How can I connect an SD card containing a Raspberry Pi OS to my Linux PC, and boot the OS in an emulator?
Why won't VMWare work?
What are the limitations of this method?
Related: Emulation on a Windows PC
Yes this is completely possible. However, in reality it's a little bit different to how you are thinking.
The SD card contains an image of the operating system. And works by inflating this image when the device is powered on.
As I expect you already know, you flash this image onto the SD card in order to create a working system. However, what you can do before you flash the image is have a play around with it using QEMU, which is a processor emulator, and allows us to emulate the ARM instruction set.
In this way, any changes you make to the image (installing, compiling etc) will still be there after you flash it to the SD card.
I'll now talk you through how to use QEMU to load the image. I will be demonstrating with the Arch Linux image, but the process should be the same regardless.
You will need to acquire QEMU for your system. QEMU should only have one requirement, in order in input devices to work you need to have the SDL development package installed, which should be available from your package manager.
I recommend downloading the package using your regular package manager:
Building QEMU yourself
Alternatively, you can build QEMU yourself. This is great if you want to try a new version, but it can be slow and be prepared for lots of errors during compilation! Note that if building QEMU from their website it must be compiled for ARM support. So check your distro repositories first. This can be done like so;
Verify that you have ARM support with:
Obtaining the Image
We're working with Arch Linux, so will be using the Arch Arm image. But replace this with whatever you wish to work with, or perhaps you already have an image. In which case, skip this step.
For QEMU to work we also need the kernel image (which would be inside the .img file).
Starting the VM
You should now have:
The Virtual Machine can now be started using the following long-winded command:
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You cannot do what you're suggesting, because Raspberry Pi has a different processor architecture than most PCs. While most PCs are x86-based, RPi is an ARM-based computer.
This is the same reason as why you cannot run, for example, Microsoft Windows on RPi.
VmWare won't work, because it can only virtualize x86-based operating systems (32-bit and 64-bit). There are other emulators that can virtualize ARM, such as QEMU, but those are running full software emulation without native CPU virtualizaton support, so you can expect them to be quite slow.