Intel® Hardware Accelerated Execution Manager (Intel® HAXM)
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README.md

Intel Hardware Accelerated Execution Manager (HAXM)

HAXM is a hardware-assisted virtualization engine (hypervisor) that uses Intel Virtualization Technology to speed up IA (x86/ x86_64) emulation on a host machine running Windows or macOS. It started as an Android SDK component, but has recently transformed itself into a general accelerator for QEMU.

HAXM can be built as either a kernel-mode driver for Windows or a kernel extension (kext) for macOS. If you are interested in building HAXM from the source code, please read on. If you are just looking for the latest HAXM release, you can get it here.

Building for Windows

Prerequisites

Option A (Visual Studio)

Note that the version/build number of Windows SDK must match that of WDK. In particular, the Windows 10 SDK installed by Visual Studio 2017 (version 1709, build 10.0.16299 as of this writing) may not be the latest version. If you want to use the latest WDK (version 1803 as of this writing), you may need to download and install the latest Windows 10 SDK (version 1803, build 10.0.17134 as of this writing).

Option B (EWDK)

  • Enterprise WDK (EWDK) 10 with Visual Studio Build Tools 15.6
    • Install the downloaded ISO image by mounting it or extracting it to an empty folder.
  • NuGet CLI tool (nuget.exe) version 4.x or later

Build steps

Option A (Visual Studio)

  1. Open HaxmDriver.sln in Visual Studio 2017.
  2. Select either Debug or Release configuration.
    • The Debug configuration also signs the driver with a test certificate. The Release configuration does not do that.
  3. Select either x64 or Win32 platform.
  4. Build solution.

Option B (EWDK)

  1. cd X:\path\to\EWDK\
  2. LaunchBuildEnv.cmd
  3. cd X:\path\to\haxm\
  4. X:\path\to\nuget.exe restore
  5. msbuild HaxmDriver.sln /p:Configuration="Debug" /p:Platform="x64"
    • Use Release instead of Debug to build an optimized driver that is suitable for release. Note that the Release configuration does not sign the driver with a test certificate.
    • Use Win32 instead of x64 to build a 32-bit driver that works on 32-bit Windows.
    • Add /t:rebuild for a clean rebuild instead of an incremental build.

If successful, the driver binary (IntelHaxm.sys) will be generated in X:\path\to\haxm\obj\out\Win7\x64\ (or X:\path\to\haxm\obj\out\Win7\x86\ if Platform="Win32"), and will be able to run on Windows 7 and later.

Testing on Windows

System requirements

Note that these are requirements for the test environment, which does not have to be the same as the build environment.

  1. An Intel CPU that supports Intel VT-x with Extended Page Tables (EPT).
    • Here is a list of CPUs that meet this requirement. As a rule of thumb, if you have an Intel Core i3, i5, i7 or i9 (any generation), you are good to go.
    • EPT is an advanced feature of Intel VT-x. CPUs that support EPT also support Unrestricted Guest (UG), which is another advanced feature of VT-x. It may still be possible to run HAXM on very old (pre-2010) CPUs, e.g. Intel Core 2 Duo, which implement an earlier version of VT-x that does not include either EPT or UG. However, the legacy code that enables HAXM to work in non-EPT and non-UG modes may be removed soon.
  2. Windows 7 or later; both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows are supported.
    • Running HAXM in a nested virtualization setup, where Windows itself runs as a guest OS on another hypervisor, may be possible, but this use case is not well tested.

One-time setup

The following steps prepare the test environment for installing a test-signed IntelHaxm.sys, i.e. one that is built using the Debug configuration. For more details, please read this article.

  1. Disable Hyper-V and enable Test Mode:
    1. Open an elevated (i.e. Run as administrator) Command Prompt.
    2. bcdedit /set hypervisorlaunchtype off
    3. bcdedit /set testsigning on
    4. Reboot.
  2. Install the test certificate:
    1. Copy IntelHaxm.cer from the build environment to the test environment (if the two are not the same). This file is generated alongside IntelHaxm.sys by the Debug build configuration.
    2. In the test environment, open an elevated Command Prompt and run certmgr /add X:\path\to\IntelHaxm.cer /s /r localMachine root
  3. Optionally, install DebugView to capture HAXM debug output.

Loading and unloading the test driver

HaxmLoader is a small tool that can load and unload a test-signed driver without using an INF file. You can download it from the Releases page, or building HaxmLoader/HaxmLoader.sln yourself using Visual Studio or EWDK.

Basically, kernel-mode drivers like HAXM are managed by Windows Service Control Manager as services. Each such service has a unique name, a corresponding driver file, and a state. For example, when the HAXM installer installs the release-signed driver to C:\Windows\System32\drivers\IntelHaxm.sys, it also creates a service for it. This service is named intelhaxm and is started at boot time. HaxmLoader works in a similar manner: when loading a test driver, it creates a temporary service and starts it; when unloading the test driver, it stops and then deletes the service.

