Start the Fuchsia emulator

The ffx emu commands launch and manage the Fuchsia emulator on your host machine.

Concepts

The Fuchsia emulator (also known as FEMU) provides a mechanism for developing and testing the Fuchsia platform and products without using physical hardware devices. The Fuchsia emulator is built on QEMU, an open-source machine emulator and virtualizer.

QEMU and AEMU

There are two emulation engines available in the Fuchsia emulator: the first is an extension of the Android Emulator (AEMU) and the second is a build of QEMU (version 6.2.0). The AEMU engine is primarily used for tasks that involve graphics because AEMU supports the Vulkan graphics libraries. However, the most recent AEMU (which is built off of a fork of QEMU 2.12) lacks several versions of upstream fixes, features, and performance enhancements. For this reason, using the QEMU engine in headless mode is preferred for workflows that do not require graphics.

Starting an emulator requires you to specify the following information:

  • An engine to use as the backend.
  • A type of virtual device to emulate.
  • A product to run on the virtual device.

By default, the ffx emu command selects the AEMU engine, as it's expected that most tasks will require some level of graphics support. At the moment, all existing product bundles only have a single virtual device type.

Product bundles

Both FEMU engines use a set of Fuchsia images and metadata known as a product bundle. With the Fuchsia SDK, you need to retrieve product bundles (using the ffx product-bundle get command) ahead of time. A product bundle includes system images for different CPU architectures. And each system image includes metadata (such as hardware specifications for running on different virtual devices) and associated system packages.

Networking

Three networking modes are available between the emulator and its host machine:

These modes are selected using the --net flag with the options of tap, user, and none, respectively. There is also the --net auto mode, which is the default if no flag is specified. In the auto mode, the emulator checks to see if a Tun/Tap interface is available on the host machine, and if there is, the emulator selects the --net tap mode. However, if there is not or the Tun/Tap interface is already busy (for instance, it’s attached to another emulator process), the emulator then selects the --net user mode.

List all available product bundles

To view the list of all available product bundles from an online storage (by default, Google Cloud Storage at gs://fuchsia), run the following command:

ffx product-bundle list

This command prints output similar to the following:

$ ffx product-bundle list
Getting product metadata.
.
gs://fuchsia/development/8.20220511.2.1/sdk/product_bundles.json#terminal.arm64
gs://fuchsia/development/8.20220511.2.1/sdk/product_bundles.json#terminal.qemu-arm64
gs://fuchsia/development/8.20220511.2.1/sdk/product_bundles.json#terminal.qemu-x64
gs://fuchsia/development/8.20220511.2.1/sdk/product_bundles.json#terminal.x64
gs://fuchsia/development/8.20220511.2.1/sdk/product_bundles.json#workstation_eng.chromebook-x64-dfv2
gs://fuchsia/development/8.20220511.2.1/sdk/product_bundles.json#workstation_eng.qemu-x64*
...

Download a product bundle

To download a product bundle from an online storage (by default, Google Cloud Storage at gs://fuchsia), run the following command:

ffx product-bundle get PRODUCT_BUNDLE

Replace PRODUCT_BUNDLE with the name of a product bundle.

The example command below downloads the workstation_eng.qemu-x64 product bundle:

$ ffx product-bundle get workstation_eng.qemu-x64

This command prints output similar to the following:

$ ffx product-bundle get workstation_eng.qemu-x64
Getting product metadata.
.
Getting product metadata.
.
Getting product data for "workstation_eng.qemu-x64"
...........................................................................................
Getting package data for "workstation_eng.qemu-x64"
.
...........................................................................................
...........................................................................................
........................................Download of product data for "workstation_eng.qemu-x64" is complete.

This command may take a few minutes to download the image and product metadata.

Start the Fuchsia emulator

To start the Fuchsia emulator, run the following command:

ffx emu start PRODUCT_BUNDLE [--name NAME]

Replace PRODUCT_BUNDLE with the name of a product bundle downloaded on your host machine.

The example command below uses the workstation_eng.qemu-x64 product bundle to start the Fuchsia emulator:

$ ffx emu start workstation_eng.qemu-x64

This command prints output similar to the following:

$ ffx emu start workstation_eng.qemu-x64
Logging to "/home/alice/.local/share/Fuchsia/ffx/emu/instances/fuchsia-emulator/emulator.log"
Waiting for Fuchsia to start (up to 60 seconds).............................
Emulator is ready.

Once the emulator is launched, the command exits while the emulator continues to run in the background. Then a separate window opens and starts displaying the graphical interface of the Fuchsia system included in the input product bundle.

