Recover Data from a QEMU Virtual Machine: Simple Solutions!

Are you facing data loss issues with your QEMU virtual machine and wondering how to recover your valuable data? In this video, we’ll provide you with essential tips, step-by-step methods, and best practices for recovering data from QEMU virtual machines. Read now to learn how to retrieve your data effectively!

Recover Data from a QEMU Virtual Machine: Simple Solutions!

Virtualization is the easiest way to run one more operating system on your PC without having to install it directly to its hard disk. Instead, the additional operating system is installed to a virtual disk which is represented by a special container file. The most popular hypervisors are VirtualBox and VMware, and they both have a wide range of functions and an easy-to-understand graphical interface.

QEMU is a free open-source program designed to emulate various software products and operating systems. This tool uses hardware virtualization and supports a long list of architectures to be emulated (x86, ARM, MIPS, PowerPC, m68k, Alpha, SPARC, SH-4, CRISv2, MicroBlaze).

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🦅 How to Recover Data from a QEMU Virtual Machine. Installing a QEMU Hypervisor in Windows 🦅

🦅 How to Recover Data from a QEMU Virtual Machine. Installing a QEMU Hypervisor in Windows 🦅

How to install QEMU in Windows

The first thing you need for installation is to download a QEMU distribution for Windows. You can get it from the official website –

Download QEMU distribution for Windows

You can choose between 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Choose the latter one and download the corresponding file. Install the program and leave all options at their default values – just don’t change anything.

Install the program

How to use QEMU in Windows

Unlike VirtualBox and similar hypervisors, QEMU doesn’t have a graphical interface: it can be operated with the command prompt only. Let’s download an ISO image of the operating system which we will install onto the virtual machine. After that, we need to add the QEMU path to the environment variables.

To do that, open the File Explorer and copy the path to the folder containing the program.

С:\Program files\qemu

Then right-click on “This PC” and open “Properties”.


“Advanced system settings”. In the Advanced tab, open “Environment Variables”.

Environment Variables

In the field “User variables”, double-click on “Path”.


Then click “New” and paste the path to the QEMU folder that you have copied before. Click OK to save the changes and then click OK again to leave the settings.

Paste the path

Before installation, you need to enable a specific Windows component - Windows Hypervisor Platform - or the virtual machine may not start properly. Also, it is recommended to enable Hyper-V or HAXM accelerator to make the virtual machine work faster.

Enable Windows components

To do it, use the setting “Turn Windows features on or off”. Enable the platform.

The list of commands and settings used to create and manage virtual machines is quite long, but you only need a few to start working.

Launch the Command Prompt as Administrator and begin the installation. For starters, let’s create a folder for virtual machines – C:\qemu. Then go to that folder with the command prompt. Now you need to create a virtual hard disk of 15 to 20 GB. Use the following command:

qemu-img create -f qcow2 ubuntu.qcow2 20G

Where the setting -f indicates the file format, followed by the file name and the file size is given at the end of the command.

Then enter another command to create a virtual machine: it includes certain settings.

The architecture - qemu-system-x86_64.exe

The boot drive - -boot c

Virtual machine RAM size - -m 2048

The number of processors allocated for this machine - -smp 2

The path to the folder containing the program - -L "C:\Program Files\qemu"

Graphics - -vga std

Sound - -soundhw es1370

Virtual disk - -boot menu=on -hda ubuntu.qcow2

Path to ISO image - -cdrom "C:\ubuntu.iso"

The time and network settings - -rtc base=localtime,clock=host -net nic,model=ne2k_pci -net user

qemu-system-x86_64.exe -boot c -m 2048 -smp 2 -L "C:\Program Files\qemu" -vga std -soundhw es1370 -boot menu=on -hda ubuntu.qcow2 -cdrom "D:\ubuntu.iso" -rtc base=localtime,clock=host -net nic,model=ne2k_pci -net user

The command to create a QEMU virtual machine

When you enter the command, the QEMU window appears, the virtual machine boots and the installation of the operating system begins.

The virtual machine starts booting

In my case, this is Ubuntu. After the installation is complete and the virtual machine restarts, it boots with the operating system you have installed, and it is now ready for work.

How to create a virtual machine with QtEmu

Also, there is another way to create a virtual machine with the help of the QtEmu graphical interface. This open-source utility for QEMU is designed to simplify the process of creating and managing a virtual machine.

Let’s visit the program’s official website, follow the link to gitlab and download the installation file.

QtEmu graphical interface

Remember to enable such Windows feature as Windows Hypervisor Platform if you forgot to turn it on before: this feature should be running, otherwise the virtual machine may not start.

To do it, open “Programs and Features” - “Turn Windows features on or off”. Enable the platform.

Start the installer and choose where to install the program. After the installation is over, put the program’s shortcut on the desktop for your convenience, and create a folder to store virtual machine files.

QtEmu installation

When you start the program for the first time, specify the following settings. In the first field - the path to the folder where QEMU is installed. In the second field - the path to the QEMU-img file. And in this field - the path to the folder where virtual machine files are stored, and then click “Finish”.