To load the test driver:

  1. Open an elevated Command Prompt.
  2. Make sure no other HAXM driver is loaded.
    1. If sc query intelhaxm shows the intelhaxm service as RUNNING, you must stop it first: sc stop intelhaxm
    2. Otherwise, unload the previously loaded test driver, if any: HaxmLoader.exe -u
  3. Load the test driver: HaxmLoader.exe -i X:\path\to\IntelHaxm.sys
    • Note that HaxmLoader can load a driver from any folder, so there is no need to copy the test driver to C:\Windows\System32\drivers\ first.

To unload the test driver:

  1. Open an elevated Command Prompt.
  2. HaxmLoader.exe -u
  3. Optionally, you may want to restore the original, release-signed driver (i.e. C:\Windows\System32\drivers\IntelHaxm.sys): sc start intelhaxm

Capturing driver logs

  1. Launch DebugView (Dbgview.exe) as administrator.
  2. In the Capture menu, select everything except Log Boot. DebugView will now start capturing debug output from all kernel-mode drivers.
  3. In order to filter out non-HAXM logs, go to Edit > Filter/Highlight..., enter hax* for Include, and click on OK.

Building for macOS

Prerequisites

  • Xcode 7.2.1 or later
  • OS X 10.10 SDK (archived here)
    • Use xcodebuild -showsdks to list installed SDKs.
    • It is also possible to build HAXM using a newer version of macOS SDK. However, using an older SDK ensures that the generated kext is compatible with older versions of macOS.
  • NASM 2.11 or later
    • Install to /usr/local/bin/ using Homebrew: brew install nasm
    • Note that Apple NASM (/usr/bin/nasm) cannot be used.

Build steps

  1. cd /path/to/haxm/
  2. cd darwin/hax_driver/com_intel_hax/
  3. xcodebuild -configuration Debug
    • Use -sdk to override the default macOS SDK version (10.10), e.g. -sdk macosx10.12 (to select SDK 10.12) or even -sdk macosx (to select the latest SDK installed).
    • Use Release instead of Debug to build an optimized kext that is suitable for release.

If successful, the kext (intelhaxm.kext/) will be generated in /path/to/haxm/darwin/hax_driver/com_intel_hax/build/Debug/.

Testing on macOS

System requirements

Note that these are requirements for the test environment, which does not have to be the same as the build environment.

  1. Hardware requirements are the same as those for Windows.
  2. OS X 10.10 or later.

Loading and unloading the test kext

The intelhaxm.kext generated by the Debug and Release build configurations is not signed. Unless you can sign it using a special kind of Apple Developer ID Certificate, you must configure your test Mac to allow unsigned kexts to load:

  • For OS X 10.10, the solution is to add the kext-dev-mode=1 boot-arg. More details can be found here.
  • For macOS 10.11 and later, the solution is to turn off System Integrity Protection (SIP). More details can be found here.

To load the test kext:

  1. Make sure no other HAXM kext is loaded. If the output of kextstat | grep intelhaxm is not empty, you must unload the existing HAXM kext first: sudo kextunload -b com.intel.kext.intelhaxm
  2. sudo chown -R root:wheel /path/to/intelhaxm.kext
  3. sudo chmod -R 755 /path/to/intelhaxm.kext
  4. sudo kextload /path/to/intelhaxm.kext
    • Note that kextload can load a kext from any folder, so there is no need to copy the test kext to /Library/Extensions/ first.

To unload the test kext:

  1. sudo kextunload /path/to/intelhaxm.kext
  2. Optionally, you may want to restore the original HAXM kext, which is usually the signed one installed to /Library/Extensions/: sudo kextload /Library/Extensions/intelhaxm.kext

Viewing kext logs

On macOS, HAXM debug output goes to the system log database, and can be retrieved at almost any time.

  • On OS X 10.10, HAXM log messages are written immediately to /var/log/system.log. You can monitor this file for real-time updates using Console.app or the syslog -w command.
  • On macOS 10.11 or later, HAXM log messages are no longer written to /var/log/system.log, and there is no good way to capture them in real time. However, you can still retrieve them at a later time using one of the following methods:
    1. log show --predicate 'sender == "intelhaxm"' --style syslog --last 1h, which is complex but very flexible. In this example, --last 1h indicates the past hour, and can be replaced with other queries.
    2. sudo dmesg | grep hax, which is simple, but does not show the timestamp of each message.

Reporting an Issue

You are welcome to file a GitHub issue if you discover a general HAXM bug or have a feature request.

However, please do not use the GitHub issue tracker to report security vulnerabilities. If you have information about a security issue or vulnerability with HAXM, please send an email to secure@intel.com, and use the PGP key located at https://www.intel.com/security to encrypt any sensitive information.