, YOU AGREE THAT, TO THE EXTENT PERMITTED BY APPLICABLE LAW, USE OF THE TOOL IS AT YOUR SOLE RISK AND THAT THE ENTIRE RISK AS TO SATISFACTORY QUALITY, PERFORMANCE, ACCURACY AND EFFORT IS WITH YOU.
Are you sure you with to proceed (y/N)?

And a second confirmation once you've confirmed the previous one:

Your system will immediately reboot when this is complete.
Is this OK (y/N)?

As the last message states, your system will automatically reboot as soon as the command completes.

The default macOS configuration looks like this:

  • guest_os="macos" instructs Quickemu to optimise for macOS.
  • macos_release="catalina" instructs Quickemu to optimise for a particular macOS release.
    • For example VirtIO Network and Memory Ballooning are available in Big Sur and newer, but not previous releases.
    • And VirtIO Block Media (disks) are supported/stable in Catalina and newer.

macOS compatibility

There are some considerations when running macOS via Quickemu.

  • Supported macOS releases:
    • High Sierra
    • Mojave
    • Catalina (Recommended)
    • Big Sur
    • Monterey
  • quickemu will automatically download the required OpenCore bootloader and OVMF firmware from OSX-KVM.
  • Optimised by default, but no GPU acceleration is available.
    • Host CPU vendor is detected and guest CPU is optimised accordingly.
    • VirtIO Block Media is used for the system disk where supported.
    • VirtIO usb-tablet is used for the mouse.
    • VirtIO Network (virtio-net) is supported and enabled on macOS Big Sur and newer but previous releases use vmxnet3.
    • VirtIO Memory Ballooning is supported and enabled on macOS Big Sur and newer but disabled for other support macOS releases.
  • USB host and SPICE pass-through is:
    • UHCI (USB 2.0) on macOS Catalina and earlier.
    • XHCI (USB 3.0) on macOS Big Sur and newer.
  • Display resolution can only be changed via macOS System Preferences.
  • Full Duplex audio requires VoodooHDA OC or pass-through a USB audio-device to the macOS guest VM.
  • NOTE! Gatekeeper and System Integrity Protection (SIP) need to be disabled to install VoodooHDA OC
  • File sharing between guest and host is available via virtio-9p and SPICE webdavd.
  • Copy/paste via SPICE agent is not available on macOS.

macOS App Store

If you see "Your device or computer could not be verified" when you try to login to the App Store, make sure that your wired ethernet device is en0. Use ifconfig in a terminal to verify this.

If the wired ethernet device is not en0, then then go to System Preferences -> Network, delete all the network devices and apply the changes. Next, open a terminal and run the following:

sudo rm /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/NetworkInterfaces.plist

Now reboot, and the App Store should work.

Windows 10 & 11 Guests

quickget can download Windows10 and Windows 11 automatically and create an optimised virtual machine configuration. This configuration also includes the VirtIO drivers for Windows.

quickget windows 11
quickemu --vm windows-11-22H2.conf
  • Complete the installation as you normally would.
  • All relevant drivers and services should be installed automatically.
  • A local adminstrator user account is automatically created, with these credentials:
    • Username: Quickemu
    • Password: quickemu

The default Windows 11 configuration looks like this:

  • guest_os="windows" instructs quickemu to optimise for Windows.
  • fixed_iso= specifies the ISO image that provides VirtIO drivers.
  • tpm="on" instructs quickemu to create a software emulated TPM device using swtpm.


The following features are available while using the SPICE protocol:

  • Copy/paste between the guest and host
  • Host file sharing to the guest
  • USB device redirection

To use SPICE add --display spice to the Quickemu invocation, this requires that the spicy client is installed, available from the spice-client-gtk package in Debian/Ubuntu.

quickemu --vm ubuntu-22.04.conf --display spice

To enable copy/paste with a Windows guest, install SPICE Windows guest tools in the guest VM.


To start a VM with SPICE enabled, but no display attached use --display none. This requires that the spicy client is installed, available from the spice-client-gtk package in Debian/Ubuntu to connect to the running VM

quickemu --vm ubuntu-22.04.conf --display none

You can also use the .ports file in the VM directory to lookup what SSH and SPICE ports the VM is connected to.

cat ubuntu-22.04/ubuntu-22.04.ports

If, for example, the SSH port is set to 22220, and assuming your VM has a started SSH service (details vary by OS), you can typically SSH into it from the host as follows:

ssh -p 22220 your_vm_user@localhost


Qemu provides support for using BrlAPI to display braille output on a real or fake device.

quickemu --vm ubuntu-22.04.conf --braille --display sdl


Since Quickemu 2.1.0 efi is the default boot option. If you want to override this behaviour then add the following line to you VM configuration to enable legacy BIOS.

