I would like to emulate the exact copy of my real RPi on another virtual machine. I noticed that the only working OS to build a virtual machine is the version RPdesktop. I need the specific OS version of my raspberry pi, is that possible? I tried with converting .img of my rpi on .ISO but the virtual machine doesn't found the OS. Any suggestion? Thanks

  • You'd need to look at hardware emulation. The RPi uses ARM based chips whereas a standard desktop/laptop typically uses x86 one wont run on the other unless you emulate the hardware. Try looking at something like QEMU that can do hardware emulation as well as software ( if I remember rightly.) And that should work for you.
    – rohtua
    Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 13:26
  • Thanks @rohtua, you're right! I already tried with QEMU but the Raspbian stretch version did not loaded on QEMU emulator. Do you have any tutorial to suggest?
    – Leo94
    Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 13:56

1 Answer 1


You can relatively easily do this using Docker:

1. Download and extract Raspbian

Go to the download page and download Raspbian Lite.
Once the file has finished downloading, unzip it:

cd Downloads/
unzip 2020-02-13-raspbian-buster-lite.zip 

2. Mount the image

First, create a loop device from the image file:

udisksctl loop-setup --file 2020-02-13-raspbian-buster-lite.img --read-only

It'll tell you what device it was mapped to. In my case, this was /dev/loop16.
Most distributions will now automatically mount the partitions on the device. For example, Ubuntu will mount them to /media/$USER/boot and /media/$USER/rootfs.

If your distribution doesn't do this automatically, mount the rootfs partition manually:

# 1. create a directory to mount the filesystem to
sudo mkdir /media/$USER/rootfs
# 2. show the partitions of the loop device we just created
lsblk -o name,label /dev/loop16 
# 3. use the name of the `rootfs` partition (loop16p2 in my case)
sudo mount -o ro /dev/loop16p2 /media/$USER/rootfs

3. Create a Docker image from Raspbian's root filesystem

sudo tar c -C /media/$USER/rootfs . | docker image import - raspbian-lite:buster

4. Allow your computer to emulate and run ARM binaries

docker run --rm --privileged docker/binfmt:820fdd95a9972a5308930a2bdfb8573dd4447ad3 

(See https://www.docker.com/blog/getting-started-with-docker-for-arm-on-linux for more details)

5. Create a Docker container from the Raspbian image

docker create -it --name raspbian_test raspbian-lite:buster bash

5. Run the Docker container

docker start -ai raspbian_test

To get out of the container, you can use the exit command.

Extra: running graphical applications

This is the same as with native docker containers.

docker create -it --name raspbian_test_graphical \
    -v /tmp/.X11-unix:/tmp/.X11-unix \
    -e DISPLAY=unix$DISPLAY \
    raspbian-lite:buster bash
xhost +local:root # tell X server to accept the connection
docker start -ai raspbian_test_graphical

Inside of the container, you can then verify that it works using:

sudo apt install -y x11-apps

It should open a window with two eyes following your mouse pointer.

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