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ARM virtual machine running linux?

So I'm using an x86-64 host machine with linux and I want to test if some userspace program I'm writing works on an ARM AArch64 guest, also running linux.

What would be my easiest option the achieve this? QEMU + some ARM-compatible distro? I thought of using ArchLinuxARM + QEMU but their images are preconfigured for already existing devices and chipsets in the real world so I'm not sure how to go about installing it as I have no QEMU experience at all.

Any guidance would be much appreciated.

  • If your requirements are not specific to a particular hardware device, qemu provides an aarch64 virt virtual machine, for which you should be able to find tutorials/steps that can help you set it up. There might be distros, for e.g. Alpine Linux, which provide a pre-built image targeting virtual machines.

    If you can build your application with the libc and other libraries statically compiled (i.e. one large executable containing your application and *all* its dependencies), then you can try the user-mode emulation of aarch64 provided by Qemu - aarch64-linux-user. This will help you save the time and effort required to set up a full-fledged system. If the application uses X-server/Wayland/GUI, etc. that might not work, though I cannot say that for sure.

    A full-fledged virtual machine is likely to be slow, since Qemu must rely on pure emulation without any hardware/KVM support.

    If you have a aarch64 capable hardware, such as RPi 3, 4 or similar, you can install Linux on it and carry out the testing there.

    There might also be cloud-providers who provide aarch64 KVM-based VMs, though they might charge you for using their facilities.

    Edit: Qemu also provides a system-level emulation of Rpi 1, 2, 3, and a few other machines, in addition to the generic virt machine.