DisposableVM Customization


A DisposableVM (previously known as a “DispVM”) in can be based on any TemplateBasedVM. You can also choose to use different DisposableVM Templates for different DisposableVMs. To prepare AppVM to be a DisposableVM Template, you need to set template_for_dispvms property, for example:

[user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-prefs fedora-26-dvm template_for_dispvms True

Additionally, if you want to have menu entries for starting applications in DisposableVM based on this AppVM (instead of in the AppVM itself), you can achieve it with appmenus-dispvm feature:

[user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-features fedora-26-dvm appmenus-dispvm 1


If a DisposableVM Template becomes compromised, then any DisposableVM based on that DisposableVM Template could be compromised. Therefore, you should not make any risky customizations (e.g., installing untrusted browser plugins) in important DisposableVM Templates. In particular, the default DisposableVM Template is important because it is used by the “Open in DisposableVM” feature. This means that it will have access to everything that you open with this feature. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that you base the default DisposableVM Template on a trusted TemplateVM and refrain from making any risky customizations to it.

Creating a new DisposableVM Template

In Qubes 4.0, you’re no longer restricted to a single DisposableVM Template. Instead, you can create as many as you want. Whenever you start a new DisposableVM, you can choose to base it on whichever DisposableVM Template you like. To create new DisposableVM Template, lets say custom-disposablevm-template, based on debian-9 template, use following commands:

[user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-create --template debian-9 --label red custom-disposablevm-template
[user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-prefs custom-disposablevm-template template_for_dispvms True
[user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-features custom-disposablevm-template appmenus-dispvm 1

Additionally you may want to set it as default DisposableVM Template:

[user@dom0 ~]$ qubes-prefs default_dispvm custom-disposablevm-template

The above default is used whenever a qube request starting a new DisposableVM and do not specify which one (for example qvm-open-in-dvm tool). This can be also set in qube settings and will affect service calls from that qube. See qrexec documentation for details.

If you wish to use the fedora-minimal template as a DisposableVM Template, see the “DisposableVM Template” use case under fedora-minimal customization.

Customization of DisposableVM

It is possible to change the settings for each new DisposableVM. This can be done by customizing the DisposableVM Template on which it is based:

  1. Start a terminal in the fedora-26-dvm qube (or another DisposableVM Template) by running the following command in a dom0 terminal. (If you enable appmenus-dispvm feature (as explained at the top), applications menu for this VM (fedora-26-dvm) will be “Disposable: fedora-26-dvm” (instead of “Domain: fedora-26-dvm”) and entries there will start new DisposableVM based on that VM (fedora-26-dvm). Not in that VM (fedora-26-dvm) itself).

    [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-run -a fedora-26-dvm gnome-terminal
  2. Change the qube’s settings and/or applications, as desired. Some examples of changes you may want to make include:
    • Changing Firefox’s default startup settings and homepage.
    • Changing default editor, image viewer.
    • Changing the DisposableVM’s default NetVM. For example, you may wish to set the NetVM to “none.” Then, whenever you start a new DisposableVM, you can choose your desired ProxyVM manually (by changing the newly-started DisposableVMs settings). This is useful if you sometimes wish to use a DisposableVM with a Whonix Gateway, for example. It is also useful if you sometimes wish to open untrusted files in a network-disconnected DisposableVM.
  3. Shutdown the qube (either by poweroff from qube’s terminal, or qvm-shutdown from dom0 terminal).

Using static DisposableVMs for sys-*

You can use a static DisposableVM for sys-* as long as it is stateless. For example, a sys-net using DHCP or sys-usb will work. In most cases sys-firewall will also work, even if you have configured AppVM firewall rules. The only exception is if you require something like VM to VM communication and have manually edited iptables or other items directly inside the firewall AppVM.

To create one that has no PCI devices attached, such as for sys-firewall:

qvm-create -C DispVM -l red <sys-VMName>
qvm-prefs <sys-VMName> autostart true
qvm-prefs <sys-VMName> netvm <sys-net>
qvm-prefs <sys-VMName> provides_network true

Next, set the old sys-firewall autostart to false, and update any references to the old one to instead point to the new. For example, with qvm-prefs work netvm sys-firewall2.

