Create Debian PowerPC32 VM Under QEMU

I have a collection of QEMU VMs for different CPU Architectures. In an attempt to fill in some gaps on architectures I lacked VMs for, I decided to spin up a PowerPC32 VM under QEMU. I chose Debian-PowerPC as the OS.

Gathering Resources

Install the prerequisite PowerPC packages:

# apt-get install qemu-system-ppc openbios-ppc

Download an image of the Debian PowerPC ISO DVD from

As of this writing the current version DVD ISO file name is debian-8.8.0-powerpc-DVD-1.iso and this is the filename we will use for the following examples.

Mount this ISO:

$ mkdir ~/powerpc-mnt
$ sudo mount /path/to/iso/debian-8.8.0-powerpc-DVD-1.iso ~/powerpc-mnt

You will need two files from this iso:

$ cp ~/powerpc-mnt/install/powerpc/initrd.gz ./
$ cp ~/powerpc-mnt/install/powerpc/vmlinux ./

Unmount the iso:

$ sudo umount ~/powerpc-mnt

QEMU VM Installation

Create the virtual disk:

$ qemu-img create -f qcow2 powerpc32.img 12G

Start up the QEMU VM with the iso attached as a usb device for installation:

$ qemu-system-ppc -m 1024 -boot d -hda powerpc32.img -initrd initrd.gz -kernel vmlinux -append  "cdrom-detect/try-usb=true" -usb -usbdevice disk:/full/path/to/iso/debian-8.8.0-powerpc-DVD-1.iso  -noreboot

Make sure you selected Guided - use entire disk when partitioning the hard disk. Do not use LVM.

When selecting packages, ensure ssh server is selected.

Extract initrd.gz and vmlinux

You will need the initrd.gz and vmlinux files from the powerpc32.img disk.

$ sudo modprobe nbd max_part=16
$ sudo qemu-nbd -c /dev/nbd0 armdisk.img
$ mkdir ~/qemu-mounted
$ sudo mount /dev/nbd0p2 ~/qemu-mounted
$ mkdir after-copy

$ cp ~/qemu-mounted/initrd.img-3.16.0-4-powerpc after-copy/
$ cp ~/qemu-mounted/vmlinux-3.16.0-4-powerpc after-copy/

$ sudo umount ~/qemu-mounted
$ sudo qemu-nbd -d /dev/nbd0


Note that these two files may have different names depending on the version of the kernel provided in your ISO. Look for files in ~/qemu-mounted with the same prefix as these files:

Boot into installed OS

You are now ready to boot into the fully installed operating system. Use a command like the one below to boot:

$ qemu-system-ppc -m 1024 -hda powerpc32.img -initrd after-copy/initrd.img-3.16.0-4-powerpc -kernel after-copy/vmlinux-3.16.0-4-powerpc -append  "root=/dev/sda3" -redir tcp:7777::22

To install packages via apt, you will need to edit /etc/apt/sources.list. Make sure all sources referencing the cdrom source are commented out. These lines begin with deb cdrom:[Debian... Uncomment out the last two lines of the file. They should be changed from:

deb jessie-updates main
deb-src jessie-updates main


deb jessie main contrib non-free
deb-src jessie main contrib non-free

You should now have a fully functional PowerPC VM running Debian Jessie under QEMU.