Getting Hands-On with KVM: Creating Your First VM

Virtualization has become an integral part of modern computing, enabling users to run multiple operating systems and applications on a single physical machine. Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) is a powerful open-source virtualization solution that leverages hardware virtualization extensions in modern processors to provide efficient and high-performance virtualization capabilities. In this tutorial, we will delve into the world of KVM and guide you through the process of creating your very first virtual machine (VM).


Before we begin, let’s ensure that you have everything you need to get started with KVM. Here’s a list of prerequisites:

  • Hardware Support: Ensure that your CPU supports hardware virtualization extensions, such as Intel VT-x or AMD-V. Most modern processors have these features, but it’s essential to check if they are enabled in the BIOS settings.
  • Operating System: You should be using a Linux distribution that supports KVM. Popular choices include Ubuntu, Fedora, and CentOS. Make sure that your distribution is up-to-date.
  • Installation: If KVM is not already installed on your system, you’ll need to install it. Use the package manager specific to your distribution to install the required packages.

Setting Up KVM

Checking Virtualization Support

Before diving into creating virtual machines, it’s crucial to confirm that your CPU supports virtualization and that it’s enabled in the BIOS settings. You can run the following command to check for virtualization support:

grep -E 'vmx|svm' /proc/cpuinfo

If you see any output, your CPU supports virtualization. If there’s no output, you might need to enable virtualization in the BIOS.

Installing KVM Packages

The next step involves installing the necessary packages for KVM. The package names can vary slightly depending on your Linux distribution. For instance, on Ubuntu, you can use the following command:

sudo apt-get install qemu-kvm libvirt-daemon-system virtinst

Creating Your First Virtual Machine

With KVM set up on your system, you’re now ready to create your first virtual machine. In this example, we’ll create a VM running Ubuntu Linux.

1. Downloading the Ubuntu ISO

First, download the Ubuntu ISO image from the official website. You can choose the version that best suits your needs, whether it’s the latest LTS release or a specific version.

2. Using virt-install

The virt-install command-line tool allows you to create VMs with ease. Open a terminal and use the following command to create a basic Ubuntu VM:

sudo virt-install --name ubuntu-vm --ram 2048 --vcpus 2 --disk path=/var/lib/libvirt/images/ubuntu-vm.qcow2,size=20 --os-type linux --os-variant ubuntu20.04 --cdrom /path/to/ubuntu.iso --network network=default

In this command:

  • --name: Specifies the name of your VM.
  • --ram: Sets the amount of RAM for the VM in megabytes.
  • --vcpus: Defines the number of virtual CPUs.
  • --disk: Specifies the path and size of the VM’s disk image.
  • --os-type: Sets the operating system type.
  • --os-variant: Specifies the OS variant.
  • --cdrom: Points to the path of the downloaded Ubuntu ISO.
  • --network: Connects the VM to the specified network.

3. Completing the Ubuntu Installation

Once you execute the virt-install command, a new window will pop up, showing the Ubuntu installation process. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation.


Congratulations! You’ve successfully created your first virtual machine using KVM. This tutorial covered the initial setup of KVM, the installation process, and the creation of a basic Ubuntu VM. Virtualization opens up a world of possibilities for testing, development, and isolation of environments. As you become more comfortable with KVM, you can explore advanced configurations and optimizations to make the most out of your virtualization experience.

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