  • boot="legacy" - Enable Legacy BIOS boot

Tuning CPU cores, RAM & disks

By default, Quickemu will calculate the number of CPUs cores and RAM to allocate to a VM based on the specifications of your host computer. You can override this default behaviour and tune the VM configuration to your liking.

Add additional lines to your virtual machine configuration:

  • cpu_cores="4" - Specify the number of CPU cores allocated to the VM
  • ram="4G" - Specify the amount of RAM to allocate to the VM
  • disk_size="16G" - Specify the size of the virtual disk allocated to the VM

Disk preallocation

Preallocation mode (allowed values: off (default), metadata, falloc, full). An image with preallocated metadata is initially larger but can improve performance when the image needs to grow.

Specify what disk preallocation should be used, if any, when creating the system disk image by adding a line like this to your VM configuration.

  • preallocation="metadata"

CD-ROM disks

If you want to expose an ISO image from the host to guest add the following line to the VM configuration:

  • fixed_iso="/path/to/image.iso"

Floppy disks

If you're like Alan Pope you'll probably want to mount a floppy disk image in the guest. To do so add the following line to the VM configuration:

  • floppy="/path/to/floppy.img"

File Sharing

All File Sharing options will only expose ~/Public (or localised variations) for the current user to the guest VMs.

Samba 🐧 🍏 🪟

If smbd is available on the host, Quickemu will automatically enable the built-in QEMU support for exposing a Samba share from the host to the guest.

You can install the minimal Samba components on Ubuntu using:

sudo apt install --no-install-recommends samba

If everything is set up correctly, the smbd address will be printed when the virtual machine is started. For example:

 - smbd:     On guest: smb://

If using a Windows guest, right-click on "This PC", click "Add a network location", and paste this address, removing smb: and replacing forward slashes with backslashes (in this example \\\qemu).


  • TBD

VirtIO-9P 🐧 🍏

  • TBD

Network port forwarding

Add an additional line to your virtual machine configuration. For example:

  • port_forwards=("8123:8123" "8888:80")

In the example above:

  • Port 8123 on the host is forwarded to port 8123 on the guest.
  • Port 8888 on the host is forwarded to port 80 on the guest.

Disable networking

To completely disable all network interfaces in a guest VM add this additional line to your virtual machine configuration:

  • network="none"

Restricted networking

You can isolate the guest from the host (and broader network) using the restrict option, which will restrict networking to just the guest and any virtual devices.

This can be used to prevent software running inside the guest from phoning home while still providing a network inside the guest. Add this additional line to your virtual machine configuration:

  • network="restrict"

Bridged networking

Connect your virtual machine to a preconfigured network bridge. Add an additional line to your virtual machine configuration:

  • network="br0"

If you want to have a persistent MAC address for your bridged network interface in the guest VM you can add macaddr to the virtual machine configuration. QEMU requires that the MAC address is in the range: 52:54:00:AB:00:00 - 52:54:00:AB:FF:FF

So you can generate your own MAC addresses with:

  • macaddr="52:54:00:AB:51:AE"

USB redirection

Quickemu supports USB redirection via SPICE pass-through and host pass-through.

Using SPICE for USB pass-through is easiest as it doesn't require any elevated permission, start Quickemu with --display spice and then select Input -> Select USB Device for redirection from the menu to choose which device(s) you want to attach to the guest.

USB host redirection is not recommended, it is provided purely for backwards compatibility to older versions of Quickemu. Using SPICE is preferred, see above.

Add an additional line to your virtual machine configuration. For example:

  • usb_devices=("046d:082d" "046d:085e")

In the example above:

  • The USB device with vendor_id 046d and product_id 082d will be exposed to the guest.
  • The USB device with vendor_id 046d and product_id 085e will be exposed to the guest.

If the USB devices are not writable, quickemu will display the appropriate commands to modify the USB device(s) access permissions, like this:

 - USB:      Host pass-through requested:
              - Sennheiser Communications EPOS GTW 270 on bus 001 device 005 needs permission changes:
                sudo chown -v root:user /dev/bus/usb/001/005
                ERROR! USB permission changes are required 👆


Since Quickemu 2.2.0 a software emulated TPM device can be added to guest virtual machines. Just add tpm="on" to your VM configuration. quickget will automatically add this line to Windows 11 virtual machines.

