QEMU or VirtualBox is the best solution?

Choosing between QEMU and VirtualBox is a tough decision. You may have heard that QEMU is more powerful than VirtualBox. QEMU can also intimidate you because of its rumored difficulty level.

QEMU and VirtualBox are both similar hypervisors, but both offer completely different strengths when it comes to features like ease of setup and performance. Here is a full comparison of QEMU and VirtualBox.

1. Easy to install

When deciding whether to choose QEMU or VirtualBox, one of the most important factors you should consider is ease of setup. If you are new to virtualization, using a simple application will allow you to accomplish your goals and even troubleshoot virtual machines without difficulty.

You may find it difficult to install QEMU if you don't have a lot of experience with virtualization. To get started, you should verify that your host system has a compatible operating system and processor. Then download QEMU from the official website or install the app through your package manager.

VirtualBox is very easy to set up. You can get started with VirtualBox by downloading and installing the application directly from the Oracle VirtualBox website or following the link below.

Once you've installed the program, you can create a virtual machine and configure its hardware settings in just a few easy steps.

2. Easy to Install and Launch VM

Ease of VM setup and launch is an important factor for newbies looking to work with QEMU or VirtualBox. Advanced users may also prefer a simpler program for ease of use.

Installing and launching a VM is easier in VirtualBox than it is in QEMU.

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You will need to go through a somewhat complicated process to run a VM with QEMU. After installing QEMU/KVM and verifying that the libvirtd daemon is running, you will need to launch Virtual Machine Manager or any other GUI tool of your choice. You will need to configure a new machine with the ISO image and allow the hypervisor to complete the installation of your new virtual machine.

It will be easier for many users to install and launch virtual machines with VirtualBox. Instead of using a GUI tool, you will use VirtualBox directly when configuring a new virtual machine with an iamge ISO of your choice. VirtualBox simplifies the configuration process, so you only need to answer a few questions before your new virtual machine is installed.

3. Virtual Machine Portability

You should take VM portability into account when choosing KVM QEMU over VirtualBox if you plan to distribute one image or use multiple images. QEMU is much more flexible than VirtualBox in terms of image file type support, but you can still work with most image files using VirtualBox.


QEMU supports several image types, including RAW, cloop, cow, qcow, qcow2, VMDK, VDI, VHDX and VPC. The native format on QEMU is qcow2, but the many image types supported allow the program to be very flexible. You can convert between image types using the qemu-img convert command .

VirtualBox supports VDI, VMDK, VHD and HDD image files. Although VirtualBox does not have the same level of portability as QEMU, it has a sufficient number of supported image types. You can use the VBoxImage CLI utility to change the file type of the image if needed.

4. Virtual machine file access

In general, virtual machines lack access to stored files because they run as isolated containers. Some hypervisors allow virtual machines to access the hosts file when properly configured. Fortunately, you can configure both VirtualBox and QEMU to have access to the host file system if you need easy access to certain files.

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You can share files from the host file system with the QEMU virtual machine by accessing the relevant settings in the GUI application of your choice. If you are using virt-manager, open the powered off virtual machine and click to add a file system in the Filesystem tab. Enter your desired file path and click Finish to complete the new installation.

Accessing files from the host file system with VirtualBox is equally simple. You will need to select your virtual machine's settings before accessing Shared Folders in the left pane. Click the file icon and access the folder you want the VM to have access to via the Folder Path field .

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Finally, tick Auto-mount the folder for immediate access and save your new configuration. You should be able to find the shared files in the /media directory of the Linux virtual machine or as a network location in the This PC section of the Windows virtual machine.

5. Hypervisor type and overall performance

You should keep performance in mind when choosing between VirtualBox and QEMU. If the virtual machine runs too slowly, you may feel uncomfortable using it. Both QEMU and VirtualBox are similar type 2 hypervisors. Overall, QEMU runs faster than VirtualBox.

As a type 2 hypervisor, QEMU will rely on software emulation when you use it to run a virtual machine. While you may find it a bit less efficient than a class 1 hypervisor, it's worth noting that QEMU is still considered one of the most efficient software-based virtualizers.

QEMU Linux is faster than VirtualBox because it directly integrates KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine). If you want to improve the performance of VirtualBox, you can access the Acceleration tab in VirtualBox settings to adjust how it runs the VM. You should consider configuring VirtualBox to use KVM.

6. Compatibility and flexibility

You should consider compatibility and flexibility when choosing a hypervisor so that you don't get stuck with compatibility issues in the future. Both QEMU and VirtualBox have strengths in different areas, so you may find one better than the other depending on your individual needs.

VirtualBox is better than QEMU in terms of OS compatibility. VirtualBox can run efficiently on Windows, macOS, and most Linux distributions. QEMU also runs on Windows and macOS, but QEMU's direct KVM integration makes it best suited for use on Linux.

QEMU is more flexible than VirtualBox in terms of advanced usage. It provides a command line interface (CLI) and screens that are indispensable for developers and advanced users.

While VirtualBox can only virtualize x86 and ARM64 architectures, QEMU provides significantly more support for virtualization of niche architectures.

7. Usage cost

VirtualBox and QEMU are both completely free for personal use. QEMU is also free for business use. If you want to use VirtualBox for a commercial application, it will cost you $50/designated workstation user or $1,000 per socket annually.

Choose VirtualBox or QEMU for virtualization?

After comparing VirtualBox with QEMU, it is clear that each application has some advantages. You may prefer VirtualBox if you want simple and easy to manage virtualization.

You may prefer QEMU if you are willing to challenge yourself for better performance and flexibility. Once you've decided which application to use, the only thing left you have to do is create your own virtual machine.