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guestfish - the guest filesystem shell


 guestfish [--options] [commands]


 guestfish [--ro|--rw] -a disk.img

 guestfish [--ro|--rw] -a disk.img -m dev[:mountpoint]

 guestfish -d libvirt-domain

 guestfish [--ro|--rw] -a disk.img -i

 guestfish -d libvirt-domain -i


Using guestfish in read/write mode on live virtual machines can be dangerous, potentially causing disk corruption. Use the --ro (read-only) option to use guestfish safely if the disk image or virtual machine might be live.


Guestfish is a shell and command-line tool for examining and modifying virtual machine filesystems. It uses libguestfs and exposes all of the functionality of the guestfs API, see guestfs(3).

Guestfish gives you structured access to the libguestfs API, from shell scripts or the command line or interactively. If you want to rescue a broken virtual machine image, you should look at the virt-rescue(1) command.


As an interactive shell

 $ guestfish
 Welcome to guestfish, the guest filesystem shell for
 editing virtual machine filesystems.
 Type: 'help' for a list of commands
       'man' to read the manual
       'quit' to quit the shell
 ><fs> add-ro disk.img
 ><fs> run
 ><fs> list-filesystems
 /dev/sda1: ext4
 /dev/vg_guest/lv_root: ext4
 /dev/vg_guest/lv_swap: swap
 ><fs> mount /dev/vg_guest/lv_root /
 ><fs> cat /etc/fstab
 # /etc/fstab
 # Created by anaconda
 ><fs> exit

From shell scripts

Create a new /etc/motd file in a guest or disk image:

 guestfish <<_EOF_
 add disk.img
 mount /dev/vg_guest/lv_root /
 write /etc/motd "Welcome, new users"

List the LVM logical volumes in a disk image:

 guestfish -a disk.img --ro <<_EOF_

List all the filesystems in a disk image:

 guestfish -a disk.img --ro <<_EOF_

On one command line

Update /etc/resolv.conf in a guest:

 guestfish \
   add disk.img : run : mount /dev/vg_guest/lv_root / : \
   write /etc/resolv.conf "nameserver"

Edit /boot/grub/grub.conf interactively:

 guestfish --rw --add disk.img \
   --mount /dev/vg_guest/lv_root \
   --mount /dev/sda1:/boot \
   edit /boot/grub/grub.conf

Mount disks automatically

Use the -i option to automatically mount the disks from a virtual machine:

 guestfish --ro -a disk.img -i cat /etc/group

 guestfish --ro -d libvirt-domain -i cat /etc/group

Another way to edit /boot/grub/grub.conf interactively is:

 guestfish --rw -a disk.img -i edit /boot/grub/grub.conf

As a script interpreter

Create a 100MB disk containing an ext2-formatted partition:

 #!/usr/bin/guestfish -f
 sparse test1.img 100M
 part-disk /dev/sda mbr
 mkfs ext2 /dev/sda1

Start with a prepared disk

An alternate way to create a 100MB disk called test1.img containing a single ext2-formatted partition:

 guestfish -N fs

To list what is available do:

 guestfish -N help | less

Remote drives

Access a remote disk using ssh:

 guestfish -a ssh://

Remote control

 eval "`guestfish --listen`"
 guestfish --remote add-ro disk.img
 guestfish --remote run
 guestfish --remote lvs



Displays general help on options.


Lists all available guestfish commands.

-h cmd
--cmd-help cmd

Displays detailed help on a single command cmd.

-a image
--add image

Add a block device or virtual machine image to the shell.

The format of the disk image is auto-detected. To override this and force a particular format use the --format=.. option.

Using this flag is mostly equivalent to using the add command, with readonly:true if the --ro flag was given, and with format:... if the --format=... flag was given.

-a URI
--add URI

Add a remote disk. See "ADDING REMOTE STORAGE".

-c URI
--connect URI

When used in conjunction with the -d option, this specifies the libvirt URI to use. The default is to use the default libvirt connection.


