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Ajeet Raina Docker Captain, ARM Innovator & Docker Bangalore Community Leader.

Running Arm-based Docker Image on non-Arm Platform using Emulator

2 min read

QEMU (short for Quick EMUlator) is a free and open-source machine emulator and virtualizer that can run operating systems and programs written for one architecture on a different architecture. It supports emulating a wide range of CPUs, including x86, ARM, MIPS, PowerPC, and more.

Uses of QEMU

QEMU can be used for a variety of purposes, such as:

  • Emulating different architectures: QEMU allows you to run software written for one architecture on a different architecture. For example, you can run ARM-based software on an x86-based computer, or vice versa.
  • Virtualization: QEMU can also be used as a hypervisor to run multiple virtual machines (VMs) on a single host computer.
  • Debugging: QEMU provides a powerful set of debugging features that can be used to analyze and debug software running on different architectures.
  • Testing: QEMU is often used for testing and development purposes, as it allows developers to test their software on a wide range of architectures without needing to have access to physical hardware.

QEMU is important because it enables cross-platform development and testing, which is essential for many software projects. It also provides a powerful set of tools for debugging and analysis, which can help developers identify and fix bugs more quickly. Additionally, QEMU is open-source software, which means it can be customized and extended to meet specific needs.

How it works?

QEMU works by emulating the hardware of a computer system. When you run an operating system or program on QEMU, it creates a virtual machine (VM) that emulates the hardware of a computer system, including the CPU, memory, storage devices, network interface, and other peripherals.

QEMU translates the instructions and system calls made by the emulated operating system or program to the host system’s architecture. For example, if you’re running an ARM-based operating system on QEMU on an x86-based host system, QEMU translates the ARM instructions to x86 instructions so that the host system can understand and execute them.

QEMU can also use hardware-assisted virtualization (such as Intel VT-x or AMD-V) if available on the host system, which can improve performance by allowing the guest operating system or program to run directly on the CPU without translation.

QEMU supports a range of emulated hardware, including CPU architectures, network interfaces, storage devices, and other peripherals. You can configure the emulated hardware using QEMU’s command-line options or by creating a configuration file.

In nutshell, QEMU provides a flexible and powerful way to run operating systems and programs on different architectures and to create and manage virtual machines.

Is it possible to run Arm-based Docker Image on non-Arm based Platform?

Yes, you can use an ARM-based emulator to run your ARM-based Docker image on non-ARM platforms such as x86-based systems.

One such emulator is QEMU, which can emulate various ARM-based architectures, including ARMv7 and ARMv8. Here are the general steps to follow:

1. Install QEMU on your host system

The installation steps will vary depending on your operating system. Here are some resources for popular operating systems:


 sudo apt-get install qemu qemu-user-static binfmt-support


brew install qemu


Follow the instructions in the QEMU documentation:

2. Use the qemu-user-static tool

This tool is used to register the ARM interpreter with the Linux kernel:

sudo update-binfmts --enable qemu-arm

3. Start the emulator

qemu-arm-static -cpu armv7l -L /usr/arm-linux-gnueabihf ./your-arm-docker-image

Here, -cpu armv7l specifies the ARM architecture you want to emulate. You can change this to match the architecture your Docker image was built for. -L /usr/arm-linux-gnueabihf tells QEMU to use the ARM binary files located in the /usr/arm-linux-gnueabihf directory. Finally, ./your-arm-docker-image is the path to your ARM-based Docker image.

Note that running an emulator will have some performance overhead, and some software may not function correctly or at all when running on an emulator. It’s always recommended to test your application on the target architecture if possible.

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Ajeet Raina Docker Captain, ARM Innovator & Docker Bangalore Community Leader.

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