TemplateVMs

Every TemplateBasedVM in Qubes is, as the name implies, based on some TemplateVM. The TemplateVM is where all the software available to TemplateBasedVMs is installed. The default template is based on Fedora, but there are additional templates based on other Linux distributions. There are also templates available with or without certain software preinstalled. The concept of TemplateVMs is initially described here. The technical details of this implementation are described in the developer documentation here.

Some templates are available in ready-to-use binary form, but some of them are available only as source code, which can be built using the Qubes Builder. In particular, some template “flavors” are available in source code form only. Take a look at the Qubes Builder documentation for instructions on how to compile them.

How to install, uninstall, reinstall, and switch

How to install

Please refer to each TemplateVM’s installation instructions below. Usually, the installation method is to execute the following type of command in dom0:

$ sudo qubes-dom0-update qubes-template-<name>

(where qubes-template-<name> is the name of your TemplateVM package)

How to uninstall

To uninstall a TemplateVM, execute the following type of command in dom0:

$ sudo dnf remove qubes-template-<name>

(where qubes-template-<name> is the name of your TemplateVM package)

If this doesn’t work, you can remove it manually.

How to reinstall

To reinstall a currently installed TemplateVM, see here.

How to switch templates (3.2)

When you install a new template or upgrade a clone of a template, it is recommended that you switch everything that was set to the old template to the new template:

  1. Make the new template the default template:

     Qubes Manager --> Global settings --> Default template
    
  2. Base AppVMs on the new template. In Qubes Manager, for each VM that is currently based on old-template that you would like to base on new-template, enter its VM settings and change the Template selection:

     Qubes Manager --> (Select a VM) --> VM settings --> Template
    
  3. Base the DVM Template on the new template. If you have set the new template as your default template:

     [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-create-default-dvm --default-template
    

    Otherwise:

     [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-create-default-dvm new-template
    

How to switch templates (4.0)

When you install a new template or upgrade a clone of a template, it is recommended that you switch everything that was set to the old template to the new template:

  1. Make the new template the default template:

     Applications Menu --> System Tools --> Qubes Global Settings --> Default template
    
  2. Base AppVMs on the new template. In Qubes Manager, for each VM that is currently based on old-template that you would like to base on new-template, enter its VM settings and change the Template selection:

     Applications Menu --> (select a VM) --> VM settings --> Template
    
  3. Base the DVM Template on the new template.

     [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-create -l red -t new-template new-template-dvm
     [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-prefs new-template-dvm template_for_dispvms True
     [user@dom0 ~]$ qvm-features new-template-dvm appmenus-dispvm 1
     [user@dom0 ~]$ qubes-prefs default-dispvm new-template-dvm
    

Invisible Things Lab (ITL) Supported templates

These are the templates ITL builds and releases updates for. ITL guarantees that the binary updates are compiled from exactly the same source code as we publish.

Community Supported templates

These templates are supported by the Qubes community. Some of them are available in ready-to-use binary package form (built by ITL), while others are available only in source code form. In all cases, ITL does not provide updates for these templates. However, such updates may be provided by the template maintainer.

By installing these templates, you are trusting not only ITL and the distribution maintainers, but also the template maintainer. In addition, these templates may be somewhat less stable, since ITL does not test them.

Important Notes (R4.0)

  • Whenever a TemplateBasedVM is created, the contents of the /home directory of its parent TemplateVM are not copied to the child TemplateBasedVM’s /home. The child TemplateBasedVM’s /home is always independent from its parent TemplateVM’s /home, which means that any subsequent changes to the parent TemplateVM’s /home will not affect the child TemplateBasedVM’s /home.

  • Template VMs are created in a thin pool, making qvm-trim-template no longer necessary.

    The root filesystems in Standalone VMs can employ TRIM/discard on the root fs using normal tools and configuration options.

  Inheritance (1) Persistence (2)
TemplateVM n/a Everything
TemplateBasedVM (3) /etc/skel to /home, /usr/local.orig to /usr/local /rw (includes /home, /usr/local and bind-dirs)
DisposableVM /rw (includes /home, /usr/local and bind-dirs) Nothing

(1) Upon creation
(2) Following shutdown
(3) Including DVM Templates

Important Notes (R3.2 and earlier)

  • Whenever a TemplateBasedVM is created, the contents of the /home directory of its parent TemplateVM are copied to the child TemplateBasedVM’s /home. From that point onward, the child TemplateBasedVM’s /home is independent from its parent TemplateVM’s /home, which means that any subsequent changes to the parent TemplateVM’s /home will no longer affect the child TemplateBasedVM’s /home.

  • Template VMs can occupy more space on the dom0 filesystem than necessary because they cannot employ automatic TRIM/discard on the root fs. The qvm-trim-template command in dom0 is used to recover this unused space.

    Conversely, the root filesystems in Standalone VMs can employ TRIM/discard on the root fs using normal tools and configuration options.

Important Notes (all versions)

  • Once a TemplateBasedVM has been created, any changes in its /home, /usr/local, or /rw/config directories will be persistent across reboots, which means that any files stored there will still be available after restarting the TemplateBasedVM. No changes in any other directories in TemplateBasedVMs persist in this manner. If you would like to make changes in other directories which do persist in this manner, you must make those changes in the parent TemplateVM.

  • Templates are not automatically updated when updating dom0. This is by design, since doing so would cause all user modifications to templates to be lost. Instead, you should update your templates from within each template. If you do want to update a template from dom0 (and thereby lose any user modifications in the existing template), you must first uninstall the existing template from dom0:

    $ sudo dnf remove qubes-template-fedora-25
    
  • Standalone VMs using Template VMs as a basis can be created easily. These VMs receive a copy of the operating system and do not get automatically updated when Template VMs are updated–they must be updated individually.

  • On XFCE based Dom0, a manual action may be required to remove the “Start Menu” sub-menu of the removed TemplateVM. For example, to remove a dangling sub-menu for a removed “fedora-25” template, open a Dom0 Terminal and type:

    $ rm ~/.local/share/applications/fedora-25-*
    

    Just make sure there are no other TemplateVMs whose names start with “fedora-25” or else their menu items will be removed too.