ARM64 VM on macOS with libvirt + QEMU
This is the same article I published last year, except updated for M1 Macs. Overall, this method is great for headless Linux VMs that run in the background. We will be using the ARM versions of
QEMU, with full Hypervisor.Framework support.
Installing libvirt and QEMU
- First, install homebrew, which is a package manager for macOS.
brew install qemu gcc libvirt.
- Since macOS doesn't support QEMU security features, we need to disable them:
echo 'security_driver = "none"' >> /opt/homebrew/etc/libvirt/qemu.conf echo "dynamic_ownership = 0" >> /opt/homebrew/etc/libvirt/qemu.conf echo "remember_owner = 0" >> /opt/homebrew/etc/libvirt/qemu.conf
- Finally start the libvirt service, with
brew services start libvirt. It will start after boot as well.
Installing Ubuntu Server 20.04 for ARM
There are two ways to access the virtual display of the VM, either using a VNC client or the virt-viewer program. I recommend RealVNC Viewer. The VNC client is responsive and quick to install, but if you have multiple VMs you need to manually manage the different ports. The rest of this guide uses VNC.
vmsfolder in your home directory, and generate a disk image. Change
50gto the size of your prefered disk:
mkdir ~/vms && cd ~/vms qemu-img create -f qcow2 ubuntu.qcow2 50g
Modify the following elements in the
ubuntu.xmlfile to match your your VM preferences and file paths. Save, then run
virsh define ubuntu.xmlfollowed by
virsh start ubuntu.
<domain type='qemu' xmlns:qemu='http://libvirt.org/schemas/domain/qemu/1.0'> <name>name of the VM</name> <memory unit='GB'>how much ram</memory> <vcpu>how many cpus</vcpu> ... <disk type='file' device='disk'> <source file='full path to your qcow2 file'/> ... <disk type='file' device='disk'> <source file='full path to your install iso'/>
Start RealVNC Viewer and connect to
localhost. If you don't see the installation screen, or possibly reinstalling, click the
Ctrl+Alt+Delbutton to reboot the machine, and quickly press
Escto get into the OVMF menu. Select Boot Manager, then boot the install image. For me it was
UEFI Misc Device 3.
Install Ubuntu Server normally, making sure to enable the SSH server. Once it restarts you can connect to the VM from your terminal by running
ssh -p 2222 user@localhost.
To send a shutdown signal to your VM, run
virsh shutdown ubuntu. To force shutdown, run
virsh destroy ubuntu.
To forward a port, e.g. port 443 from the VM to port 8443 locally, run the following:
ssh -p 2222 -L8443:localhost:443 user@localhost
If you want to create multiple VMs, create an XML file for each machine with a unique UUID, VM name, and VNC port. Also, change the
hostfwd argument so that each VM exposes a different port for SSH, e.g.
2223 instead of
2222. After you have defined them all, you can get a list of the VMs that are currently running with
Newer versions of Ubuntu Server may require disabling the
irqbalance service in order to gracefully shutdown:
sudo systemctl disable irqbalance
- Grasping Tech: Creating a Ubuntu Desktop 18.04 Virtual Machine on macOS with QEMU
- Homebrew Discussion: Failed to connect socket to '/var/run/libvirt/libvirt-sock'
- StackExchange: libvirt on Apple Silicon
- GitLab Issue: libvirt doesn't work with apple silicon
Update June 2023: Added troubleshooting section