Quickly create and run optimised Windows, macOS and Linux desktop virtual machines.
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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 impish
quickemu --vm ubuntu-mate-impish.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 8.1, 10 and 11 including TPM 2.0
  • Ubuntu and all the official Ubuntu flavours
  • Debian (bullseye with all the official and non-free DE variants)
  • Fedora & openSUSE (Leap, Tumbleweed, MicroOS)
  • Alma Linux
  • Linux Mint (Cinnamon, MATE, and XFCE), elementary OS, Pop!_OS
  • Arch Linux, Kali,Garuda, ZorinOS & NixOS
  • Oracle Linux and Rocky Linux
  • Regolith Linux (Release 1.6 and latest 2.0.0 pre-release )
  • FreeBSD & OpenBSD
  • 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
  • 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


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 --depth=1 https://github.com/wimpysworld/quickemu
cd quickemu

Now install all the Requirements documented above.


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

Ubuntu Guest

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

quickget ubuntu focal
quickemu --vm ubuntu-focal.conf
  • Complete the installation as normal.
  • Post-install:
    • Install the SPICE agent (spice-vdagent) to enable copy/paste and USB redirection
      • sudo apt install spice-vdagent
    • Install the SPICE WebDAV agent (spice-webdavd) 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
  • lubuntu
  • ubuntu-budgie
  • ubuntu-kylin
  • ubuntu-mate
  • ubuntu-studio
  • xubuntu

Other Linux Guests

quickget also supports:

  • alma
  • archlinux
  • debian
  • elementary
  • fedora
  • garuda
  • kali
  • kdeneon
  • linuxmint
  • nixos
  • opensuse
  • oraclelinux
  • popos
  • regolith
  • rockylinux
  • zorin

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) to enable copy/paste and USB redirection.
    • Install the SPICE WebDAV agent (spice-webdavd) to enable file sharing.

BSD Guests

quickget also supports:

  • freebsd
  • openbsd

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
      • On macOS Catalina, Big Sur & Monterey
        • Select Apple Inc. VirtIO Block Media from the list and click Erase.
      • On macOS Mojave and High Sierra
        • Select QEMU HARDDISK Media (~103.08GB) from the list and click Erase.
    • Enter a Name: for the disk and 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

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 works on macOS High Sierra, Mojave and Catalina.
    • macOS Big Sur and Monterey have no audio at all.
  • File sharing between guest and host is available via virtio-9p and SPICE webdavd.
  • Copy/paste via SPICE agent is not available on macOS.

Windows 8.1, 10 & 11 Guests

quickget can automatically download Windows 8.1, Windows 10 and Windows 11 along with the VirtIO drivers for Windows and creates a virtual machine configuration.

quickget windows 11
quickemu --vm windows-11.conf
  • Complete the installation as you normally would.
  • All relevant drivers and services should be installed automatically.

Regional versions

By default quickget will download the "English International" release, but you can optionally specify one of the supported languages: For example:

quickget windows 11 "Chinese (Traditional)"

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.

BSD Guests

quickemu supports FreeBSD and OpenBSD.

quickget freebsd 13_0
quickemu --vm freebsd-13_0.conf


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-focal.conf --display spice


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-focal.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-focal/ubuntu-focal.ports


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


  • 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.

Bridged networking

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

  • bridge="br0"

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.

Host redirection

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
  --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', or 'spice'
  --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.
  --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.
  --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-focal-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.


Useful reference that assisted the development of Quickemu.