To create one with a PCI device attached such as for sys-net or sys-usb, use the additional commands as follows.

Note You can use qvm-pci to determine the <BDF>. Also, you will often need to include the -o no-strict-reset=True option with USB controllers.

qvm-create -C DispVM -l red <sys-VMName>
qvm-prefs <sys-VMName> virt_mode hvm
qvm-service <sys-VMName> meminfo-writer off
qvm-pci attach --persistent <sys-VMName> dom0:<BDF>
qvm-prefs <sys-VMName> autostart true
qvm-prefs <sys-VMName> netvm ''
# optional, if this DisposableVM will be providing networking
qvm-prefs <sys-VMName> provides_network true

Next, set the old sys- VM’s autostart to false, and update any references to the old one. For example, qvm-prefs sys-firewall netvm <sys-VMName>. See below for a complete example of a sys-net replacement:

qvm-create -C DispVM -l red sys-net2
qvm-prefs sys-net2 virt_mode hvm
qvm-service sys-net2 meminfo-writer off
qvm-pci attach --persistent sys-net2 dom0:00_1a.0
qvm-prefs sys-net2 autostart true
qvm-prefs sys-net2 netvm ''
qvm-prefs sys-net2 provides_network true
qvm-prefs sys-net autostart false
qvm-prefs sys-firewall netvm sys-net2
qubes-prefs clockvm sys-net2

Note that these types of DisposableVMs will not show in the Application menu, but you can still get to a terminal if needed with qvm-run <sys-VMName> gnome-terminal.

Adding programs to DisposableVM Application Menu

For added convenience, arbitrary programs can be added to the Application Menu of the DisposableVM.

In order to do that, select “Qube settings” entry in selected base AppVM, go to “Applications” tab and select desired applications as for any other qube.

Note that currently only applications whose main process keeps running until you close the application (i.e. do not start a background process instead) will work. One of known examples of incompatible applications is GNOME Terminal (shown on the list as “Terminal”). Choose different terminal emulator (like XTerm) instead.

Create Custom sys-net sys-firewall and sys-usb DisposableVMs

Users have the option of creating customized DisposableVMs for the sys-net, sys-firewall and sys-usb VMs. In this configuration, a fresh VM instance is created each time a DisposableVM is launched. Functionality is near-identical to the default VMs created following a new Qubes’ installation, except the user benefits from a non-persistent filesystem.

Functionality is not limited, users can:

  • Set custom firewall rule sets and run Qubes VPN scripts.
  • Set DisposableVMs to autostart at system boot.
  • Attach PCI devices with the --persistent option.

Using DisposableVMs in this manner is ideal for untrusted qubes which require persistent PCI devices, such as USB VMs and NetVMs.

Note: Users who want customized VPN or firewall rule sets must create a separate DisposableVM Template for use by each DisposableVM. If DisposableVM Template customization is not needed, then a single DisposableVM Template is used as a template for all DisposableVMs.

Create and configure the DisposableVM Template on which the DisposableVM will be based

  1. Create the DisposableVM Template

    [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-create --class AppVM --label gray <DisposableVM-Template-Name>
  2. (optional) In the DisposableVM Template, add custom firewall rule sets, Qubes VPN scripts etc

    Firewall rules sets and Qubes VPN scripts can be added just like any other VM

  3. Set the DisposableVM Template as template for DisposableVMs

    [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-prefs <DisposableVM-Template-Name> template_for_dispvms true

Create the sys-net DisposableVM

  1. Create sys-net DisposableVM based on the DisposableVM Template

    [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-create --template <DisposableVM-Template-Name> --class DispVM --label red disp-sys-net
  2. Set disp-sys-net virtualization mode to hvm

    [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-prefs disp-sys-net virt_mode hvm
  3. Set disp-sys-net to provide network for other VMs

