This article was last edited over 3 years ago. Information here may no longer be accurate. Please proceed with caution, and feel free to contact me.
Create a Linux virtual machine that can run on a Windows, Linux, or Mac OSX host. The VM can be moved around on a USB drive or even synced via DropBox between machines.
OS: Tiny Core Linux
Tiny Core Linux is small and simple. Its size makes it the perfect guest OS for this project.
Create a directory called
tc to store all the files
for this project.
Let’s grab the latest Tiny Core Linux iso.
Once it is downloaded extract the
core.gz files from the
iso to our
tc folder. You can do this by mounting the
iso or opening it in some sort of archive manager
like 7-zip and copying the
You should now have these files in the
Those files are our kernel and initramfs, respectively.
VM Platform: QEMU
I found that the
builds by Eric Lassauge
seemed the best for what I want to accomplish with this project.
Download the latest Qemu Windows build
(2.2.0 at the time this was written) from his website.
The most important reason I am going to suggest using the
“lassauge builds” for this project is that the
files are entirely portable. No installation of
any sort is required on Windows. Download and copy the QEMU files
tc directory and you will have a simple,
portable, working VM platform for Windows.
tc directory should look like this now.
Qemu-2.2.0-windows vmlinuz core.gz
There are a number of
qemu-system-*.exe files in
Qemu-2.2.0-windows that you do not need. You can
safely delete all of them except for
qemu-system-i386.exe. That is the only binary we need
to run our VM. Deleting the other system binaries will save us a
lot of space.
On Linux, QEMU should be installable through your preferred package manager. On OSX, you should be able to use something like brew to install QEMU as easily as you could on Linux.
Create Virtual Hard Drive
Let’s create a hard disk for our VM. You may use the
qemu-img command that QEMU provides. This binary will
either be in the
Qemu-2.2.0-windows directory we
extracted if you’re on Windows, or it should be installed
system-wide if you’re using QEMU on a Mac or Linux host.
qemu-img create -f vpc tc.vhd 4G
That command should generate a 4GB sparse virtual hard disk file.
The disk should only be a few KB large initially, but has the
ability to grow up to 4GB. You can use whatever size or file
format you prefer for the disk image, but I prefer
vhd since Windows can natively handle that format as
an added bonus.
tc directory should look like this now.
Qemu-2.2.0-windows vmlinuz core.gz tc.vhd
Now we can start our VM. You may prefer to script this so you don’t have to memorize the command.
Qemu-windows-2.2.0\qemu-system-i386 -L Qemu-windows-2.2.0\Bios -m 1024 -kernel vmlinuz -initrd core.gz -hda tc.vhd -append "home=sda1 opt=sda1 tce=sda1"
OSX or Linux
qemu-system-i386 \ -m 1024 \ -kernel vmlinuz \ -initrd core.gz \ -hda tc.vhd \ -append "home=sda1 opt=sda1 tce=sda1"
On Windows only, we need to specify the absolute path to the QEMU
VM executable, and the
-L flag is needed to specify
the path to our QEMU
Bios files (incuded with QEMU).
Regardless of the OS, we specify which file is our kernel, which
is our initramfs, what to use as the primary hard drive, and
finally, we pass some additional boot options to Tiny Core
specifying where our
tce directories live.
Format Virtual Hard Drive
Warning: You must run these commands inside the QEMU VM. If you run these commands on your host machine you may damage your system!
After you boot to the VM using the commands above, format the disk.
You can run these steps manually, but I am showing this single command to format the entire virtual hard drive.
printf "o\nn\np\n1\n\n\nw\n" | sudo fdisk /dev/sda
Next, create an
ext4 filesystem on our newly created
sudo mkfs.ext4 /dev/sda1
Then reboot so that Tiny Core can use that disk.
At this point, you should be done, and just need to install packages to customize your VM as you see fit.
Here are some neat things you can do with QEMU.
# Port forwarding, some ports require elevated permissions on your host. -redir tcp:80::80 -redir tcp:8000::8000
# Create a "shrunken" copy of your VHD file. # Remove any reserved space from the sparse disk. qemu-img convert -O vpc tc.vhd tc.vhd.copy
Qemu has an awesome way to let you access just about any virtual hard disk using the “Network Block Device” protocol. This will work on a *nix system only.
sudo modprobe nbd max_part=16 sudo qemu-nbd -c /dev/nbd0 /path/to/tc/tc.vhd sudo mount /dev/nbd0p1 /mnt/
10.0.2.2 is an IP address that can be used to access
your host VM from within the QEMU guest.
Tiny Core tips
# Change the label of a partition to something like "hd01" sudo tune2fs /dev/sda1 -L hd01
# Mount persistent partitions by label tce=LABEL=hd01
# Specify an ISO image to mount when running the QEMU VM -cdrom /path/to/file.iso