By default, the Fuchsia emulator is launched with the name fuchsia-emulator. However, to start the Fuchsia emulator with a different name (for instance, when you need to launch multiple instances), you can use the --name flag, for example:.

$ ffx emu start workstation_eng.qemu-x64 --name my-fuchsia-example-01

To see the list of all running emulator instances, you can use the ffx emu list command.

Start the Fuchsia emulator without graphics support

By default, the ffx emu start command launches the Fuchsia emulator and opens a new window to display the emulator’s graphic interface. However, in some cases, you may prefer disabling the graphics support on your emulator instance for tasks that require no visuals, such as automated testing.

To start the Fuchsia emulator without graphics, run the following command:

ffx emu start PRODUCT_BUNDLE --headless [--engine qemu]

Replace PRODUCT_BUNDLE with the name of a product bundle downloaded on your host machine.

The example command below uses the workstation_eng.qemu-x64 product bundle:

$ ffx emu start workstation_eng.qemu-x64 --headless --engine qemu

This command prints output similar to the following:

$ ffx emu start workstation_eng.qemu-x64 --headless --engine qemu
Logging to "/home/alice/.local/share/Fuchsia/ffx/emu/instances/fuchsia-emulator/emulator.log"
Waiting for Fuchsia to start (up to 60 seconds).............................
Emulator is ready.

This command starts an instance of the Fuchsia emulator in the background as usual, but its graphical interface is not displayed on your host machines’ screen.

List all running emulator instances

To view the list of running Fuchsia emulator instances on the host machine, run the following command:

ffx emu list

This command prints output similar to the following:

$ ffx emu list
[Inactive]  my-fuchsia-example-01
[Active]    fuchsia-emulator

In the output, next to each emulator instance is its status. If the status is [Active], it means the instance is running and is responsive to other Fuchsia tools. However if the status is [Inactive], this may mean the instance is stopped while preserving its working directory, or it is still running but is not responsive (for instance, due to a network failure). An instance that is started with networking disabled is never shown as [Active], even if it is running and healthy.

Stop an emulator instance

To stop a running instance of the Fuchsia emulator, run the following command:

ffx emu stop INSTANCE_NAME

Replace INSTANCE_NAME with the name of a running Fuchsia emulator instance.

The example command below stops the my-fuchsia-example-01 instance:

$ ffx emu stop my-fuchsia-example-01

This command prints output similar to the following:

$ ffx emu stop my-fuchsia-example-01
Stopping emulator 'my-fuchsia-example-01'...
Terminating running instance 2752927

The command terminates the running process for that emulator and removes the temporary working directory created for that instance on the host machine. (If you want to preserve this working directory, see Stop a running emulator instance while retaining its working directory.

If there is only one running emulator instance, you can omit the INSTANCE_NAME field to stop the instance, for example:

$ ffx emu stop
Stopping emulator 'fuchsia-emulator'...
Terminating running instance 2752927

If you want to stop all running instances at once, you can use the --all flag, for example:

$ ffx emu stop --all
Stopping emulator 'my-fuchsia-example-01'...
Stopping emulator 'fuchsia-emulator'...
Terminating running instance 2749406

Stop an emulator instance while preserving its working directory

When stopping a running emulator instance, by default the working directory for that instance is deleted from the host machine. However, in some cases, you may want to keep the instance’s working directory so that you can continue examining the directory’s contents for debugging purposes.

To stop a running instance of the Fuchsia emulator without deleting its working directory, run the following command:

ffx emu stop INSTANCE_NAME --persist

Replace INSTANCE_NAME with the name of a running Fuchsia emulator instance.

The example command below stops the my-fuchsia-example-01 instance:

$ ffx emu stop my-fuchsia-example-01 --persist

This command prints output similar to the following:

$ ffx emu stop my-fuchsia-example-01 --persist
Stopping emulator 'my-fuchsia-example-01'...
Terminating running instance 2752927

After this command is run, the instance's working directory remains on the host machine, and the stopped instance continues to appear on the emulator instances list (ffx emu list) with the [Inactive] status.

To restart this stopped emulator instance, run the ffx emu start command with the --reuse flag, for example:

$ ffx emu start my-fuchsia-example-01 --reuse

When you no longer need the working directory, you can run the ffx emu stop command again to delete the directory, for example:

$ ffx emu stop my-fuchsia-example-01
Stopping emulator 'my-fuchsia-example-01'...

Show the emulator configuration

To view the Fuchsia emulator configuration on the host machine, run the following command:

ffx emu show

This command prints output similar to the following:

$ ffx emu show
EmulatorConfiguration {
    device: DeviceConfig {
        audio: AudioDevice {
            model: Hda,
        },
        cpu: VirtualCpu {
            architecture: X64,
            count: 0,
        },
...

