An Introduction to Qubes OS

What is Qubes OS?

Qubes OS is a free and open-source security-oriented operating system meant for single-user desktop computing.

Qubes OS leverages xen-based virtualization to allow for the creation and management of isolated virtual machines called qubes. Qubes, which are also referred to as domains or compartments, have specific :

  • Purposes : with a predefined set of one or many isolated applications, for personal or professional projects, to manage the network stack, the firewall, or to fulfill other user-defined purposes.
  • Natures : full-fledged or stripped-down virtual machines which are based on popular operating systems such as Fedora, Debian or Windows.
  • Levels of trust : from complete to non-existent. All windows are displayed in a unified desktop environment with unforgeable colored window borders so different security levels are easily identifiable.

Qubes OS Overview Example


Strong isolation

Isolate software as if they were installed on separate physical machines using PV or HVM virtualization techniques

Template system

Allow qubes called AppVMs to share a root file system without sacrificing security using the innovative Template system

Multiple operating systems

Use multiple operating systems at the same time, including Fedora, Debian, or Windows

Disposable VMs

Create disposable VMs which are spawned quickly and destroyed when closed

Whonix integration

Run Tor securely system-wide using Whonix with Qubes

Controller isolation

Secure device handling through isolation of network cards and USB controllers

Split GPG

Utilize Split GPG to store private GPG keys in an AppVM

U2F proxy

Operate Qubes U2F proxy to use two-factor authentication


Users are free to use, copy and modify Qubes OS and are encouraged to do so!

Why Qubes OS ?

Physical isolation is a given safeguard that the digital world lacks

Throughout their lives, individuals engage in various activities such as going to school, working, voting, taking care of their families or visiting with friends.

These activities are spatially and temporally bound : they happen in isolation of one another, in their own compartments, which often represent an essential safeguard, such as in the case of voting.

In one's digital life, the situation is quite different : each activity, often intertwined with its real-life counterpart, tends to happen on a single computing device.

Qubes OS compartmentalizes one's digital life

Surprisingly, personal computing devices are not designed to offer means to enforce the same kind of isolation that people enjoy in the physical world.

What if there were an operating system that provided a kind of digital compartmentalization almost as strong as physical isolation?

Qubes OS allows users to compartmentalize various parts of their digital lives into well-isolated compartments.

Made to support vulnerable users

Thanks to Qubes OS, vulnerable or actively targeted individuals such as journalists, political activists, whistleblowers or researchers can enjoy the same benefits of using multiple computing devices at a fraction of the cost and without the associated loss of usability.

It allows users to do everything on the same physical computer without having to worry about a single successful cyberattack taking down their entire digital life in one fell swoop.

Computing should remain an activity where mistakes can be made and where users can explore the web freely, downloading attachments and clicking on links without having to constantly evaluate a myriad of risk factors.

Qubes OS strives to bring back this experience. It creates a place where users can feel safe.


Video Tours

Want to see Qubes OS in action? Sit back and watch a guided tour!

Video Tours


See what using Qubes actually looks like with these screenshots of various applications running in Qubes.


Getting Started

Ready to get started with Qubes? Here's what you need to know after installing.

Getting Started

More information

This page is just a brief introduction to what Qubes is all about, and many technical details have been omitted here for the sake of presentation.