If using the --listen option and a csh-like shell, use this option. See section "REMOTE CONTROL AND CSH" below.

-d libvirt-domain
--domain libvirt-domain

Add disks from the named libvirt domain. If the --ro option is also used, then any libvirt domain can be used. However in write mode, only libvirt domains which are shut down can be named here.

Domain UUIDs can be used instead of names.

Using this flag is mostly equivalent to using the add-domain command, with readonly:true if the --ro flag was given, and with format:... if the --format=... flag was given.


Don't tab-complete paths on the guest filesystem. It is useful to be able to hit the tab key to complete paths on the guest filesystem, but this causes extra "hidden" guestfs calls to be made, so this option is here to allow this feature to be disabled.


When prompting for keys and passphrases, guestfish normally turns echoing off so you cannot see what you are typing. If you are not worried about Tempest attacks and there is no one else in the room you can specify this flag to see what you are typing.

-f file
--file file

Read commands from file. To write pure guestfish scripts, use:

 #!/usr/bin/guestfish -f

The default for the -a option is to auto-detect the format of the disk image. Using this forces the disk format for -a options which follow on the command line. Using --format with no argument switches back to auto-detection for subsequent -a options.

For example:

 guestfish --format=raw -a disk.img

forces raw format (no auto-detection) for disk.img.

 guestfish --format=raw -a disk.img --format -a another.img

forces raw format (no auto-detection) for disk.img and reverts to auto-detection for another.img.

If you have untrusted raw-format guest disk images, you should use this option to specify the disk format. This avoids a possible security problem with malicious guests (CVE-2010-3851). See also "add".


Using virt-inspector(1) code, inspect the disks looking for an operating system and mount filesystems as they would be mounted on the real virtual machine.

Typical usage is either:

 guestfish -d myguest -i

(for an inactive libvirt domain called myguest), or:

 guestfish --ro -d myguest -i

(for active domains, readonly), or specify the block device directly:

 guestfish --rw -a /dev/Guests/MyGuest -i

Note that the command line syntax changed slightly over older versions of guestfish. You can still use the old syntax:

 guestfish [--ro] -i disk.img

 guestfish [--ro] -i libvirt-domain

Using this flag is mostly equivalent to using the inspect-os command and then using other commands to mount the filesystems that were found.


Read key or passphrase parameters from stdin. The default is to try to read passphrases from the user by opening /dev/tty.


Fork into the background and listen for remote commands. See section "REMOTE CONTROL GUESTFISH OVER A SOCKET" below.


Connect to a live virtual machine. (Experimental, see "ATTACHING TO RUNNING DAEMONS" in guestfs(3)).

-m dev[:mountpoint[:options[:fstype]]]
--mount dev[:mountpoint[:options[:fstype]]]

Mount the named partition or logical volume on the given mountpoint.

If the mountpoint is omitted, it defaults to /.

You have to mount something on / before most commands will work.

If any -m or --mount options are given, the guest is automatically launched.

If you don't know what filesystems a disk image contains, you can either run guestfish without this option, then list the partitions, filesystems and LVs available (see "list-partitions", "list-filesystems" and "lvs" commands), or you can use the virt-filesystems(1) program.

The third (and rarely used) part of the mount parameter is the list of mount options used to mount the underlying filesystem. If this is not given, then the mount options are either the empty string or ro (the latter if the --ro flag is used). By specifying the mount options, you override this default choice. Probably the only time you would use this is to enable ACLs and/or extended attributes if the filesystem can support them:

 -m /dev/sda1:/:acl,user_xattr

Using this flag is equivalent to using the mount-options command.

The fourth part of the parameter is the filesystem driver to use, such as ext3 or ntfs. This is rarely needed, but can be useful if multiple drivers are valid for a filesystem (eg: ext2 and ext3), or if libguestfs misidentifies a filesystem.


Enable QEMU user networking in the guest.

