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Qemu is a small, simple console-based virtual machine emulator. It is not as full-featured or "user friendly" as vmware, parallels, or some others, but it is easy to install through synaptic, completely free, and very flexible in usage.


Basic usage of qemu is as simple as:

qemu -hda drive_image.img

Where drive_image.img is the name of a file you want to use as the virtual primary master drive.

To create a blank drive image file, use the included utility, qemu-img. This command, for instance, creates a 4 GB image file:

qemu-img create myimage.img 4G

You can optionally use actual devices instead of files. For example, to launch qemu using your USB drive sda as hda:

qemu -hda /dev/sda

To boot to a cdrom, you need to specify a device or iso file to use for the CD, then specify "-boot d". For instance, this boots to the CDrom in your physical drive:

qemu -cdrom /dev/cdrom -boot d

Qemu has a lot of interesting options, check the online documentation for a complete list.

Performance tweaks

  • To really boost performance, you need to compile and install the kqemu kernel module. Instructions can be found here. You will need to install the package "build-essential" before following those instructions.
  • qemu defaults to 128 MB of RAM on the virtual machine. You can give it more RAM using the "-m" switch. For instance:
    qemu -hda mydrive.img -m 384

GUI for qemu

Install and use qemu-launcher if you want to operate qemu through a GUI.


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