Distros Running Inside Qubes VMs?

Qubes is a less than an efficient work distro, because of it’s security.
And its so resource intensive, it slows the machine.

But if it could run fast, and if it could run a more work efficient distro inside a sandbox VM, we could have the best of all worlds right?

Anyone else running Qubes on a 64GB-128GB RAM machine, and running a graphically intense disro (like ElementaryOS) inside a sandbox?

Was it a viable solution? What was your experience?

Xen virtualization has less than 10% overhead in CPU performance on Qubes OS but it doesn’t have GPU acceleration for VM’s which means CPU is doing almost all of the graphical rendering.

To your question, VM’s don’t require any more RAM than the OS which you run inside would normally need running on plain old hardware. Most distros only need 4GB of RAM. 64GB of RAM is what I use but I have around 28 VM’s running at the same time, so… What you want is a CPU with high single core performance and more than 4 cores.


As @zenyatta said, Qubes OS does not have a large CPU overhead, but it lacks GPU acceleration. If you need the latter for your applications, you can try to do GPU pass-through (for your second GPU):

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wdym qubes isn’t a linux distro? Yes it is one. Can argue that more like a xen distro as their devs say but that doesn’t make it any less a linux distro. All distributions are a compilation of various pieces of software. Just call it by something everyone else can understand too as long as it still is that.

What is a “Linux distro” in your opinion? People typically understand it as Linux kernel plus some graphical interface. Qubes is not that. Its kernel is Xen. It’s important, because it’s much more secure and it allows for very efficient virtualization.

‘Xen’ is not a kernel, but a hypervisor. Xen can run on many different kernels. The kernel needs to support Xen for that: https://wiki.xenproject.org/wiki/Dom0_Kernels_for_Xen

‘Qubes’ is a distribution by definition: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_distribution

A distro is a collection of software components built, assembled and configured so that it can essentially be used “as is”.

And it runs on the Linux kernel: https://www.qubes-os.org/doc/releases/4.0/release-notes/

  • Dom0 update to Fedora 25 for better hardware support
  • Kernel 4.9.x

Qubes is a great distro for compartmentalizing tasks, personas, and data with varying degrees of sensitivity. Your AppVMs should not be running a full distro, but be based on TemplateVMs with a minimal set of packages installed to support their dependent VMs. The official templates are modified versions of Fedora and Debian. Their is a way to run a full distro in a VM on Qubes, many in the community do this with Kali and Windows, but it’s not the main focus. If you just want to run the distro of your choice with some, but minimal, separation from your host hardware, using just about any common desktop distro for the host OS would be a better choice.

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I’m hoping I can get the sandboxing Qubes gives me, more efficiently than running VMs on a less secure host.

If I could make a template VM for ElementaryOS, I can make, throw away clones fast to test software, and/or segment and sandbox higher risk apps.

Doesn’t it make more sense to have Qubes the host, then run a more task efficient distro under it, and clone/burn/segment as needed?

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I see my comment brought up a little controversy. Qubes OS is a distribution no doubt about that. Technically it is also a Linux distro but most devs (and people using it) consider Qubes OS to be more like Xen + Linux at the moment as you said.

Qubes is not a Linux distro, because it does not actually rely on Fedora in dom0. You can replace Fedora with anything else, e.g., with ReactOS, and Qubes will still be Qubes.