-N type
--new type
-N help

Prepare a fresh disk image formatted as "type". This is an alternative to the -a option: whereas -a adds an existing disk, -N creates a preformatted disk with a filesystem and adds it. See "PREPARED DISK IMAGES" below.


Disable autosync. This is enabled by default. See the discussion of autosync in the guestfs(3) manpage.


If writes fail to pipe commands (see "PIPES" below), then the command returns an error.

The default (also for historical reasons) is to ignore such errors so that:

 ><fs> command_with_lots_of_output | head

doesn't give an error.


Enable progress bars, even when guestfish is used non-interactively.

Progress bars are enabled by default when guestfish is used as an interactive shell.


Disable progress bars.


Send remote commands to $GUESTFISH_PID or pid. See section "REMOTE CONTROL GUESTFISH OVER A SOCKET" below.


This changes the -a, -d and -m options so that disks are added and mounts are done read-only.

The option must always be used if the disk image or virtual machine might be running, and is generally recommended in cases where you don't need write access to the disk.

Note that prepared disk images created with -N are not affected by this option. Also commands like add are not affected - you have to specify the readonly:true option explicitly if you need it.



Enable SELinux support for the guest. See "SELINUX" in guestfs(3).


Enable very verbose messages. This is particularly useful if you find a bug.


Display the guestfish / libguestfs version number and exit.


This changes the -a, -d and -m options so that disks are added and mounts are done read-write.



Echo each command before executing it.


Any additional (non-option) arguments are treated as commands to execute.

Commands to execute should be separated by a colon (:), where the colon is a separate parameter. Thus:

 guestfish cmd [args...] : cmd [args...] : cmd [args...] ...

If there are no additional arguments, then we enter a shell, either an interactive shell with a prompt (if the input is a terminal) or a non-interactive shell.

In either command line mode or non-interactive shell, the first command that gives an error causes the whole shell to exit. In interactive mode (with a prompt) if a command fails, you can continue to enter commands.

USING launch (OR run)

As with guestfs(3), you must first configure your guest by adding disks, then launch it, then mount any disks you need, and finally issue actions/commands. So the general order of the day is:

  • add or -a/--add
  • launch (aka run)
  • mount or -m/--mount
  • any other commands

run is a synonym for launch. You must launch (or run) your guest before mounting or performing any other commands.

The only exception is that if any of the -i, -m, --mount, -N or --new options were given then run is done automatically, simply because guestfish can't perform the action you asked for without doing this.


The guestfish, guestmount(1) and virt-rescue(1) options --ro and --rw affect whether the other command line options -a, -c, -d, -i and -m open disk images read-only or for writing.

In libguestfs ≤ 1.10, guestfish, guestmount and virt-rescue defaulted to opening disk images supplied on the command line for write. To open a disk image read-only you have to do -a image --ro.

This matters: If you accidentally open a live VM disk image writable then you will cause irreversible disk corruption.

In a future libguestfs we intend to change the default the other way. Disk images will be opened read-only. You will have to either specify guestfish --rw, guestmount --rw, virt-rescue --rw, or change the configuration file /etc/libguestfs-tools.conf in order to get write access for disk images specified by those other command line options.

This version of guestfish, guestmount and virt-rescue has a --rw option which does nothing (it is already the default). However it is highly recommended that you use this option to indicate that you need write access, and prepare your scripts for the day when this option will be required for write access.

Note: This does not affect commands like "add" and "mount", or any other libguestfs program apart from guestfish and guestmount.


You can quote ordinary parameters using either single or double quotes. For example:

 add "file with a space.img"

 rm '/file name'

 rm '/"'

A few commands require a list of strings to be passed. For these, use a whitespace-separated list, enclosed in quotes. Strings containing whitespace to be passed through must be enclosed in single quotes. A literal single quote must be escaped with a backslash.

 vgcreate VG "/dev/sda1 /dev/sdb1"
 command "/bin/echo 'foo      bar'"
 command "/bin/echo \'foo\'"


In double-quoted arguments (only) use backslash to insert special characters:


Alert (bell) character.