    [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-prefs disp-sys-net provides_network true
  4. Set disp-sys-net NetVM to none

    [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-prefs disp-sys-net netvm ""
  5. List all available PCI devices to determine the correct backend:BDF address(es) to assign to disp-sys-net

    [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-pci
  6. Attach the network PCI device(s) to disp-sys-net: Finding and assigning PCI devices can be found here

    [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-pci attach --persistent disp-sys-net <backend>:<bdf>
  7. (recommended) Set disp-sys-net to start automatically when Qubes boots

    [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-prefs disp-sys-net autostart true
  8. (optional) Set disp-sys-net as the dom0 time source

    [user@dom0 ~]$ qubes-prefs clockvm disp-sys-net

Create the sys-firewall DisposableVM

  1. Create sys-firewall DisposableVM

    [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-create --template <DisposableVM-Template-Name> --class DispVM --label green disp-sys-firewall
  2. Set disp-sys-firewall to provide network for other VMs

    [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-prefs disp-sys-firewall provides_network true
  3. Set disp-sys-net as the NetVM for disp-sys-firewall

    [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-prefs disp-sys-firewall netvm disp-sys-net
  4. Set disp-sys-firewall as NetVM for other AppVMs

    [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-prefs <vm_name> netvm disp-sys-firewall
  5. (recommended) Set disp-sys-firewall to auto-start when Qubes boots

    [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-prefs disp-sys-firewall autostart true
  6. (optional) Set disp-sys-firewall as the default NetVM

    [user@dom0 ~]$ qubes-prefs default_netvm disp-sys-firewall

Create the sys-usb DisposableVM

  1. Create the disp-sys-usb

    [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-create --template <disposablevm-template-name> --class DispVM --label red disp-sys-usb
  2. Set the disp-sys-usb virtualization mode to hvm

    [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-prefs disp-sys-usb virt_mode hvm
  3. Set disp-sys-usb NetVM to none

    [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-prefs usb-disp netvm ""
  4. List all available PCI devices

    [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-pci
  5. Attach the USB controller to the disp-sys-usb

    Note: Most of the commonly used USB controllers (all Intel integrated controllers) require the -o no-strict-reset=True option to be set. Instructions detailing how this option is set can be found here.

    [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-pci attach --persistent disp-sys-usb <backined>:<bdf>
  6. (optional) Set disp-sys-usb to auto-start when Qubes boots

    [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-prefs disp-sys-usb autostart true
  7. Users should now follow instructions on How to hide USB controllers from dom0

  8. At this point, your mouse may not work. Edit the qubes.InputMouse policy file in dom0, which is located here:


    Add a line like this to the top of the file:

    disp-sys-usb dom0 allow,user=root

Starting the DisposableVMs

Prior to starting the new VMs, users should ensure that no other VMs such as the old sys-net and sys-usb VMs are running. This is because no two VMs can share the same PCI device while both running. It is recommended that users detach the PCI devices from the old VMs without deleting them. This will allow users to reattach the PCI devices if the newly created DisposableVMs fail to start.

Detach PCI device from VM

[user@dom0~]$ qvm-pci detach <vm_name> <backend>:<bdf>


The disp-sys-usb VM does not start

If the disp-sys-usb does not start, it could be due to a PCI passthrough problem. For more details on this issue along with possible solutions, users can look here

Deleting DisposableVMs

While working in a DisposableVM, you may want to open a document in another DisposableVM. For this reason, the property default_dispvm may be set to the name of your DisposableVM in a number of VMs:

[user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-prefs workvm | grep default_dispvm
default_dispvm        -  custom-disposablevm-template

This will prevent the deletion of the DisposableVM Template. In order to fix this you need to unset the default_dispvm property:

[user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-prefs workvm default_dispvm ""

You can then delete the DisposableVM Template:

[user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-remove custom-disposablevm-template
This will completely remove the selected VM(s)

If you still encounter the issue, you may have forgot to clean an entry. Looking at the system logs will help you

[user@dom0 ~]$ journalctl | tail