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Management system for FreeBSD bhyve virtual machines

Some of the main features include:

  • Windows/UEFI support
  • Simple commands to create/start/stop bhyve instances
  • Simple configuration file format
  • Virtual switches supporting vlans & automatic device creation
  • ZFS support
  • FreeBSD/MidnightBSD/NetBSD/OpenBSD/Linux guest support
  • Automatic assignment of console devices to access guest console
  • Integration with rc.d startup/shutdown
  • Guest reboot handling
  • Designed with multiple compute nodes + shared storage in mind (NFS/iSCSI/etc)
  • Multiple datastores
  • VNC graphics & tmux support (1.1+ only. See wiki for instructions)
  • Dependency free**

** Some additional packages may be required in certain circumstances -

  • The port has a dependancy on ca_root_nss added by the ports maintainers to help avoid any SSL errors when downloading FreeBSD ISO files using the vm iso command.
  • sysutils/grub2-bhyve is required to run Linux or any other guests that need a Grub bootloader.
  • sysutils/bhyve-firmware is required to run UEFI guests
  • sysutils/tmux is needed to use tmux console access instead of cu/nmdm
See the GitHub wiki for more information and examples.

For most users, I recommend using the version in ports (1.1+). Main development happens in the master branch on GitHub and it may contain broken or incomplete features.


A simple overview of the commands needed to install vm-bhyve and start a freebsd guest. See the sections below for more in-depth details.

1. pkg install vm-bhyve
2. zfs create pool/vm
3. sysrc vm_enable="YES"
4. sysrc vm_dir="zfs:pool/vm"
5. vm init
6. cp /usr/local/share/examples/vm-bhyve/* /mountpoint/for/pool/vm/.templates/
7. vm switch create public
8. vm switch add public em0
9. vm iso
10. vm create myguest
11. vm install [-f] myguest FreeBSD-11.2-RELEASE-amd64-bootonly.iso
12. vm console myguest
  • Line 1 Install vm-bhvye

  • Line 2 Create a dataset for your virtual machines. If you're not using ZFS, just create a normal directory.

  • Lines 3-4 Enable vm-bhyve in /etc/rc.conf and set the dataset to use. If not using ZFS, just set $vm_dir="/my/vm/folder".

  • Line 5 Run the vm init command to create the required directories under $vm_dir and load kernel modules.

  • Line 6 Install the sample templates that come with vm-bhyve.

  • Lines 7-8 Create a virtual switch called 'public' and attach your network interface to it. Replace em0 with whatever interface connects your machine to the network.

  • Line 9 Download a copy of FreeBSD from the ftp site.

  • Lines 10-12 Create a new guest using the default.conf template, run the installer and then connect to its console. At this point proceed through the installation as normal. By specifying the -f option before the install command, the guest will run directly on your terminal so the console command is not required. (Bear in mind that you won't get back to your terminal until the guest is fully shutdown)


Download the latest release from GitHub, or install sysutils/vm-bhyve

To install, just run the following command inside the vm-bhyve source directory

# make install

If you want to run guests other than FreeBSD, you will need the grub2-bhyve package;

# pkg install grub2-bhyve

Initial configuration

First of all, you will need a directory to store all your virtual machines and vm-bhyve configuration. If you are not using ZFS, just create a normal directory:

# mkdir /somefolder/vm

If you are using ZFS, create a dataset to hold vm-bhyve data

# zfs create pool/vm

Now update /etc/rc.conf to enable vm-bhyve, and tell it where your directory is


Or with ZFS:


This directory will be referred to as $vm_dir in the rest of this readme.

Now run the following command to create the directories used to store vm-bhvye configuration and load any necessary kernel modules. This needs to be run once after each host reboot, which is normally handled by the rc.d script

# vm init

Virtual machine templates

When creating a virtual machine, you use a template which defines how much memory to give the guest, how many cpu cores, and networking/disk configuration. The templates are all stored inside $vm_dir/.templates. To install the sample templates, run the following command:

# cp /usr/local/share/examples/vm-bhyve/* /my/vm/path/.templates/

If you look inside the template files with a text editor, you will see they are very simple. You can create as many templates as you like. For example you could have web-server.conf, containing the setting for your web servers, or freebsd-large.conf for large FreeBSD guests, and so on. This is the contents of the default template:


You will notice that each template is set to create one network interface. You can easily add more network interfaces by duplicating the two network configuration options and incrementing the number. In general you will not want to change the type from 'virtio-net', but you will notice the first interface is set to connect to a switch called 'public'. See the next section for details on how to configure virtual switches.

I recommend reading the man page or sample-templates/config.sample for a full list of supported template options and a description of their purpose. Almost all bhyve functionality is supported and a large variety of network/storage configurations can be achieved.

Virtual Switches

When a guest is started, each network interface is automatically connected to the virtual switch specified in the configuration file. By default all the sample templates connect to a switch called 'public', although you can use any name. The following section shows how to create a switch called 'public', and configure various settings:

# vm switch create public

If you just want to bridge guests to your physical network, add the appropriate real interface to the switch. Obviously you will need to replace em0 here with the correct interface name on your system:

# vm switch add public em0

If you want guest traffic to be on a specific VLAN when leaving the host, specify a vlan number. To turn off vlans, just set the vlan number to 0:

# vm switch vlan public 10
# vm switch vlan public 0

You can view current switch configuration using the list command:

# vm switch list

Creating virtual machines

Use one of the following command to create a new virtual machine:

# vm create testvm
# vm create -t templatename -s 50G testvm

The first example uses the default.conf template, and will create a 20GB disk image. The second example specifies the templatename.conf template, and tells vm-bhyve to create a 50GB disk.

