# Disk Images¶

Since version 0.6.1, QEMU supports many disk image formats, including growable disk images (their size increase as non empty sectors are written), compressed and encrypted disk images. Version 0.8.3 added the new qcow2 disk image format which is essential to support VM snapshots.

## Quick start for disk image creation¶

You can create a disk image with the command:

qemu-img create myimage.img mysize


where myimage.img is the disk image filename and mysize is its size in kilobytes. You can add an M suffix to give the size in megabytes and a G suffix for gigabytes.

## Snapshot mode¶

If you use the option -snapshot, all disk images are considered as read only. When sectors in written, they are written in a temporary file created in /tmp. You can however force the write back to the raw disk images by using the commit monitor command (or C-a s in the serial console).

## VM snapshots¶

VM snapshots are snapshots of the complete virtual machine including CPU state, RAM, device state and the content of all the writable disks. In order to use VM snapshots, you must have at least one non removable and writable block device using the qcow2 disk image format. Normally this device is the first virtual hard drive.

Use the monitor command savevm to create a new VM snapshot or replace an existing one. A human readable name can be assigned to each snapshot in addition to its numerical ID.

Use loadvm to restore a VM snapshot and delvm to remove a VM snapshot. info snapshots lists the available snapshots with their associated information:

(qemu) info snapshots
Snapshot devices: hda
Snapshot list (from hda):
ID        TAG                 VM SIZE                DATE       VM CLOCK
1         start                   41M 2006-08-06 12:38:02   00:00:14.954
2                                 40M 2006-08-06 12:43:29   00:00:18.633
3         msys                    40M 2006-08-06 12:44:04   00:00:23.514


A VM snapshot is made of a VM state info (its size is shown in info snapshots) and a snapshot of every writable disk image. The VM state info is stored in the first qcow2 non removable and writable block device. The disk image snapshots are stored in every disk image. The size of a snapshot in a disk image is difficult to evaluate and is not shown by info snapshots because the associated disk sectors are shared among all the snapshots to save disk space (otherwise each snapshot would need a full copy of all the disk images).

When using the (unrelated) -snapshot option (disk_images_snapshot_mode), you can always make VM snapshots, but they are deleted as soon as you exit QEMU.

VM snapshots currently have the following known limitations:

• They cannot cope with removable devices if they are removed or inserted after a snapshot is done.
• A few device drivers still have incomplete snapshot support so their state is not saved or restored properly (in particular USB).

## qemu-img Invocation¶

 man begin SYNOPSIS
qemu-img [standard options] command [command options]
man end


qemu-img allows you to create, convert and modify images offline. It can handle all image formats supported by QEMU.

Warning: Never use qemu-img to modify images in use by a running virtual machine or any other process; this may destroy the image. Also, be aware that querying an image that is being modified by another process may encounter inconsistent state.

Standard options:

-h, –help
Display this help and exit
-V, –version
Display version information and exit
-T, –trace [[enable=]pattern][,events=file][,file=file]
–trace

Specify tracing options.

[enable=]pattern

Immediately enable events matching pattern. The file must contain one event name (as listed in the trace-events-all file) per line; globbing patterns are accepted too. This option is only available if QEMU has been compiled with the simple, stderr or ftrace tracing backend. To specify multiple events or patterns, specify the -trace option multiple times.

Use -trace help to print a list of names of trace points.

events=file
Immediately enable events listed in file. The file must contain one event name (as listed in the trace-events-all file) per line; globbing patterns are accepted too. This option is only available if QEMU has been compiled with the simple, stderr or ftrace tracing backend.
file=file
Log output traces to file. This option is only available if QEMU has been compiled with the simple tracing backend.

The following commands are supported:

bench [-c count] [-d depth] [-f fmt] [–flush-interval=flush_interval] [-n] [–no-drain] [-o offset] [–pattern=pattern] [-q] [-s buffer_size] [-S step_size] [-t cache] [-w] filename
check [–object objectdef] [–image-opts] [-q] [-f fmt] [–output=ofmt] [-r [leaks | all]] [-T src_cache] filename
create [–object objectdef] [–image-opts] [-q] [-f fmt] [-o options] filename [size]
commit [–object objectdef] [–image-opts] [-q] [-f fmt] [-t cache] [-b base] [-d] [-p] filename
compare [–object objectdef] [–image-opts] [-f fmt] [-F fmt] [-T src_cache] [-p] [-q] [-s] filename1 filename2
convert [–object objectdef] [–image-opts] [-c] [-p] [-q] [-n] [-f fmt] [-t cache] [-T src_cache] [-O output_fmt] [-o options] [-s snapshot_id_or_name] [-l snapshot_param] [-S sparse_size] filename [filename2 [...]] output_filename
dd [–image-opts] [-f fmt] [-O output_fmt] [bs=block_size] [count=blocks] [skip=blocks] if=input of=output
info [–object objectdef] [–image-opts] [-f fmt] [–output=ofmt] [–backing-chain] filename
map [–object objectdef] [–image-opts] [-f fmt] [–output=ofmt] filename
snapshot [–object objectdef] [–image-opts] [-q] [-l | -a snapshot | -c snapshot | -d snapshot] filename
rebase [–object objectdef] [–image-opts] [-q] [-f fmt] [-t cache] [-T src_cache] [-p] [-u] -b backing_file [-F backing_fmt] filename
resize [–object objectdef] [–image-opts] [-q] filename [+ | -]size
amend [–object objectdef] [–image-opts] [-p] [-q] [-f fmt] [-t cache] -o options filename

