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

Quickemu Screenshot

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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 21.10
quickemu --vm ubuntu-mate-21.10-.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.


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 &



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 --depth=1
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 20.04
quickemu --vm ubuntu-20.04.conf

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.

Other Operating Systems

quickget also supports:

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

quickemu --vm debian-bullseye.conf

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.

The default macOS configuration looks like this:


macOS compatibility

There are some considerations when running macOS via Quickemu.

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

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:



The following features are available while using the SPICE protocol:

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-20.04.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-20.04.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-20.04/ubuntu-20.04.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-21.10.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.

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:

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.

CD-ROM disks

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

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:

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


VirtIO-9P 🐧 🍏

Network port forwarding

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

In the example above:

Bridged networking

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

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:

In the example above:

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', 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-20.04-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.


Useful reference that assisted the development of Quickemu.