Backspace character.


Form feed character.


Newline character.


Carriage return character.


Horizontal tab character.


Vertical tab character.


A literal double quote character.


A character with octal value ooo. There must be precisely 3 octal digits (unlike C).


A character with hex value hh. There must be precisely 2 hex digits.

In the current implementation \000 and \x00 cannot be used in strings.


A literal backslash character.


Some commands take optional arguments. These arguments appear in this documentation as [argname:..]. You can use them as in these examples:

 add filename

 add filename readonly:true

 add filename format:qcow2 readonly:false

Each optional argument can appear at most once. All optional arguments must appear after the required ones.


This section applies to all commands which can take integers as parameters.


When the command takes a parameter measured in bytes, you can use one of the following suffixes to specify kilobytes, megabytes and larger sizes:

k or K or KiB

The size in kilobytes (multiplied by 1024).


The size in SI 1000 byte units.

M or MiB

The size in megabytes (multiplied by 1048576).


The size in SI 1000000 byte units.

G or GiB

The size in gigabytes (multiplied by 2**30).


The size in SI 10**9 byte units.

T or TiB

The size in terabytes (multiplied by 2**40).


The size in SI 10**12 byte units.

P or PiB

The size in petabytes (multiplied by 2**50).


The size in SI 10**15 byte units.

E or EiB

The size in exabytes (multiplied by 2**60).


The size in SI 10**18 byte units.

Z or ZiB

The size in zettabytes (multiplied by 2**70).


The size in SI 10**21 byte units.

Y or YiB

The size in yottabytes (multiplied by 2**80).


The size in SI 10**24 byte units.

For example:

 truncate-size /file 1G

would truncate the file to 1 gigabyte.

Be careful because a few commands take sizes in kilobytes or megabytes (eg. the parameter to "memsize" is specified in megabytes already). Adding a suffix will probably not do what you expect.


For specifying the radix (base) use the C convention: 0 to prefix an octal number or 0x to prefix a hexadecimal number. For example:

 1234      decimal number 1234
 02322     octal number, equivalent to decimal 1234
 0x4d2     hexadecimal number, equivalent to decimal 1234

When using the chmod command, you almost always want to specify an octal number for the mode, and you must prefix it with 0 (unlike the Unix chmod(1) program):

 chmod 0777 /public  # OK
 chmod 777 /public   # WRONG! This is mode 777 decimal = 01411 octal.

Commands that return numbers usually print them in decimal, but some commands print numbers in other radices (eg. umask prints the mode in octal, preceded by 0).


Neither guestfish nor the underlying guestfs API performs wildcard expansion (globbing) by default. So for example the following will not do what you expect:

 rm-rf /home/*

Assuming you don't have a directory called literally /home/* then the above command will return an error.

To perform wildcard expansion, use the glob command.

 glob rm-rf /home/*

runs rm-rf on each path that matches (ie. potentially running the command many times), equivalent to:

 rm-rf /home/jim
 rm-rf /home/joe
 rm-rf /home/mary

glob only works on simple guest paths and not on device names.

If you have several parameters, each containing a wildcard, then glob will perform a Cartesian product.


Any line which starts with a # character is treated as a comment and ignored. The # can optionally be preceded by whitespace, but not by a command. For example:

 # this is a comment
         # this is a comment
 foo # NOT a comment

Blank lines are also ignored.


Any line which starts with a ! character is treated as a command sent to the local shell (/bin/sh or whatever system(3) uses). For example:

 !mkdir local
 tgz-out /remote local/remote-data.tar.gz

will create a directory local on the host, and then export the contents of /remote on the mounted filesystem to local/remote-data.tar.gz. (See tgz-out).

To change the local directory, use the lcd command. !cd will have no effect, due to the way that subprocesses work in Unix.


If a line starts with <! then the shell command is executed (as for !), but subsequently any output (stdout) of the shell command is parsed and executed as guestfish commands.

Thus you can use shell script to construct arbitrary guestfish commands which are then parsed by guestfish.

