‘virt’ generic virtual platform (virt)

The virt board is a platform which does not correspond to any real hardware; it is designed for use in virtual machines. It is the recommended board type if you simply want to run a guest such as Linux and do not care about reproducing the idiosyncrasies and limitations of a particular bit of real-world hardware.

This is a “versioned” board model, so as well as the virt machine type itself (which may have improvements, bugfixes and other minor changes between QEMU versions) a version is provided that guarantees to have the same behaviour as that of previous QEMU releases, so that VM migration will work between QEMU versions. For instance the virt-5.0 machine type will behave like the virt machine from the QEMU 5.0 release, and migration should work between virt-5.0 of the 5.0 release and virt-5.0 of the 5.1 release. Migration is not guaranteed to work between different QEMU releases for the non-versioned virt machine type.

Supported devices

The virt board supports:

  • PCI/PCIe devices

  • Flash memory

  • One PL011 UART

  • An RTC

  • The fw_cfg device that allows a guest to obtain data from QEMU

  • A PL061 GPIO controller

  • An optional SMMUv3 IOMMU

  • hotpluggable DIMMs

  • hotpluggable NVDIMMs

  • An MSI controller (GICv2M or ITS). GICv2M is selected by default along with GICv2. ITS is selected by default with GICv3 (>= virt-2.7). Note that ITS is not modeled in TCG mode.

  • 32 virtio-mmio transport devices

  • running guests using the KVM accelerator on aarch64 hardware

  • large amounts of RAM (at least 255GB, and more if using highmem)

  • many CPUs (up to 512 if using a GICv3 and highmem)

  • Secure-World-only devices if the CPU has TrustZone:

    • A second PL011 UART

    • A second PL061 GPIO controller, with GPIO lines for triggering a system reset or system poweroff

    • A secure flash memory

    • 16MB of secure RAM

Supported guest CPU types:

  • cortex-a7 (32-bit)

  • cortex-a15 (32-bit; the default)

  • cortex-a35 (64-bit)

  • cortex-a53 (64-bit)

  • cortex-a55 (64-bit)

  • cortex-a57 (64-bit)

  • cortex-a72 (64-bit)

  • cortex-a76 (64-bit)

  • cortex-a710 (64-bit)

  • a64fx (64-bit)

  • host (with KVM only)

  • neoverse-n1 (64-bit)

  • neoverse-v1 (64-bit)

  • neoverse-n2 (64-bit)

  • max (same as host for KVM; best possible emulation with TCG)

Note that the default is cortex-a15, so for an AArch64 guest you must specify a CPU type.

Also, please note that passing max CPU (i.e. -cpu max) won’t enable all the CPU features for a given virt machine. Where a CPU architectural feature requires support in both the CPU itself and in the wider system (e.g. the MTE feature), it may not be enabled by default, but instead requires a machine option to enable it.

For example, MTE support must be enabled with -machine virt,mte=on, as well as by selecting an MTE-capable CPU (e.g., max) with the -cpu option.

See the machine-specific options below, or check them for a given machine by passing the help suboption, like: -machine virt-9.0,help.

Graphics output is available, but unlike the x86 PC machine types there is no default display device enabled: you should select one from the Display devices section of “-device help”. The recommended option is virtio-gpu-pci; this is the only one which will work correctly with KVM. You may also need to ensure your guest kernel is configured with support for this; see below.

Machine-specific options

The following machine-specific options are supported:


Set on/off to enable/disable emulating a guest CPU which implements the Arm Security Extensions (TrustZone). The default is off.


Set on/off to enable/disable emulating a guest CPU which implements the Arm Virtualization Extensions. The default is off.


Set on/off to enable/disable emulating a guest CPU which implements the Arm Memory Tagging Extensions. The default is off.


Set on/off to enable/disable placing devices and RAM in physical address space above 32 bits. The default is on for machine types later than virt-2.12 when the CPU supports an address space bigger than 32 bits (i.e. 64-bit CPUs, and 32-bit CPUs with the Large Physical Address Extension (LPAE) feature). If you want to boot a 32-bit kernel which does not have CONFIG_LPAE enabled on a CPU type which implements LPAE, you will need to manually set this to off; otherwise some devices, such as the PCI controller, will not be accessible.


Set on/off to enable/disable the compact layout for high memory regions. The default is on for machine types later than virt-7.2.


Set on/off to enable/disable the high memory region for GICv3 or GICv4 redistributor. The default is on. Setting this to off will limit the maximum number of CPUs when GICv3 or GICv4 is used.


Set on/off to enable/disable the high memory region for PCI ECAM. The default is on for machine types later than virt-3.0.


Set on/off to enable/disable the high memory region for PCI MMIO. The default is on.


Specify the version of the Generic Interrupt Controller (GIC) to provide. Valid values are:


GICv2. Note that this limits the number of CPUs to 8.


GICv3. This allows up to 512 CPUs.


GICv4. Requires virtualization to be on; allows up to 317 CPUs.


Use the same GIC version the host provides, when using KVM


Use the best GIC version possible (same as host when using KVM; with TCG this is currently 3 if virtualization is off and 4 if virtualization is on, but this may change in future)


Set on/off to enable/disable ITS instantiation. The default is on for machine types later than virt-2.7.


Set the IOMMU type to create for the guest. Valid values are:


Don’t create an IOMMU (the default)


Create an SMMUv3


Set on/off to enable/disable reporting host memory errors to a guest using ACPI and guest external abort exceptions. The default is off.


Set on/off to pass random seeds via the guest DTB rng-seed and kaslr-seed nodes (in both “/chosen” and “/secure-chosen”) to use for features like the random number generator and address space randomisation. The default is on. You will want to disable it if your trusted boot chain will verify the DTB it is passed, since this option causes the DTB to be non-deterministic. It would be the responsibility of the firmware to come up with a seed and pass it on if it wants to.


A deprecated synonym for dtb-randomness.

Linux guest kernel configuration

The ‘defconfig’ for Linux arm and arm64 kernels should include the right device drivers for virtio and the PCI controller; however some older kernel versions, especially for 32-bit Arm, did not have everything enabled by default. If you’re not seeing PCI devices that you expect, then check that your guest config has:


If you want to use the virtio-gpu-pci graphics device you will also need:


Hardware configuration information for bare-metal programming

The virt board automatically generates a device tree blob (“dtb”) which it passes to the guest. This provides information about the addresses, interrupt lines and other configuration of the various devices in the system. Guest code can rely on and hard-code the following addresses:

  • Flash memory starts at address 0x0000_0000

  • RAM starts at 0x4000_0000

All other information about device locations may change between QEMU versions, so guest code must look in the DTB.

QEMU supports two types of guest image boot for virt, and the way for the guest code to locate the dtb binary differs:

  • For guests using the Linux kernel boot protocol (this means any non-ELF file passed to the QEMU -kernel option) the address of the DTB is passed in a register (r2 for 32-bit guests, or x0 for 64-bit guests)

  • For guests booting as “bare-metal” (any other kind of boot), the DTB is at the start of RAM (0x4000_0000)