Command parameters:

filename
is a disk image filename
–object objectdef
is a QEMU user creatable object definition. See the qemu(1) manual page for a description of the object properties. The most common object type is a secret, which is used to supply passwords and/or encryption keys.
–image-opts
Indicates that the filename parameter is to be interpreted as a full option string, not a plain filename. This parameter is mutually exclusive with the -f and -F parameters.
fmt
is the disk image format. It is guessed automatically in most cases. See below for a description of the supported disk formats.
–backing-chain
will enumerate information about backing files in a disk image chain. Refer below for further description.
size
is the disk image size in bytes. Optional suffixes k or K (kilobyte, 1024) M (megabyte, 1024k) and G (gigabyte, 1024M) and T (terabyte, 1024G) are supported. b is ignored.
output_filename
is the destination disk image filename
output_fmt
is the destination format
options
is a comma separated list of format specific options in a name=value format. Use -o ? for an overview of the options supported by the used format or see the format descriptions below for details.
snapshot_param
is param used for internal snapshot, format is ’snapshot.id=[ID],snapshot.name=[NAME]’ or ’[ID_OR_NAME]’
snapshot_id_or_name
-c
indicates that target image must be compressed (qcow format only)
-h
with or without a command shows help and lists the supported formats
-p
display progress bar (compare, convert and rebase commands only). If the -p option is not used for a command that supports it, the progress is reported when the process receives a SIGUSR1 signal.
-q
Quiet mode - do not print any output (except errors). There’s no progress bar in case both -q and -p options are used.
-S size
indicates the consecutive number of bytes that must contain only zeros for qemu-img to create a sparse image during conversion. This value is rounded down to the nearest 512 bytes. You may use the common size suffixes like k for kilobytes.
-t cache
specifies the cache mode that should be used with the (destination) file. See the documentation of the emulator’s -drive cache=... option for allowed values.
-T src_cache
specifies the cache mode that should be used with the source file(s). See the documentation of the emulator’s -drive cache=... option for allowed values.

Parameters to snapshot subcommand:

snapshot
is the name of the snapshot to create, apply or delete
-a
applies a snapshot (revert disk to saved state)
-c
creates a snapshot
-d
deletes a snapshot
-l
lists all snapshots in the given image

Parameters to compare subcommand:

-f
First image format
-F
Second image format
-s
Strict mode - fail on different image size or sector allocation

Parameters to convert subcommand:

-n
Skip the creation of the target volume

Parameters to dd subcommand:

bs=block_size
defines the block size
count=blocks
sets the number of input blocks to copy
if=input
sets the input file
of=output
sets the output file
skip=blocks
sets the number of input blocks to skip

Command description:

bench [-c count] [-d depth] [-f fmt] [–flush-interval=flush_interval] [-n] [–no-drain] [-o offset] [–pattern=pattern] [-q] [-s buffer_size] [-S step_size] [-t cache] [-w] filename

Run a simple sequential I/O benchmark on the specified image. If -w is specified, a write test is performed, otherwise a read test is performed.

A total number of count I/O requests is performed, each buffer_size bytes in size, and with depth requests in parallel. The first request starts at the position given by offset, each following request increases the current position by step_size. If step_size is not given, buffer_size is used for its value.

If flush_interval is specified for a write test, the request queue is drained and a flush is issued before new writes are made whenever the number of remaining requests is a multiple of flush_interval. If additionally --no-drain is specified, a flush is issued without draining the request queue first.

If -n is specified, the native AIO backend is used if possible. On Linux, this option only works if -t none or -t directsync is specified as well.

For write tests, by default a buffer filled with zeros is written. This can be overridden with a pattern byte specified by pattern.

check [-f fmt] [–output=ofmt] [-r [leaks | all]] [-T src_cache] filename

Perform a consistency check on the disk image filename. The command can output in the format ofmt which is either human or json.

If -r is specified, qemu-img tries to repair any inconsistencies found during the check. -r leaks repairs only cluster leaks, whereas -r all fixes all kinds of errors, with a higher risk of choosing the wrong fix or hiding corruption that has already occurred.

Only the formats qcow2, qed and vdi support consistency checks.

In case the image does not have any inconsistencies, check exits with 0. Other exit codes indicate the kind of inconsistency found or if another error occurred. The following table summarizes all exit codes of the check subcommand:

0
Check completed, the image is (now) consistent
1
Check not completed because of internal errors
2
Check completed, image is corrupted
3
Check completed, image has leaked clusters, but is not corrupted
63
Checks are not supported by the image format

If -r is specified, exit codes representing the image state refer to the state after (the attempt at) repairing it. That is, a successful -r all will yield the exit code 0, independently of the image state before.

create [-f fmt] [-o options] filename [size]

Create the new disk image filename of size size and format fmt. Depending on the file format, you can add one or more options that enable additional features of this format.

If the option backing_file is specified, then the image will record only the differences from backing_file. No size needs to be specified in this case. backing_file will never be modified unless you use the commit monitor command (or qemu-img commit).

The size can also be specified using the size option with -o, it doesn’t need to be specified separately in this case.

commit [-q] [-f fmt] [-t cache] [-b base] [-d] [-p] filename

Commit the changes recorded in filename in its base image or backing file. If the backing file is smaller than the snapshot, then the backing file will be resized to be the same size as the snapshot. If the snapshot is smaller than the backing file, the backing file will not be truncated. If you want the backing file to match the size of the smaller snapshot, you can safely truncate it yourself once the commit operation successfully completes.