QtEmu first launch

To create a new virtual machine, click “Machine” – “New Machine”, give a name, operating system type, select its version, and then click “Next”. In this Machine page, click “Next” unless you need to choose a specific motherboard setup.

Create a new virtual machine

After that, you should choose a proper CPU type, and configure the graphics, sound and network settings. If you get the wrong CPU, the virtual machine may not boot properly.

Select a virtual machine hardware configuration

Now you need to choose the accelerator - the default choice is HAXM. Some computers may not support this technology so I recommend to uncheck this box for HAXM and choose TCG instead, then click “Next”.

Sometimes users complain that nothing happens when they start a virtual machine. This problem can be caused by HAXM, so it’s always better to go for TCG to make sure the virtual machine will work on most computers.

We recommend using TCG

After that, set the RAM size for the virtual machine, and create a virtual hard disk. Specify the disk size and type. Then click “Finish” to complete setup.

Set the RAM size

After that, right-click on the machine and choose “Machine Settings”.

Machine settings

Access “Boot options” and check the box for CDROM, then bring it to the top and enable boot menu.

Enable boot menu

Then jump to the Media tab, click on the disk icon and give the path to an ISO image file of the operating system, and then click “Save”.

Give the path to an ISO image file of the operating system

Select the virtual machine and click here to start it. The QEMU window opens, the installer boots, and then the installation of the operating system begins.

Installation of the operating system

When the installation process is over, the virtual machine will be ready to use.

How to recover QEMU data

All right, we have just explored the process of installing QEMU and creating a virtual machine. But what should you do if - for any reason - you lost access to your virtual machine, deleted the machine files by accident, or lost some mission-critical data stored on the virtual hard disk?

If that’s your case, use a specialized data recovery tool - Hetman Partition Recovery - which can work successfully with most file formats used in popular hypervisors.

The tool recovers data from any devices, regardless of the cause of data loss.

It supports all popular file system formats and it can help you restore data after deleting, formatting, and hardware or software errors.

In a Windows operating system, all you have to do is to download and install the program. If you’re using a different operating system, take the hard disk out of your computer and connect it to a Windows PC.

If you want to recover virtual machine files, connect the disk where virtual disk files were stored, and scan it with Hetman Partition Recovery.

Right-click on the disk and choose “Open”. Select the scan type - “Fast scan” or “Full analysis” if the first option is not available. Before starting “Full analysis”, choose the file system and click “Next”.

Fast scan

In my case, “Fast scan” is available. Find the folder where the virtual machine files were stored, select the files you want to restore, click “Recovery”, specify the path where you’d like to save the files, and click “Recovery” again.

Recover virtual machine files

You will find the recovered files in the directory you have chosen. Here some typical extensions of virtual machine files: qcow, qcow2, .img, .cow, .qed, .vmdk, .vdi, .vhd, .vhdx, .hdd, .hds.

If you failed to boot a virtual machine after system repair operations, or if there is an error when you try to start it, don’t give up: use our program to open that file and recover all of its data.

Mount Disk

To do it, open “Tools” - “Mount Disk” - and you’ll find two ways to mount it: choose a RAW disk image if you’re dealing with conventional disks, or choose Virtual Machines. You can see the list of files and tools that our program supports.

Mount the image

Check the required image type, give the path to the folder containing virtual hard disk files, and click “Select Folder”. The program will display all virtual machine files which exist in such folder, and you can uncheck the boxes for the ones you don’t need now.

To begin searching for data, right-click on the disk and choose “Open”. Then choose analysis type. We recommend starting with “Fast scan”. If the program can’t find the missing files, then go for “Full analysis”.

Full analysis

The program can find all files remaining on the disk without difficulty. The red cross indicates the ones which have been deleted. Click on a file to see its contents in the preview window. With this quick search option you can find a specific file by its name.

Recover files from a virtual machine disk

Select the files you need to restore and click “Recovery”, specify the disk where to save the files and click “Recovery” again.


Summing up, what can we say about the QEMU hypervisor? It’s difficult to say if it’s better or worse than VirtualBox or VMware. More likely, it’s an alternative method of virtualization, and it has its own pros and cons. QEMU is less convenient, it requires you to know the manuals, and its performance is very moderate. To accelerate its work in Windows, you need to install and configure HAXM, the Hardware Accelerated Execution Manager. On the other hand, this tool lets you emulate work on various architectures which are not supported by popular hypervisors. And if you ever lose any data - now you know which recovery tool can bring it back in a most efficient way.

Vladimir Artiukh

Author: , Technical Writer

Vladimir Artiukh is a technical writer for Hetman Software, as well as the voice and face of their English-speaking YouTube channel, Hetman Software: Data Recovery for Windows. He handles tutorials, how-tos, and detailed reviews on how the company’s tools work with all kinds of data storage devices.

Oleg Afonin

Editor: , Technical Writer

Oleg Afonin is an expert in mobile forensics, data recovery and computer systems. He often attends large data security conferences, and writes several blogs for such resources as, Elcomsoft and Habr. In addition to his online activities, Oleg’s articles are also published in professional magazines. Also, Oleg Afonin is the co-author of a well-known book, Mobile Forensics - Advanced Investigative Strategies.

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