I'm trying to cross compile a Debian system for ARM. I have a working cross compiler setup, and I can run programs under a Debian system I installed in QEMU. I'm using a virtual disk (qcow2 format) and separate kernel and initramfs images (on the host) which I provide as command line options to QEMU.

When I boot using a precompiled Debian kernel, everything works and the system boots off of the /dev/vda1 partition of /dev/vda* which I surmise is the virtual disk device created by QEMU from the qcow2 disk image.

However when I take the Debian kernel sources (downloaded within the guest system to ensure I get the right sources for that system and Debian version, then copied to host), and cross-compile them on my host system, the kernel this produced boots only as far as busybox in the initramfs. At that point it fails to find a root device because no /dev/vda* devices exist. (There are not any /dev/sd*, /dev/hd*, etc. devices either.)

What is my kernel missing that the QEMU virtual disk device is not seen at all? (QEMU was given the exact same commandline; only difference is which kernel image file name.) Have I misconfigured something when building the kernel? (For default settings I actually started with a Debian kernel config file grabbed from within the /boot folder of the guest system.)

Debian version (guest) is 8.11 (jessie). Linux kernel version is

My QEMU commandline looks like:

qemu-system-arm -M virt -m 1024 -kernel <the kernel image file> -initrd initrd.img-3.16.0-6-armmp-lpae -append 'root=/dev/vda2' -drive if=none,file=hda.qcow2,format=qcow2,id=hd -device virtio-blk-device,drive=hd -netdev user,id=mynet -device virtio-net-device,netdev=mynet -nographic

1 Answer 1


You probably need — at the very least — the following kernel configuration:


Then mount devtmpfs to /dev in your initrd and you should get a /dev/vda.

CONFIG_VIRTIO_MENU is apparently required if you use tinyconfig, even though it's on by default.

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