The image filename is emptied after the operation has succeeded. If you do not need filename afterwards and intend to drop it, you may skip emptying filename by specifying the -d flag.

If the backing chain of the given image file filename has more than one layer, the backing file into which the changes will be committed may be specified as base (which has to be part of filename’s backing chain). If base is not specified, the immediate backing file of the top image (which is filename) will be used. For reasons of consistency, explicitly specifying base will always imply -d (since emptying an image after committing to an indirect backing file would lead to different data being read from the image due to content in the intermediate backing chain overruling the commit target).

compare [-f fmt] [-F fmt] [-T src_cache] [-p] [-s] [-q] filename1 filename2

Check if two images have the same content. You can compare images with different format or settings.

The format is probed unless you specify it by -f (used for filename1) and/or -F (used for filename2) option.

By default, images with different size are considered identical if the larger image contains only unallocated and/or zeroed sectors in the area after the end of the other image. In addition, if any sector is not allocated in one image and contains only zero bytes in the second one, it is evaluated as equal. You can use Strict mode by specifying the -s option. When compare runs in Strict mode, it fails in case image size differs or a sector is allocated in one image and is not allocated in the second one.

By default, compare prints out a result message. This message displays information that both images are same or the position of the first different byte. In addition, result message can report different image size in case Strict mode is used.

Compare exits with 0 in case the images are equal and with 1 in case the images differ. Other exit codes mean an error occurred during execution and standard error output should contain an error message. The following table sumarizes all exit codes of the compare subcommand:

0
Images are identical
1
Images differ
2
Error on opening an image
3
Error on checking a sector allocation
4
convert [-c] [-p] [-n] [-f fmt] [-t cache] [-T src_cache] [-O output_fmt] [-o options] [-s snapshot_id_or_name] [-l snapshot_param] [-S sparse_size] filename [filename2 [...]] output_filename

Convert the disk image filename or a snapshot snapshot_param(snapshot_id_or_name is deprecated) to disk image output_filename using format output_fmt. It can be optionally compressed (-c option) or use any format specific options like encryption (-o option).

Only the formats qcow and qcow2 support compression. The compression is read-only. It means that if a compressed sector is rewritten, then it is rewritten as uncompressed data.

Image conversion is also useful to get smaller image when using a growable format such as qcow: the empty sectors are detected and suppressed from the destination image.

sparse_size indicates the consecutive number of bytes (defaults to 4k) that must contain only zeros for qemu-img to create a sparse image during conversion. If sparse_size is 0, the source will not be scanned for unallocated or zero sectors, and the destination image will always be fully allocated.

You can use the backing_file option to force the output image to be created as a copy on write image of the specified base image; the backing_file should have the same content as the input’s base image, however the path, image format, etc may differ.

If the -n option is specified, the target volume creation will be skipped. This is useful for formats such as rbd if the target volume has already been created with site specific options that cannot be supplied through qemu-img.

dd [-f fmt] [-O output_fmt] [bs=block_size] [count=blocks] [skip=blocks] if=input of=output

Dd copies from input file to output file converting it from fmt format to output_fmt format.

The data is by default read and written using blocks of 512 bytes but can be modified by specifying block_size. If count=blocks is specified dd will stop reading input after reading blocks input blocks.

The size syntax is similar to dd(1)’s size syntax.

info [-f fmt] [–output=ofmt] [–backing-chain] filename

Give information about the disk image filename. Use it in particular to know the size reserved on disk which can be different from the displayed size. If VM snapshots are stored in the disk image, they are displayed too. The command can output in the format ofmt which is either human or json.

If a disk image has a backing file chain, information about each disk image in the chain can be recursively enumerated by using the option --backing-chain.

For instance, if you have an image chain like:

base.qcow2 <- snap1.qcow2 <- snap2.qcow2


To enumerate information about each disk image in the above chain, starting from top to base, do:

qemu-img info --backing-chain snap2.qcow2

map [-f fmt] [–output=ofmt] filename

Dump the metadata of image filename and its backing file chain. In particular, this commands dumps the allocation state of every sector of filename, together with the topmost file that allocates it in the backing file chain.

Two option formats are possible. The default format (human) only dumps known-nonzero areas of the file. Known-zero parts of the file are omitted altogether, and likewise for parts that are not allocated throughout the chain. qemu-img output will identify a file from where the data can be read, and the offset in the file. Each line will include four fields, the first three of which are hexadecimal numbers. For example the first line of:

Offset          Length          Mapped to       File
0               0x20000         0x50000         /tmp/overlay.qcow2
0x100000        0x10000         0x95380000      /tmp/backing.qcow2


means that 0x20000 (131072) bytes starting at offset 0 in the image are available in /tmp/overlay.qcow2 (opened in raw format) starting at offset 0x50000 (327680). Data that is compressed, encrypted, or otherwise not available in raw format will cause an error if human format is in use. Note that file names can include newlines, thus it is not safe to parse this output format in scripts.

The alternative format json will return an array of dictionaries in JSON format. It will include similar information in the start, length, offset fields; it will also include other more specific information:

• whether the sectors contain actual data or not (boolean field data; if false, the sectors are either unallocated or stored as optimized all-zero clusters);
• whether the data is known to read as zero (boolean field zero);
• in order to make the output shorter, the target file is expressed as a depth; for example, a depth of 2 refers to the backing file of the backing file of filename.