You will need an ISO to install the guest with, so download one using the iso command:

# vm iso

To start a guest install, run the following command. vm-bhyve will run the machine in the background, so use the console command to connect to it and finish installation.

# vm install testvm FreeBSD-11.2-RELEASE-amd64-disc1.iso
# vm console testvm

You can also specify the foreground option to run the guest directly on your terminal:

# vm install -f testvm FreeBSD-11.2-RELEASE-amd64-disc1.iso

Once installation has finished, you can reboot the guest from inside the console and it will boot up into the new OS (assuming installation was successful). Further reboots will work as expected and the guest can be shutdown in the normal way. As the console uses the cu command, type ~+Ctrl-D to exit back to your host.

The following commands start and stop virtual machines:

# vm start testvm
# vm stop testvm

The basic configuration of each machine and state can be viewed using the list command:

# vm list
alpine          linux      default     1      512M      No           Stopped
c7              linux      default     1      512M      Yes [2]      Stopped
centos          linux      default     1      512M      No           Stopped
debian          linux      default     1      512M      No           Stopped
fbsd            freebsd    default     1      256M      No           Stopped
netbsd          generic    grub        1      256M      No           Stopped
openbsd         generic    grub        1      256M      No           Stopped
pf              freebsd    default     1      256M      Yes [1]      Stopped
ubuntu          linux      default     1      512M      No           Stopped
wintest         windows    default     2      2G        No           Running (2796)

All running machines can be stopped using the stopall command

# vm stopall

On host boot, vm-bhyve will use the 'vm startall' command to start all machines. You can control which guests start automatically using the following variables in /etc/rc.conf:

vm_list="vm1 vm2"

The first defines the list of machines to start on boot, and the order to start them. The second is the number of seconds to wait between starting each one. 5 seconds is the recommended setting, although a longer delay is useful if you have disk intensive guests and don't want them all booting at the same time.

There's also a command which opens a guest's configuration file in your default text editor, allowing you to easily make changes to the configuration. Please note that changes only take effect after a full shutdown and restart of the guest

# vm configure testvm

See the man page for a full description of all available commands.

# man vm

Using cloud images

You can use cloud images to create virtual machines. The vm img command will download the image to datastore and uncompress it if needed (.xz, .tar.gz, and .gz files are supported). The image should be in RAW or QCOW2 format. To use this feature you'll need install qemu-tools package:

# pkg install qemu-tools

To launch FreeBSD using official cloud image:

# vm img
# vm create -t freebsd-zvol -i FreeBSD-11.2-RELEASE-amd64.raw freebsd-cloud
# vm start freebsd-cloud

To list downloaded images:

# vm img
default             CentOS-7-x86_64-GenericCloud-20180930_02.raw
default             debian-9-openstack-amd64.qcow2
default             Fedora-AtomicHost-28-1.1.x86_64.raw
default             FreeBSD-11.2-RELEASE-amd64.raw
default             xenial-server-cloudimg-amd64-uefi1.img

Using cloud init

vm-bhyve has basic support for providing cloud-init configuration to the guest. You can enable it with -C option to vm create command. You can also pass public SSH key to be injected into the guest with option -k <file>.


# vm create -t linux -i xenial-server-cloudimg-amd64-uefi1.img -C -k ~/.ssh/ cloud-init-ubuntu
# vm start cloud-init-ubuntu
Starting cloud-init-ubuntu
* found guest in /zroot/vm/cloud-init-ubuntu
* booting...
# ssh ubuntu@
The authenticity of host ' (' can't be established.
ECDSA key fingerprint is SHA256:6s9uReyhsIXRv0dVRcBCKMHtY0kDYRV7zbM7ot6u604.
No matching host key fingerprint found in DNS.
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)? yes
Warning: Permanently added '' (ECDSA) to the list of known hosts.
Welcome to Ubuntu 16.04.5 LTS (GNU/Linux 4.4.0-141-generic x86_64)

Adding custom disks

Scenario: If you have a vm on one zpool and would like to add a new virtual disk to it that resides on a different zpool.

Manually create a sparse-zvol (in this case 50G in size).

# zfs create -sV 50G -o volmode=dev "zpool2/vm/yourvm/disk1"

Add it to your vm config file. Please note, for Windows guests the type will need to be ahci-hd, as it does not have virtio-blk drivers.

# vm configure yourvm


Restart your vm.

Windows Support

Please see the Windows section in the Wiki


If you are using the default csh/tcsh shell built into FreeBSD, running the following command should allow autocomplete to work for all the currently supported functions. This is especially useful for viewing and completing guest & ISO file names. Please note that there's three occurrences of '/path/to/vm' which need to be changed to the directory containing your virtual machines.

To make the autocomplete features available permanently, add the following to your $HOME/.cshrc file. Then either logout/login, or run source ~/.cshrc to cause the .cshrc file to be reloaded.

complete vm \
 'p@1@(list create install start stop console configure reset poweroff destroy clone snapshot rollback add switch iso)@' \
 'n@create@n@' \
 'n@list@n@' \
 'n@iso@n@' \
 'n@switch@(list create add remove destroy vlan nat)@' \
 'N@switch@`sysrc -inqf /path/to/vm/.config/switch switch_list`@' \
 'N@install@`ls -1 /path/to/vm/.iso`@' \
 'N@nat@(off on)@' \
 'p@2@`ls -1 /path/to/vm | grep -v "^\." | grep -v "^images"`@'