Start the Fuchsia emulator in Tun/Tap networking mode

In the --net tap mode, the host machine's kernel sets up a virtual networking tunnel device (see Tun/Tap) and bridges that device with the host machine's physical network. This setup enables traffic coming through the virtual device to be routed to the physical network. The emulator then attaches its instance's virtual network interface to the virtual tunnel device on the host machine. This has the same effect as the emulator instance being directly connected to the physical network of the host machine. Therefore, the --net tap mode delivers the fastest performance among all networking options. However, this mode’s setup requires superuser access (sudo) on the host machine, and it is only supported on Linux hosts (though there exist open-source extensions that enable this setup on macOS hosts as well).

To start the emulator in the Tun/Tap networking mode, run the following command:

ffx emu start PRODUCT_BUNDLE --net tap

Replace PRODUCT_BUNDLE with the name of a product bundle downloaded on your host machine.

The example command below uses the workstation_eng.qemu-x64 product bundle:

$ ffx emu start workstation_eng.qemu-x64 --net tap

This command prints output similar to the following:

$ ffx emu start workstation_eng.qemu-x64 --net tap
Logging to "/home/alice/.local/share/Fuchsia/ffx/emu/instances/fuchsia-emulator/emulator.log"
Waiting for Fuchsia to start (up to 60 seconds)......................
Emulator is ready.

With the Tun/Tap networking mode, you have the option to specify an “upscript” to, for instance, set up network interfaces and firewall exceptions. This script is executed as part of the start-up for every emulator instance that runs with the Tun/Tap networking mode.

To add a network upscript to your ffx configuration, run the following command before starting the emulator:

ffx config set emu.upscript <PATH_TO_UPSCRIPT>

Replace PATH_TO_UPSCRIPT with the path of an upscript file.

The example command below adds the my-upscript.sh to the ffx configuration:

$ ffx config set emu.upscript /home/alice/my-fuchsia-project/my-upscript.sh

Start the Fuchsia emulator in user networking mode

If you don't have superuser access (sudo) on the host machine or don't want to adjust your macOS setup to use Tun/Tap (see the --net tap mode), you can configure the network using the --net user mode. In this mode, the emulator acts as a firewall (through SLiRP). Traffic coming out of an emulator instance is unrestricted. However, sending traffic to an emulator instance requires the following setup:

  • A virtual device’s specification, which is part of a product bundle (for instance, workstation_eng.qemu-x64), pre-defines the mapping of the ports needed for the device.
  • These ports can be mapped to unused ports on the host machine during the start-up of an emulator instance.

For example, to set up an SSH connection from the host machine to an emulator instance, first the product bundle's virtual device specification must allow an instance's SSH port (which is 22 commonly) to be used by the device. Next, when you start the Fuchsia emulator, you can use the ffx emu start command to map the instance's SSH port to an unused port on the host machine, let's say 8022. Then once the emulator instance starts running, you can establish an SSH session to the instance through the host machine’s port 8022.

In the virtual device specification, the ports field provides a list of service names and their port numbers, for example:

ports = {
        ssh = 22
        mdns = 5353
        debug = 2345
}

The example above indicates that the emulator must map an emulator instance's three specified ports (that is, 22, 5353, and 2345) to unused ports on the host machine during start-up. Using this specification, the emulator uses the names ssh, mdns, and debug for the three ports, respectively. For each of these ports, you can use the --port-map flag to map the name to an unused port on the host machine, for example:

$ ffx emu start workstation_eng.qemu-x64 --net user --port-map ssh:8022 --port-map debug:12345

Any ports in the virtual device specification that are not explicitly mapped using the --port-map flag get arbitrarily assigned to unused ports on the host machine during start-up. The final port mapping can be seen in the output of ffx emu show.

To start the emulator in user networking mode, run the following command:

ffx emu start PRODUCT_BUNDLE --net user [--port-map PORT_NAME:PORT_NUMBER]

Replace the following:

  • PRODUCT_BUNDLE – The name of a product bundle downloaded on your host machine.
  • PORT_NAME – (Optional) The name of a service on the emulator instance.
  • PORT_NUMBER – (Optional) The port number on the host machine to which you want to map the PORT_NAME service.

The example command below starts the emulator in user networking mode:

$ ffx emu start workstation_eng.qemu-x64 --net user

Without specifying the --port-map flags, the emulator maps the services on the emulator instance to any unused ports on the host machine.