In JSON format, the offset field is optional; it is absent in cases where human format would omit the entry or exit with an error. If data is false and the offset field is present, the corresponding sectors in the file are not yet in use, but they are preallocated.

snapshot [-l | -a snapshot | -c snapshot | -d snapshot ] filename
List, apply, create or delete snapshots in image filename.
rebase [-f fmt] [-t cache] [-T src_cache] [-p] [-u] -b backing_file [-F backing_fmt] filename

Changes the backing file of an image. Only the formats qcow2 and qed support changing the backing file.

The backing file is changed to backing_file and (if the image format of filename supports this) the backing file format is changed to backing_fmt. If backing_file is specified as “” (the empty string), then the image is rebased onto no backing file (i.e. it will exist independently of any backing file).

cache specifies the cache mode to be used for filename, whereas src_cache specifies the cache mode for reading backing files.

There are two different modes in which rebase can operate:

Safe mode

This is the default mode and performs a real rebase operation. The new backing file may differ from the old one and qemu-img rebase will take care of keeping the guest-visible content of filename unchanged.

In order to achieve this, any clusters that differ between backing_file and the old backing file of filename are merged into filename before actually changing the backing file.

Note that the safe mode is an expensive operation, comparable to converting an image. It only works if the old backing file still exists.

Unsafe mode

qemu-img uses the unsafe mode if -u is specified. In this mode, only the backing file name and format of filename is changed without any checks on the file contents. The user must take care of specifying the correct new backing file, or the guest-visible content of the image will be corrupted.

This mode is useful for renaming or moving the backing file to somewhere else. It can be used without an accessible old backing file, i.e. you can use it to fix an image whose backing file has already been moved/renamed.

You can use rebase to perform a “diff” operation on two disk images. This can be useful when you have copied or cloned a guest, and you want to get back to a thin image on top of a template or base image.

Say that base.img has been cloned as modified.img by copying it, and that the modified.img guest has run so there are now some changes compared to base.img. To construct a thin image called diff.qcow2 that contains just the differences, do:

qemu-img create -f qcow2 -b modified.img diff.qcow2
qemu-img rebase -b base.img diff.qcow2


At this point, modified.img can be discarded, since base.img + diff.qcow2 contains the same information.

resize filename [+ | -]size

Change the disk image as if it had been created with size.

Before using this command to shrink a disk image, you MUST use file system and partitioning tools inside the VM to reduce allocated file systems and partition sizes accordingly. Failure to do so will result in data loss!

After using this command to grow a disk image, you must use file system and partitioning tools inside the VM to actually begin using the new space on the device.

amend [-p] [-f fmt] [-t cache] -o options filename
Amends the image format specific options for the image file filename. Not all file formats support this operation.

## qemu-nbd Invocation¶

 man begin SYNOPSIS
qemu-nbd [OPTION]... filename

qemu-nbd -d dev
man end


Export a QEMU disk image using the NBD protocol.

filename is a disk image filename, or a set of block driver options if –image-opts is specified.

dev is an NBD device.

–object type,id=id,...props...
Define a new instance of the type object class identified by id. See the qemu(1) manual page for full details of the properties supported. The common object types that it makes sense to define are the secret object, which is used to supply passwords and/or encryption keys, and the tls-creds object, which is used to supply TLS credentials for the qemu-nbd server.
-p, –port=port
The TCP port to listen on (default ‘10809’)
-o, –offset=offset
The offset into the image
-b, –bind=iface
The interface to bind to (default ‘0.0.0.0’)
-k, –socket=path
Use a unix socket with path path
–image-opts
Treat filename as a set of image options, instead of a plain filename. If this flag is specified, the -f flag should not be used, instead the ’format=’ option should be set.
-f, –format=fmt
Force the use of the block driver for format fmt instead of auto-detecting
-P, –partition=num
Only expose partition num
-s, –snapshot
Use filename as an external snapshot, create a temporary file with backing_file=filename, redirect the write to the temporary one
Load an internal snapshot inside filename and export it as an read-only device, snapshot_param format is ’snapshot.id=[ID],snapshot.name=[NAME]’ or ’[ID_OR_NAME]’
-n, –nocache
–cache=cache
The cache mode to be used with the file. See the documentation of the emulator’s -drive cache=... option for allowed values.
–aio=aio
Set the asynchronous I/O mode between ‘threads’ (the default) and ‘native’ (Linux only).
Control whether discard (also known as trim or unmap) requests are ignored or passed to the filesystem. discard is one of ‘ignore’ (or ‘off’), ‘unmap’ (or ‘on’). The default is ‘ignore’.
–detect-zeroes=detect-zeroes
Control the automatic conversion of plain zero writes by the OS to driver-specific optimized zero write commands. detect-zeroes is one of ‘off’, ‘on’ or ‘unmap’. ‘unmap’ converts a zero write to an unmap operation and can only be used if discard is set to ‘unmap’. The default is ‘off’.
-c, –connect=dev
Connect filename to NBD device dev
-d, –disconnect
Disconnect the device dev
-e, –shared=num
Allow up to num clients to share the device (default ‘1’)
-t, –persistent
Don’t exit on the last connection
-x, –export-name=name
Set the NBD volume export name. This switches the server to use the new style NBD protocol negotiation
-D, –description=description
Set the NBD volume export description, as a human-readable string. Requires the use of -x
–tls-creds=ID
Enable mandatory TLS encryption for the server by setting the ID of the TLS credentials object previously created with the –object option.
–fork
Fork off the server process and exit the parent once the server is running.
-v, –verbose
Display extra debugging information
-h, –help
Display this help and exit
-V, –version
Display version information and exit
-T, –trace [[enable=]pattern][,events=file][,file=file]
–trace

Specify tracing options.