All the options

Here are the usage instructions:

  quickemu --vm ubuntu.conf

You can also pass optional parameters
  --braille                         : Enable braille support. Requires SDL.
  --delete-disk                     : Delete the disk image and EFI variables
  --delete-vm                       : Delete the entire VM and it's configuration
  --display                         : Select display backend. 'sdl' (default), 'gtk', 'none', 'spice' or 'spice-app'
  --fullscreen                      : Starts VM in full screen mode (Ctl+Alt+f to exit)
  --ignore-msrs-always              : Configure KVM to always ignore unhandled machine-specific registers
  --screen <screen>                 : Use specified screen to determine the window size.
  --screenpct <percent>             : Percent of fullscreen for VM if --fullscreen is not specified.
  --shortcut                        : Create a desktop shortcut
  --snapshot apply <tag>            : Apply/restore a snapshot.
  --snapshot create <tag>           : Create a snapshot.
  --snapshot delete <tag>           : Delete a snapshot.
  --snapshot info                   : Show disk/snapshot info.
  --status-quo                      : Do not commit any changes to disk/snapshot.
  --viewer <viewer>                 : Choose an alternative viewer. @Options: 'spicy' (default), 'remote-viewer', 'none'
  --ssh-port <port>                 : Set ssh-port manually
  --spice-port <port>               : Set spice-port manually
  --public-dir <path>               : expose share directory. @Options: '' (default: xdg-user-dir PUBLICSHARE), '<directory>', 'none'
  --monitor <type>                  : Set monitor connection type. @Options: 'socket' (default), 'telnet', 'none'
  --monitor-telnet-host <ip/host>   : Set telnet host for monitor. (default: 'localhost')
  --monitor-telnet-port <port>      : Set telnet port for monitor. (default: '4440')
  --monitor-cmd <cmd>               : Send command to monitor if available. (Example: system_powerdown)
  --serial <type>                   : Set serial connection type. @Options: 'socket' (default), 'telnet', 'none'
  --serial-telnet-host <ip/host>    : Set telnet host for serial. (default: 'localhost')
  --serial-telnet-port <port>       : Set telnet port for serial. (default: '6660')
  --keyboard <type>                 : Set keyboard. @Options: 'usb' (default), 'ps2', 'virtio'
  --keyboard_layout <layout>        : Set keyboard layout.
  --mouse <type>                    : Set mouse. @Options: 'tablet' (default), 'ps2', 'usb', 'virtio'
  --usb-controller <type>           : Set usb-controller. @Options: 'ehci' (default), 'xhci', 'none'
  --extra_args <arguments>          : Pass additional arguments to qemu
  --version                         : Print version

Desktop shortcuts

Desktop shortcuts can be created for a VM, the shortcuts are saved in ~/.local/share/applications. Here is an example of how to create a shortcut.

quickemu --vm ubuntu-22.04-desktop.conf --shortcut

Screen and window size (Linux guests only)

qemu will always default to the primary monitor to display the VM's window.

Without the --screen option, quickemu will look for the size of the smallest monitor, and use a size that fits on said monitor.

The --screen option forces quickemu to use the size of the given monitor to compute the size of the window. It won't use that monitor to display the VM's window if it's not the primary monitor. This is useful if the primary monitor if not the smallest one, and if the VM's window doesn't need to be moved around.

The --screen option is also useful with the --fullscreen option, again because qemu will always use the primary monitor. In order for the fullscreen mode to work properly, the resolution of the VM's window must match the resolution of the screen.

To know which screen to use, type:

xrandr --listmonitors | grep -v Monitors

The command will output something like this:

 0: +*HDMI-0 2560/597x1440/336+1920+0  HDMI-0
 1: +DVI-D-0 1920/527x1080/296+0+0  DVI-D-0

The first number is what needs to be passed to the --screen option.

For example:

quickemu --vm vm.conf --screen 0

The above uses the 2560x1440 screen to compute the size of the window, which Quickemu sizes to 2048x1152. Without the --screen option, Quickemu would have used the 1920x1080 monitor which results in a window size of 1664x936.

The '--screenpct' is an optional interger value between 25 <= pct < 100 which will override system default screen sizes. The VM size will be 'pct' of the chosen screen. If --fullscreen is chosen screen will be fullsize instead of being scaled down by --screenpct value.


Useful reference that assisted the development of Quickemu.