For example it is tedious to create a sequence of files (eg. /foo.1 through /foo.100) using guestfish commands alone. However this is simple if we use a shell script to create the guestfish commands for us:

 <! for n in `seq 1 100`; do echo write /foo.$n $n; done

or with names like /foo.001:

 <! for n in `seq 1 100`; do printf "write /foo.%03d %d\n" $n $n; done

When using guestfish interactively it can be helpful to just run the shell script first (ie. remove the initial < character so it is just an ordinary ! local command), see what guestfish commands it would run, and when you are happy with those prepend the < character to run the guestfish commands for real.


Use command <space> | command to pipe the output of the first command (a guestfish command) to the second command (any host command). For example:

 cat /etc/passwd | awk -F: '$3 == 0 { print }'

(where cat is the guestfish cat command, but awk is the host awk program). The above command would list all accounts in the guest filesystem which have UID 0, ie. root accounts including backdoors. Other examples:

 hexdump /bin/ls | head
 list-devices | tail -1
 tgz-out / - | tar ztf -

The space before the pipe symbol is required, any space after the pipe symbol is optional. Everything after the pipe symbol is just passed straight to the host shell, so it can contain redirections, globs and anything else that makes sense on the host side.

To use a literal argument which begins with a pipe symbol, you have to quote it, eg:

 echo "|"


If a parameter starts with the character ~ then the tilde may be expanded as a home directory path (either ~ for the current user's home directory, or ~user for another user).

Note that home directory expansion happens for users known on the host, not in the guest filesystem.

To use a literal argument which begins with a tilde, you have to quote it, eg:

 echo "~"


Libguestfs has some support for Linux guests encrypted according to the Linux Unified Key Setup (LUKS) standard, which includes nearly all whole disk encryption systems used by modern Linux guests. Currently only LVM-on-LUKS is supported.

Identify encrypted block devices and partitions using "vfs-type":

 ><fs> vfs-type /dev/sda2

Then open those devices using "luks-open". This creates a device-mapper device called /dev/mapper/luksdev.

 ><fs> luks-open /dev/sda2 luksdev
 Enter key or passphrase ("key"): <enter the passphrase>

Finally you have to tell LVM to scan for volume groups on the newly created mapper device:

 vg-activate-all true

The logical volume(s) can now be mounted in the usual way.

Before closing a LUKS device you must unmount any logical volumes on it and deactivate the volume groups by calling vg-activate false VG on each one. Then you can close the mapper device:

 vg-activate false /dev/VG
 luks-close /dev/mapper/luksdev


If a path is prefixed with win: then you can use Windows-style drive letters and paths (with some limitations). The following commands are equivalent:

 file /WINDOWS/system32/config/system.LOG

 file win:\windows\system32\config\system.log


The parameter is rewritten "behind the scenes" by looking up the position where the drive is mounted, prepending that to the path, changing all backslash characters to forward slash, then resolving the result using "case-sensitive-path". For example if the E: drive was mounted on /e then the parameter might be rewritten like this:

 win:e:\foo\bar => /e/FOO/bar

This only works in argument positions that expect a path.


For commands such as upload, download, tar-in, tar-out and others which upload from or download to a local file, you can use the special filename - to mean "from stdin" or "to stdout". For example:

 upload - /foo

reads stdin and creates from that a file /foo in the disk image, and:

 tar-out /etc - | tar tf -

writes the tarball to stdout and then pipes that into the external "tar" command (see "PIPES").

When using - to read from stdin, the input is read up to the end of stdin. You can also use a special "heredoc"-like syntax to read up to some arbitrary end marker:

 upload -<<END /foo
 input line 1
 input line 2
 input line 3

Any string of characters can be used instead of END. The end marker must appear on a line of its own, without any preceding or following characters (not even spaces).

Note that the -<< syntax only applies to parameters used to upload local files (so-called "FileIn" parameters in the generator).