[enable=]pattern

Immediately enable events matching pattern. The file must contain one event name (as listed in the trace-events-all file) per line; globbing patterns are accepted too. This option is only available if QEMU has been compiled with the simple, stderr or ftrace tracing backend. To specify multiple events or patterns, specify the -trace option multiple times.

Use -trace help to print a list of names of trace points.

events=file
Immediately enable events listed in file. The file must contain one event name (as listed in the trace-events-all file) per line; globbing patterns are accepted too. This option is only available if QEMU has been compiled with the simple, stderr or ftrace tracing backend.
file=file
Log output traces to file. This option is only available if QEMU has been compiled with the simple tracing backend.

## qemu-ga Invocation¶

 man begin SYNOPSIS
qemu-ga [OPTIONS]
man end


The QEMU Guest Agent is a daemon intended to be run within virtual machines. It allows the hypervisor host to perform various operations in the guest, such as:

• get information from the guest
• set the guest’s system time
• sync and freeze the filesystems
• suspend the guest
• reconfigure guest local processors
• ...

qemu-ga will read a system configuration file on startup (located at /etc/qemu/qemu-ga.conf by default), then parse remaining configuration options on the command line. For the same key, the last option wins, but the lists accumulate (see below for configuration file format).

-m, –method=method
Transport method: one of ‘unix-listen’, ‘virtio-serial’, or ‘isa-serial’ (‘virtio-serial’ is the default).
-p, –path=path
Device/socket path (the default for virtio-serial is ‘/dev/virtio-ports/org.qemu.guest_agent.0’, the default for isa-serial is ‘/dev/ttyS0’)
-l, –logfile=path
Set log file path (default is stderr).
-f, –pidfile=path
Specify pid file (default is ‘/var/run/qemu-ga.pid’).
-F, –fsfreeze-hook=path
Enable fsfreeze hook. Accepts an optional argument that specifies script to run on freeze/thaw. Script will be called with ’freeze’/’thaw’ arguments accordingly (default is ‘/etc/qemu/fsfreeze-hook’). If using -F with an argument, do not follow -F with a space (for example: ‘-F/var/run/fsfreezehook.sh’).
-t, –statedir=path
Specify the directory to store state information (absolute paths only, default is ‘/var/run’).
-v, –verbose
Log extra debugging information.
-V, –version
Print version information and exit.
-d, –daemon
Daemonize after startup (detach from terminal).
-b, –blacklist=list
Comma-separated list of RPCs to disable (no spaces, ‘?’ to list available RPCs).
-D, –dump-conf
Dump the configuration in a format compatible with qemu-ga.conf and exit.
-h, –help
Display this help and exit.

The syntax of the qemu-ga.conf configuration file follows the Desktop Entry Specification, here is a quick summary: it consists of groups of key-value pairs, interspersed with comments.

# qemu-ga configuration sample
[general]
daemonize = 0
pidfile = /var/run/qemu-ga.pid
verbose = 0
method = virtio-serial
path = /dev/virtio-ports/org.qemu.guest_agent.0
statedir = /var/run


The list of keys follows the command line options:

daemon= boolean
method= string
path= string
logfile= string
pidfile= string
fsfreeze-hook= string
statedir= string
verbose= boolean
blacklist= string list

## Disk image file formats¶

QEMU supports many image file formats that can be used with VMs as well as with any of the tools (like qemu-img). This includes the preferred formats raw and qcow2 as well as formats that are supported for compatibility with older QEMU versions or other hypervisors.

Depending on the image format, different options can be passed to qemu-img create and qemu-img convert using the -o option. This section describes each format and the options that are supported for it.

raw

Raw disk image format. This format has the advantage of being simple and easily exportable to all other emulators. If your file system supports holes (for example in ext2 or ext3 on Linux or NTFS on Windows), then only the written sectors will reserve space. Use qemu-img info to know the real size used by the image or ls -ls on Unix/Linux.

Supported options:

preallocation
Preallocation mode (allowed values: off, falloc, full). falloc mode preallocates space for image by calling posix_fallocate(). full mode preallocates space for image by writing zeros to underlying storage.
qcow2

QEMU image format, the most versatile format. Use it to have smaller images (useful if your filesystem does not supports holes, for example on Windows), zlib based compression and support of multiple VM snapshots.

Supported options:

compat
Determines the qcow2 version to use. compat=0.10 uses the traditional image format that can be read by any QEMU since 0.10. compat=1.1 enables image format extensions that only QEMU 1.1 and newer understand (this is the default). Amongst others, this includes zero clusters, which allow efficient copy-on-read for sparse images.
backing_file
File name of a base image (see create subcommand)
backing_fmt
Image format of the base image
encryption

If this option is set to on, the image is encrypted with 128-bit AES-CBC.

The use of encryption in qcow and qcow2 images is considered to be flawed by modern cryptography standards, suffering from a number of design problems:

• The AES-CBC cipher is used with predictable initialization vectors based on the sector number. This makes it vulnerable to chosen plaintext attacks which can reveal the existence of encrypted data.
• The user passphrase is directly used as the encryption key. A poorly chosen or short passphrase will compromise the security of the encryption.
• In the event of the passphrase being compromised there is no way to change the passphrase to protect data in any qcow images. The files must be cloned, using a different encryption passphrase in the new file. The original file must then be securely erased using a program like shred, though even this is ineffective with many modern storage technologies.

