Short Version

I want to run Qemu on a remote machine using ssh. With this command I am able to see some boot messages but I can't manage to get vm the login prompt in my local terminal.

qemu-system-i386 -m 128 
-kernel bzImage -drive file=rootfs.ext2,if=virtio 
-append "console=ttyS0" 
-net nic,model=virtio 
-net user 

I've also tried with -curses without success

Long Version

I have a raspberry with TinyCore where I want to run (using SSH) a BuildRoot distro on qemu.

When I run qemu locally (without SSH)

  • using -nographic, I can see some boot messages and nothing else
  • Using -curses, I see VGA Graphic Mode, then some boot messages and then it shows 1024 x 768 Graphic Mode and I can't interact with it anymore

When I run qemu remotely (with SSH) I can only see the boot messages and nothing else.

I don't want to use VNC, how can I do this?


On the remote host machine (piCore) I have this in /etc/inittab

tty1::respawn:/sbin/getty -nl /sbin/autologin 38400 tty1

And on the remote guest machine I have this in /etc/inittab

tty1::respawn:/sbin/getty -L tty1 0 vt100 
  • It’s not curses, but with -nographic the guest console is redirected to stdio.
    – phg
    Nov 25, 2016 at 15:35
  • Hi, I've seen many suggesting both as possible solutions (here and here). Anyway, with -nographic or -curses passing -append "console=ttyS0" I can see some boot messages but still no login prompt. If I remove -curses` or -nographic I can see the login prompt, but I have to use VNC. Nov 25, 2016 at 15:48
  • 1
    Are you starting a getty on /dev/ttyS0 in the VM in the first place? Nov 25, 2016 at 16:03
  • Hi, I think the instruction that starts a getty is in /etc/inittab (I am not experienced on this, I may be wrong), so I have updated the question with the inittab of the remote host and guest. I have already tried -nographic -append "console=tty1" but It doesn't show any output. Nov 25, 2016 at 16:37
  • 1
    ttyS0 is the serial device. You do want the console to go there and you need a getty on it if you want to login on that virtual serial port. You don't need the tty1 line if you don't add a graphics card to that VM. Nov 25, 2016 at 16:51

2 Answers 2


With -nographic, qemu doesn't add a virtual graphics card to the VM, still adds a serial controller but with the serial port connected to qemu's stdin/stdout (as opposed to a SDL window when not using -nographics).

You're telling the Linux kernel booted in that VM to send its console output to the serial port which is good, but if you also want to have a login prompt there, you need to have a getty issue it there.

So, you need to add a line for it in your inittab (or other relevant configuration file depending on which init system is being used in the VM):

ttyS0::respawn:/sbin/getty -L ttyS0 115200 vt100

Since that VM doesn't have a graphics card, you can also remove the tty1 line which is only for a virtual VGA terminal.

  • This works, thanks!! I've compiled buildroot setting: TTY Port = ttyS0, baudrate = 115200 and Terminal Environment = v100 in System Configs > Run getty login.. Nov 25, 2016 at 18:56

I think you want to use X11 tunneling with SSH.

Try to run "ssh -X -Y user@remot_host".

Then check the variable DISPLAY is defined : "echo $DISPLAY"

If this does not work, you should check the configuration of your sshd daemon in "/etc/ssh/sshd_config" on your serving host. Edit it in order to allow X11 forwarding, then restart your sshd daemon.

Run "xclock" to check whether X is tunneled.

Then QEMU should show its window on the client side of ssh.

  • I'm gonna try this and let you know, thanks! Nov 25, 2016 at 15:49

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