By default, guestfish will ignore any errors when in interactive mode (ie. taking commands from a human over a tty), and will exit on the first error in non-interactive mode (scripts, commands given on the command line).

If you prefix a command with a - character, then that command will not cause guestfish to exit, even if that (one) command returns an error.


Guestfish can be remote-controlled over a socket. This is useful particularly in shell scripts where you want to make several different changes to a filesystem, but you don't want the overhead of starting up a guestfish process each time.

Start a guestfish server process using:

 eval "`guestfish --listen`"

and then send it commands by doing:

 guestfish --remote cmd [...]

To cause the server to exit, send it the exit command:

 guestfish --remote exit

Note that the server will normally exit if there is an error in a command. You can change this in the usual way. See section "EXIT ON ERROR BEHAVIOUR".


The eval statement sets the environment variable $GUESTFISH_PID, which is how the --remote option knows where to send the commands. You can have several guestfish listener processes running using:

 eval "`guestfish --listen`"
 eval "`guestfish --listen`"
 guestfish --remote=$pid1 cmd
 guestfish --remote=$pid2 cmd


When using csh-like shells (csh, tcsh etc) you have to add the --csh option:

 eval "`guestfish --listen --csh`"


Remote control happens over a Unix domain socket called /tmp/.guestfish-$UID/socket-$PID, where $UID is the effective user ID of the process, and $PID is the process ID of the server.

Guestfish client and server versions must match exactly.


From Bash, you can use the following code which creates a guestfish instance, correctly quotes the command line, handles failure to start, and cleans up guestfish when the script exits:

 #!/bin/bash -
 set -e
 eval $("${guestfish[@]}")
 if [ -z "$GUESTFISH_PID" ]; then
     echo "error: guestfish didn't start up, see error messages above"
     exit 1
 cleanup_guestfish ()
     guestfish --remote -- exit >/dev/null 2>&1 ||:
 trap cleanup_guestfish EXIT ERR
 guestfish --remote -- run
 # ...


Using the run (or launch) command remotely in a command substitution context hangs, ie. don't do (note the backquotes):

 a=`guestfish --remote run`

Since the run command produces no output on stdout, this is not useful anyway. For further information see


Use the -N type or --new type parameter to select one of a set of preformatted disk images that guestfish can make for you to save typing. This is particularly useful for testing purposes. This option is used instead of the -a option, and like -a can appear multiple times (and can be mixed with -a).

The new disk is called test1.img for the first -N, test2.img for the second and so on. Existing files in the current directory are overwritten.

The type briefly describes how the disk should be sized, partitioned, how filesystem(s) should be created, and how content should be added. Optionally the type can be followed by extra parameters, separated by : (colon) characters. For example, -N fs creates a default 100MB, sparsely-allocated disk, containing a single partition, with the partition formatted as ext2. -N fs:ext4:1G is the same, but for an ext4 filesystem on a 1GB disk instead.

Note that the prepared filesystem is not mounted. You would usually have to use the mount /dev/sda1 / command or add the -m /dev/sda1 option.

If any -N or --new options are given, the guest is automatically launched.


Create a 100MB disk with an ext4-formatted partition:

 guestfish -N fs:ext4

Create a 32MB disk with a VFAT-formatted partition, and mount it:

 guestfish -N fs:vfat:32M -m /dev/sda1

Create a blank 200MB disk:

 guestfish -N disk:200M



For API-level documentation on this topic, see "guestfs_add_drive_opts" in guestfs(3) and "REMOTE STORAGE" in guestfs(3).

On the command line, you can use the -a option to add network block devices using a URI-style format, for example:

 guestfish -a ssh://

URIs cannot be used with the "add" command. The equivalent command using the API directly is:

 ><fs> add /disk.img protocol:ssh username:root

The possible -a URI formats are described below.

-a disk.img

-a file:///path/to/disk.img

Add the local disk image (or device) called disk.img.