Use of qcow / qcow2 encryption with QEMU is deprecated, and support for it will go away in a future release. Users are recommended to use an alternative encryption technology such as the Linux dm-crypt / LUKS system.

cluster_size
Changes the qcow2 cluster size (must be between 512 and 2M). Smaller cluster sizes can improve the image file size whereas larger cluster sizes generally provide better performance.
preallocation
Preallocation mode (allowed values: off, metadata, falloc, full). An image with preallocated metadata is initially larger but can improve performance when the image needs to grow. falloc and full preallocations are like the same options of raw format, but sets up metadata also.
lazy_refcounts

If this option is set to on, reference count updates are postponed with the goal of avoiding metadata I/O and improving performance. This is particularly interesting with cache=writethrough which doesn’t batch metadata updates. The tradeoff is that after a host crash, the reference count tables must be rebuilt, i.e. on the next open an (automatic) qemu-img check -r all is required, which may take some time.

This option can only be enabled if compat=1.1 is specified.

nocow

If this option is set to on, it will turn off COW of the file. It’s only valid on btrfs, no effect on other file systems.

Btrfs has low performance when hosting a VM image file, even more when the guest on the VM also using btrfs as file system. Turning off COW is a way to mitigate this bad performance. Generally there are two ways to turn off COW on btrfs: a) Disable it by mounting with nodatacow, then all newly created files will be NOCOW. b) For an empty file, add the NOCOW file attribute. That’s what this option does.

Note: this option is only valid to new or empty files. If there is an existing file which is COW and has data blocks already, it couldn’t be changed to NOCOW by setting nocow=on. One can issue lsattr filename to check if the NOCOW flag is set or not (Capital ’C’ is NOCOW flag).

qed

Old QEMU image format with support for backing files and compact image files (when your filesystem or transport medium does not support holes).

When converting QED images to qcow2, you might want to consider using the lazy_refcounts=on option to get a more QED-like behaviour.

Supported options:

backing_file
File name of a base image (see create subcommand).
backing_fmt
Image file format of backing file (optional). Useful if the format cannot be autodetected because it has no header, like some vhd/vpc files.
cluster_size
Changes the cluster size (must be power-of-2 between 4K and 64K). Smaller cluster sizes can improve the image file size whereas larger cluster sizes generally provide better performance.
table_size
Changes the number of clusters per L1/L2 table (must be power-of-2 between 1 and 16). There is normally no need to change this value but this option can be used for performance benchmarking.
qcow

Old QEMU image format with support for backing files, compact image files, encryption and compression.

Supported options:

backing_file
File name of a base image (see create subcommand)
encryption
If this option is set to on, the image is encrypted.
vdi

VirtualBox 1.1 compatible image format. Supported options:

static
If this option is set to on, the image is created with metadata preallocation.
vmdk

VMware 3 and 4 compatible image format.

Supported options:

backing_file
File name of a base image (see create subcommand).
compat6
Create a VMDK version 6 image (instead of version 4)
hwversion
Specify vmdk virtual hardware version. Compat6 flag cannot be enabled if hwversion is specified.
subformat
Specifies which VMDK subformat to use. Valid options are monolithicSparse (default), monolithicFlat, twoGbMaxExtentSparse, twoGbMaxExtentFlat and streamOptimized.
vpc

VirtualPC compatible image format (VHD). Supported options:

subformat
Specifies which VHD subformat to use. Valid options are dynamic (default) and fixed.
VHDX

Hyper-V compatible image format (VHDX). Supported options:

subformat
Specifies which VHDX subformat to use. Valid options are dynamic (default) and fixed.
block_state_zero
Force use of payload blocks of type ’ZERO’. Can be set to on (default) or off. When set to off, new blocks will be created as PAYLOAD_BLOCK_NOT_PRESENT, which means parsers are free to return arbitrary data for those blocks. Do not set to off when using qemu-img convert with subformat=dynamic.
block_size
Block size; min 1 MB, max 256 MB. 0 means auto-calculate based on image size.
log_size
Log size; min 1 MB.

More disk image file formats are supported in a read-only mode.

bochs
Bochs images of growing type.
cloop
Linux Compressed Loop image, useful only to reuse directly compressed CD-ROM images present for example in the Knoppix CD-ROMs.
dmg
Apple disk image.
parallels
Parallels disk image format.

## Using host drives¶

In addition to disk image files, QEMU can directly access host devices. We describe here the usage for QEMU version >= 0.8.3.

### Linux¶

On Linux, you can directly use the host device filename instead of a disk image filename provided you have enough privileges to access it. For example, use /dev/cdrom to access to the CDROM.

CD
You can specify a CDROM device even if no CDROM is loaded. QEMU has specific code to detect CDROM insertion or removal. CDROM ejection by the guest OS is supported. Currently only data CDs are supported.
Floppy
You can specify a floppy device even if no floppy is loaded. Floppy removal is currently not detected accurately (if you change floppy without doing floppy access while the floppy is not loaded, the guest OS will think that the same floppy is loaded). Use of the host’s floppy device is deprecated, and support for it will be removed in a future release.
Hard disks
Hard disks can be used. Normally you must specify the whole disk (/dev/hdb instead of /dev/hdb1) so that the guest OS can see it as a partitioned disk. WARNING: unless you know what you do, it is better to only make READ-ONLY accesses to the hard disk otherwise you may corrupt your host data (use the -snapshot command line option or modify the device permissions accordingly).

### Windows¶

CD

The preferred syntax is the drive letter (e.g. d:). The alternate syntax \\.\d: is supported. /dev/cdrom is supported as an alias to the first CDROM drive.

