Create a Linux Virtual Machine on M1 Macbook

In this post I’ll outline my process for setting up a Linux virtual machine using QEMU on an M1 Macbook Pro.


[SUCCESS] Virtualize Windows 10 for ARM on M1 with Alexander Graf’s qemu hypervisor patch

Install QEMU:

At the time of writing brew install -s qemu fails on my M1 Macbook. Until the Homebrew formula is updated, we need to compile QEMU manually.

Install some dependencies:

brew install -s pkg-config glib pixman ninja

Clone and patch QEMU:

sudo git clone /opt/qemu
sudo chown -R $USER /opt/qemu
cd /opt/qemu

mkdir bin && cd bin
make -j6

Add the /opt/qemu/bin directory to your PATH (might want to add this to your shell’s config files to make this persist):

export PATH="/opt/qemu/bin:$PATH"

Install Libvirt:

Let’s also install libvirt to make managing QEMU VMs easier (brew install -s libvirt also doesn’t work at the time of writing):

brew install -s meson libxml2 zlib

sudo git clone /opt/libvirt
sudo chown -R $USER /opt/libvirt

Since I’m using a custom Homebrew directory, I had to set the $PKG_CONFIG_PATH variable for the libxml2 and zlib files to be found properly. For example:


export PKG_CONFIG_PATH="$HOMEBREW_DIR/Library/Homebrew/os/mac/pkgconfig/11.1/"

I was able to find the directory for the PKG_CONFIG_PATH variable with the following commands:

find $HOMEBREW_DIR -name "libxml-2.0.pc"
find $HOMEBREW_DIR -name "zlib.pc"

Let’s compile libvirt to /opt/libvirt/usr:

cd /opt/libvirt
mkdir -p /opt/libvirt/usr
meson build --prefix=/opt/libvirt/usr
ninja -C build
mv /opt/libvirt/build /opt/libvirt/usr

Setup the VM:

I will assume all the resources for the VM will be in a directory called /opt/virtual-machine:

sudo mkdir -p /opt/virtual-machine
sudo chown -R $USER /opt/virtual-machine

Download Debian Image:

curl '' -o /opt/virtual-machine/debian-arm64.iso

Setup the Disk File:

qemu-img create /opt/virtual-machine/debian-vm.img 40G 

Setup EFI Firmware:

Download the following zip file:

Unzip it and move the contents of the qemu-m1 directory to /opt/virtual-machine/:

cp -r qemu-m1/* /opt/virtual-machine/

Start the VM:

Create a script in /opt/virtual-machine/ with the following contents:

#!/usr/bin/env bash

cd "${root_dir}"

DYLD_LIBRARY_PATH="${root_dir}" "${root_dir}"/qemu-system-aarch64 \
        -M virt \
	-accel hvf \
        -m 1G \
        -smp 1 \
        -cpu max \
        -device ramfb \
        -serial stdio \
        -drive file="${root_dir}"/debian-arm64.iso,if=none,id=NVME1 \
        -device nvme,drive=NVME1,serial=nvme-1 \
        -device nec-usb-xhci \
        -device usb-kbd \
        -device usb-tablet \
        -device intel-hda -device hda-duplex \
	-drive file="${root_dir}/debian-vm.img",media=disk,cache=unsafe \
        -drive file="${root_dir}"/vars-template-pflash.raw,if=pflash,index=1 \
        -bios ${root_dir}/QEMU_EFI.fd

Make the script executable:

chmod +x /opt/virtual-machine/

Now run the script:

Written on December 28, 2020