The example command below specifies port maps when starting the emulator in user networking mode:

$ ffx emu start workstation_eng.qemu-x64 --net user --port-map ssh:8022 --port-map debug:12345

To see how ports are mapped for an emulator instance in user networking mode, run ffx emu show and examine the output's port_map field, for example:

$ ffx emu show
EmulatorConfiguration {
    [...]
    host: HostConfig {
        [...]
        networking: User,
        port_map: {
            "ssh": PortMapping {
                guest: 22,
                host: Some(
                    8022,
                ),
            },
            "mdns": PortMapping {
                guest: 5353,
                host: Some(
                    35801,
                ),
            },
            "debug": PortMapping {
                guest: 2345,
                host: Some(
                    12345,
                ),
            },
        },
    },
    [...]
}

Start the Fuchsia emulator with networking disabled

When --net none is specified, no networking capabilities are available to the emulator instance (from the instance's perspective), as if there is no network card installed on the virtual machine. The only mechanisms available for communicating with the emulator instance are through the QEMU monitor and the emulated serial port.

To start the emulator with networking disabled, run the following command:

ffx emu start PRODUCT_BUNDLE --net none [--console]

Replace PRODUCT_BUNDLE with the name of a product bundle downloaded on your host machine.

This command prints output similar to the following:

$ ffx emu start workstation_eng.qemu-x64 --net none
Logging to "/home/alice/.local/share/Fuchsia/ffx/emu/instances/fuchsia-emulator/emulator.log"
Waiting for Fuchsia to start (up to 60 seconds).............................................................
Emulator did not respond to a health check before timing out.

When networking is disabled, the ffx emu start command cannot complete the “health check” of the instance, which results in the status of the instance to be [Inactive], which is expected, for example:

$ ffx emu list
[Inactive]    fuchsia-emulator

Start the Fuchsia emulator with a console for debugging

The Fuchsia emulator provides the following built-in consoles that enable developers to interact with emulator instances:

Both consoles work with both the QEMU and AEMU engines.

The QEMU monitor

With the QEMU monitor, you can issue commands directly to the emulator process. Some of these commands allow you to modify emulated devices, query virtual hardware state, and terminate the emulator process using virtual hardware signals. (For more information on available commands, see the QEMU Monitor page.)

To start an emulator instance attached to the QEMU monitor, run the following command:

ffx emu start PRODUCT_BUNDLE --monitor

Replace PRODUCT_BUNDLE with the name of a product bundle downloaded on your host machine.

The example command below uses the workstation_eng.qemu-x64 product bundle:

$ ffx emu start workstation_eng.qemu-x64 --monitor

This command prints output similar to the following:

$ ffx emu start workstation_eng.qemu-x64 --monitor
QEMU 2.12.0 monitor - type 'help' for more information
(qemu)

When running an emulator instance with the QEMU monitor attached, the command does not exit to the terminal immediately. Instead, the command drops you into a QEMU monitor prompt.

To exit the QEMU monitor prompt, you can issue the quit command, which also terminates the emulator instance, for example:

$ ffx emu start workstation_eng.qemu-x64 --monitor
QEMU 2.12.0 monitor - type 'help' for more information
(qemu) quit

WARNING | Write called without a backing file!
$

Fuchsia's emulated serial port

If an emulator instance is started while attached to the emulated serial port, the Fuchsia platform treats the serial port as a terminal. During the boot process, this terminal streams kernel logs over the port, and once the system boots, it displays a Fuchsia command line prompt.

To start an emulator instance attached to the emulated serial port, run the following command:

ffx emu start PRODUCT_BUNDLE --console

Replace PRODUCT_BUNDLE with the name of a product bundle downloaded on your host machine.

The example command below uses the workstation_eng.qemu-x64 product bundle:

$ ffx emu start workstation_eng.qemu-x64 --console

This command prints output similar to the following:

alice@alice:~$ ffx emu start workstation_eng.qemu-x64 --console
INFO    | Android emulator version 31.3.8.0 (build_id 8611574) (CL:N/A)
[... various log entries]
[00021.699] 01095:01158> [component_manager] INFO: Connecting fuchsia.sys2.LifecycleController
$

After starting the emulator instance, this command drops you into a Fuchsia command line prompt where you can issue various on-device command lines directly to the instance.

To exit the serial port console, you can issue the dm poweroff command, which also terminates the emulator instance, for example:

$ dm poweroff
[00258.335] 26935:26939> [shutdown-shim]: checking power_manager liveness
[... various log entries]
[00260.447] 03742:03744> [00260.447038][3742][3744][driver_manager.cm] WARNING: [src/devices/bin/driver_manager/v1/suspend_handler.cc(211)] Failed to cause VFS exit ourselves, this is expected during orderly shutdown: FIDL operation failed d
[00260.429] 03341:03344> WARNING | Write called without a backing file!
alice@alice:~$