Currently there is no specific code to handle removable media, so it is better to use the change or eject monitor commands to change or eject media.

Hard disks

Hard disks can be used with the syntax: \\.\PhysicalDriveN where N is the drive number (0 is the first hard disk).

WARNING: unless you know what you do, it is better to only make READ-ONLY accesses to the hard disk otherwise you may corrupt your host data (use the -snapshot command line so that the modifications are written in a temporary file).

### Mac OS X¶

/dev/cdrom is an alias to the first CDROM.

Currently there is no specific code to handle removable media, so it is better to use the change or eject monitor commands to change or eject media.

## Virtual FAT disk images¶

QEMU can automatically create a virtual FAT disk image from a directory tree. In order to use it, just type:

qemu-system-i386 linux.img -hdb fat:/my_directory


Then you access access to all the files in the /my_directory directory without having to copy them in a disk image or to export them via SAMBA or NFS. The default access is read-only.

Floppies can be emulated with the :floppy: option:

qemu-system-i386 linux.img -fda fat:floppy:/my_directory


A read/write support is available for testing (beta stage) with the :rw: option:

qemu-system-i386 linux.img -fda fat:floppy:rw:/my_directory


What you should never do:

• use non-ASCII filenames ;
• use “-snapshot” together with ”:rw:” ;
• expect it to work when loadvm’ing ;
• write to the FAT directory on the host system while accessing it with the guest system.

## NBD access¶

QEMU can access directly to block device exported using the Network Block Device protocol.

qemu-system-i386 linux.img -hdb nbd://my_nbd_server.mydomain.org:1024/


If the NBD server is located on the same host, you can use an unix socket instead of an inet socket:

qemu-system-i386 linux.img -hdb nbd+unix://?socket=/tmp/my_socket


In this case, the block device must be exported using qemu-nbd:

qemu-nbd --socket=/tmp/my_socket my_disk.qcow2


The use of qemu-nbd allows sharing of a disk between several guests:

qemu-nbd --socket=/tmp/my_socket --share=2 my_disk.qcow2


and then you can use it with two guests:

qemu-system-i386 linux1.img -hdb nbd+unix://?socket=/tmp/my_socket
qemu-system-i386 linux2.img -hdb nbd+unix://?socket=/tmp/my_socket


If the nbd-server uses named exports (supported since NBD 2.9.18, or with QEMU’s own embedded NBD server), you must specify an export name in the URI:

qemu-system-i386 -cdrom nbd://localhost/debian-500-ppc-netinst
qemu-system-i386 -cdrom nbd://localhost/openSUSE-11.1-ppc-netinst


The URI syntax for NBD is supported since QEMU 1.3. An alternative syntax is also available. Here are some example of the older syntax:

qemu-system-i386 linux.img -hdb nbd:my_nbd_server.mydomain.org:1024
qemu-system-i386 linux2.img -hdb nbd:unix:/tmp/my_socket
qemu-system-i386 -cdrom nbd:localhost:10809:exportname=debian-500-ppc-netinst


## Sheepdog disk images¶

Sheepdog is a distributed storage system for QEMU. It provides highly available block level storage volumes that can be attached to QEMU-based virtual machines.

You can create a Sheepdog disk image with the command:

qemu-img create sheepdog:///image size


where image is the Sheepdog image name and size is its size.

To import the existing filename to Sheepdog, you can use a convert command.

qemu-img convert filename sheepdog:///image


You can boot from the Sheepdog disk image with the command:

qemu-system-i386 sheepdog:///image


You can also create a snapshot of the Sheepdog image like qcow2.

qemu-img snapshot -c tag sheepdog:///image


where tag is a tag name of the newly created snapshot.

To boot from the Sheepdog snapshot, specify the tag name of the snapshot.

qemu-system-i386 sheepdog:///image#tag


You can create a cloned image from the existing snapshot.

qemu-img create -b sheepdog:///base#tag sheepdog:///image


where base is a image name of the source snapshot and tag is its tag name.

You can use an unix socket instead of an inet socket:

qemu-system-i386 sheepdog+unix:///image?socket=path


If the Sheepdog daemon doesn’t run on the local host, you need to specify one of the Sheepdog servers to connect to.

qemu-img create sheepdog://hostname:port/image size
qemu-system-i386 sheepdog://hostname:port/image


## iSCSI LUNs¶

iSCSI is a popular protocol used to access SCSI devices across a computer network.

There are two different ways iSCSI devices can be used by QEMU.

The first method is to mount the iSCSI LUN on the host, and make it appear as any other ordinary SCSI device on the host and then to access this device as a /dev/sd device from QEMU. How to do this differs between host OSes.

The second method involves using the iSCSI initiator that is built into QEMU. This provides a mechanism that works the same way regardless of which host OS you are running QEMU on. This section will describe this second method of using iSCSI together with QEMU.

In QEMU, iSCSI devices are described using special iSCSI URLs

URL syntax:


Username and password are optional and only used if your target is set up using CHAP authentication for access control. Alternatively the username and password can also be set via environment variables to have these not show up in the process list

export LIBISCSI_CHAP_USERNAME=<username>
iscsi://<host>/<target-iqn-name>/<lun>


Various session related parameters can be set via special options, either in a configuration file provided via ’-readconfig’ or directly on the command line.

If the initiator-name is not specified qemu will use a default name of ’iqn.2008-11.org.linux-kvm[:<name>’] where <name> is the name of the virtual machine.

