Building QEMU on Mac OS X (old)

The build instructions here are for building QEMU 1.3.1. During testing I had ongoing problems with this version when running Linux as the guest, including the Centos 6.3 (i386 and x86_64) installers hanging when installing from a virtual CD image, segmentation faults of known-good programs (such as awk, gcc, etc.), and programs dying due to impossible signals). I replaced QEMU 1.3.1 with QEMU 1.2.2 and the problems all went away. You can use the instructions below to build QEMU 1.2.2 with the following changes:

  1. pixman is not required and should not be built,
  2. The configure_build_and_install_qemu script needs to be chaned and the pixman option removed from configure.
As my work mainly involves networked servers, it's extremely rare that I need to have a GUI interface on a virtual machine. As such, when I build qemu, what I'm looking for is to be able to build VMs which I can run in the background on my Mac, and to be able to use SSH to connect to them.

So, when I build qemu, I really only need the VNC interface when setting up a virtual server because I can turn that off when the server is all set up and not have any windows lying around which I don't need. Once a server is set up and I don't need the console any more, I exit my VNC client and use SSH from then on to configure, administer, test, and use the server.

This sort of minimalistic approach is reflected in the build options I use, particularly when configuring the build of qemu itself.


  • Latest version of qemu,
  • Runnable on Mac OS X by ordinary user,
  • VNC interface,
  • -daemonize works as expected, and
  • i386 and x86_64 emulations

Install into: /Users/Shared/qemu


  • Mac OS X version: 10.8.2 (Mountain Lion)


  1. Install Xcode (v4.6)
  2. Install command-line tools in Xcode

Packages used for build

Package and source Version used Notes
xz-5.0.4 Used to decompress glib tar file

Build sequence and commands

When preparing to build qemu, I have two directories under /Users/Shared/qemu:

  • downloads, where all the source tar files are kept,
  • build, where the build scripts (see files below) are kept, and under which all the different components are built

cd /Users/Shared/qemu/build

tar zxf ../downloads/xz-5.0.4.tar.bz2
cd xz-5.0.4/
./configure --prefix=/Users/Shared/qemu
make install
cd ..

tar zxf ../downloads/libffi-3.0.11.tar.gz
cd libffi-3.0.11/
./configure --prefix=/Users/Shared/qemu
make install
cd ..

tar zxf ../downloads/gettext-0.18.2.tar.gz
cd gettext-0.18.2/
./configure --prefix=/Users/Shared/qemu --disable-java --disable-native-java --without-emacs
make install
cd ..

tar zxf ../downloads/pkg-config-0.28.tar.gz
cd pkg-config-0.28/
./configure --prefix=/Users/Shared/qemu --with-internal-glib
make install
cd ..

The glib tar file must already have been decompressed by xz before doing this step.

tar xf ../downloads/glib-2.34.0.tar
cd glib-2.34.0/
cd ..

The qemu tar file includes a version of pixman, but this needs additional packages to build---namely autoconf and automake, apparently. It's easier to separately install pixman like this, and then tell the qemu build to use this one, rather than the one it comes with.

tar zxf ../downloads/pixman-0.28.2.tar.gz
cd pixman-0.28.2/
./configure --prefix=/Users/Shared/qemu
make install
cd ..

tar zxf ../downloads/qemu-1.3.1.tar.bz2
cd qemu-1.3.1/
cd ..

Now you're ready to go. The binaries---including qemu-img, qemu-system-i386, and qemu-system-x86_64---are all installed under /Users/Shared/qemu/bin. Documentation is under /Users/Shared/qemu/share/doc.