Setting a specific initiator name to use when logging in to the target
-iscsi initiator-name=iqn.qemu.test:my-initiator

Controlling which type of header digest to negotiate with the target


These can also be set via a configuration file

[iscsi]
initiator-name = "iqn.qemu.test:my-initiator"
# header digest is one of CRC32C|CRC32C-NONE|NONE-CRC32C|NONE


Setting the target name allows different options for different targets

[iscsi "iqn.target.name"]
initiator-name = "iqn.qemu.test:my-initiator"
# header digest is one of CRC32C|CRC32C-NONE|NONE-CRC32C|NONE


Howto use a configuration file to set iSCSI configuration options:

cat >iscsi.conf <<EOF
[iscsi]
user = "me"
initiator-name = "iqn.qemu.test:my-initiator"
EOF

qemu-system-i386 -drive file=iscsi://127.0.0.1/iqn.qemu.test/1 \


Howto set up a simple iSCSI target on loopback and accessing it via QEMU:

This example shows how to set up an iSCSI target with one CDROM and one DISK
using the Linux STGT software target. This target is available on Red Hat based
systems as the package 'scsi-target-utils'.

tgtd --iscsi portal=127.0.0.1:3260
tgtadm --lld iscsi --op new --mode target --tid 1 -T iqn.qemu.test
tgtadm --lld iscsi --mode logicalunit --op new --tid 1 --lun 1 \
-b /IMAGES/disk.img --device-type=disk
tgtadm --lld iscsi --mode logicalunit --op new --tid 1 --lun 2 \
-b /IMAGES/cd.iso --device-type=cd
tgtadm --lld iscsi --op bind --mode target --tid 1 -I ALL

qemu-system-i386 -iscsi initiator-name=iqn.qemu.test:my-initiator \
-boot d -drive file=iscsi://127.0.0.1/iqn.qemu.test/1 \
-cdrom iscsi://127.0.0.1/iqn.qemu.test/2


## GlusterFS disk images¶

GlusterFS is an user space distributed file system.

You can boot from the GlusterFS disk image with the command:

qemu-system-x86_64 -drive file=gluster[+transport]://[server[:port]]/volname/image[?socket=...]


gluster is the protocol.

transport specifies the transport type used to connect to gluster management daemon (glusterd). Valid transport types are tcp, unix and rdma. If a transport type isn’t specified, then tcp type is assumed.

server specifies the server where the volume file specification for the given volume resides. This can be either hostname, ipv4 address or ipv6 address. ipv6 address needs to be within square brackets [ ]. If transport type is unix, then server field should not be specified. Instead socket field needs to be populated with the path to unix domain socket.

port is the port number on which glusterd is listening. This is optional and if not specified, QEMU will send 0 which will make gluster to use the default port. If the transport type is unix, then port should not be specified.

volname is the name of the gluster volume which contains the disk image.

image is the path to the actual disk image that resides on gluster volume.

You can create a GlusterFS disk image with the command:

qemu-img create gluster://server/volname/image size


Examples

qemu-system-x86_64 -drive file=gluster://1.2.3.4/testvol/a.img
qemu-system-x86_64 -drive file=gluster+tcp://1.2.3.4/testvol/a.img
qemu-system-x86_64 -drive file=gluster+tcp://1.2.3.4:24007/testvol/dir/a.img
qemu-system-x86_64 -drive file=gluster+tcp://[1:2:3:4:5:6:7:8]/testvol/dir/a.img
qemu-system-x86_64 -drive file=gluster+tcp://[1:2:3:4:5:6:7:8]:24007/testvol/dir/a.img
qemu-system-x86_64 -drive file=gluster+tcp://server.domain.com:24007/testvol/dir/a.img
qemu-system-x86_64 -drive file=gluster+unix:///testvol/dir/a.img?socket=/tmp/glusterd.socket
qemu-system-x86_64 -drive file=gluster+rdma://1.2.3.4:24007/testvol/a.img


## Secure Shell (ssh) disk images¶

You can access disk images located on a remote ssh server by using the ssh protocol:

qemu-system-x86_64 -drive file=ssh://[user@]server[:port]/path[?host_key_check=host_key_check]


Alternative syntax using properties:

qemu-system-x86_64 -drive file.driver=ssh[,file.user=user],file.host=server[,file.port=port],file.path=path[,file.host_key_check=host_key_check]


ssh is the protocol.

user is the remote user. If not specified, then the local username is tried.

server specifies the remote ssh server. Any ssh server can be used, but it must implement the sftp-server protocol. Most Unix/Linux systems should work without requiring any extra configuration.

port is the port number on which sshd is listening. By default the standard ssh port (22) is used.

path is the path to the disk image.

The optional host_key_check parameter controls how the remote host’s key is checked. The default is yes which means to use the local .ssh/known_hosts file. Setting this to no turns off known-hosts checking. Or you can check that the host key matches a specific fingerprint: host_key_check=md5:78:45:8e:14:57:4f:d5:45:83:0a:0e:f3:49:82:c9:c8 (sha1: can also be used as a prefix, but note that OpenSSH tools only use MD5 to print fingerprints).

Currently authentication must be done using ssh-agent. Other authentication methods may be supported in future.

Note: Many ssh servers do not support an fsync-style operation. The ssh driver cannot guarantee that disk flush requests are obeyed, and this causes a risk of disk corruption if the remote server or network goes down during writes. The driver will print a warning when fsync is not supported:

warning: ssh server ssh.example.com:22 does not support fsync

With sufficiently new versions of libssh2 and OpenSSH, fsync is supported.