-a ftp://[user@][:port]/disk.img

-a ftps://[user@][:port]/disk.img

-a http://[user@][:port]/disk.img

-a https://[user@][:port]/disk.img

-a tftp://[user@][:port]/disk.img

Add a disk located on a remote FTP, HTTP or TFTP server.

The equivalent API command would be:

 ><fs> add /disk.img protocol:(ftp|...)

-a gluster://[:port]/disk

Add a disk image located on GlusterFS storage.

The server is the one running glusterd, and may be localhost.

The equivalent API command would be:

 ><fs> add /disk protocol:gluster

-a iscsi://[:port]/target-iqn-name[/lun]

Add a disk located on an iSCSI server.

The equivalent API command would be:

 ><fs> add /target-iqn-name/lun protocol:iscsi

-a nbd://[:port]

-a nbd://[:port]/exportname

-a nbd://?socket=/socket

-a nbd:///exportname?socket=/socket

Add a disk located on Network Block Device (nbd) storage.

The /exportname part of the URI specifies an NBD export name, but is usually left empty.

The optional ?socket parameter can be used to specify a Unix domain socket that we talk to the NBD server over. Note that you cannot mix server name (ie. TCP/IP) and socket path.

The equivalent API command would be (no export name):

 ><fs> add "" protocol:nbd server:[|unix:/socket]

-a rbd://[:port]/disk

Add a disk image located on a Ceph (RBD/librbd) storage volume.

Although libguestfs and Ceph supports multiple servers, only a single server can be specified when using this URI syntax.

The equivalent API command would be:

 ><fs> add /disk protocol:rbd

-a sheepdog://[[:port]]/volume/image

Add a disk image located on a Sheepdog volume.

The server name is optional. Although libguestfs and Sheepdog supports multiple servers, only at most one server can be specified when using this URI syntax.

The equivalent API command would be:

 ><fs> add /disk protocol:sheepdog []

-a ssh://[user@][:port]/disk.img

Add a disk image located on a remote server, accessed using the Secure Shell (ssh) SFTP protocol. SFTP is supported out of the box by all major SSH servers.

The equivalent API command would be:

 ><fs> add /disk protocol:ssh [username:user]


Some (not all) long-running commands send progress notification messages as they are running. Guestfish turns these messages into progress bars.

When a command that supports progress bars takes longer than two seconds to run, and if progress bars are enabled, then you will see one appearing below the command:

 ><fs> copy-size /large-file /another-file 2048M
 / 10% [#####-----------------------------------------] 00:30

The spinner on the left hand side moves round once for every progress notification received from the backend. This is a (reasonably) golden assurance that the command is "doing something" even if the progress bar is not moving, because the command is able to send the progress notifications. When the bar reaches 100% and the command finishes, the spinner disappears.

Progress bars are enabled by default when guestfish is used interactively. You can enable them even for non-interactive modes using --progress-bars, and you can disable them completely using --no-progress-bars.


You can change or add colours to the default prompt (><fs>) by setting the GUESTFISH_PS1 environment variable. A simple prompt can be set by setting this to an alternate string:

 $ GUESTFISH_PS1='(type a command) '
 $ export GUESTFISH_PS1
 $ guestfish
 (type a command) ▂

You can also use special escape sequences, as described in the table below:


A literal backslash character.


Place non-printing characters (eg. terminal control codes for colours) between \[...\]. What this does it to tell the readline(3) library that it should treat this subsequence as zero-width, so that command-line redisplay, editing etc works.


A bell character.


An ASCII ESC (escape) character.


A newline.


A carriage return.


The ASCII character whose code is the octal value NNN.


The ASCII character whose code is the hex value NN.


Note these these require a terminal that supports ANSI escape codes.

 GUESTFISH_PS1='\[\e[1;30m\]><fs>\[\e[0;30m\] '

A bold black version of the ordinary prompt.


Windows 8 "fast startup" can prevent guestfish from mounting NTFS partitions. See "WINDOWS HIBERNATION AND WINDOWS 8 FAST STARTUP" in guestfs(3).


The commands in this section are guestfish convenience commands, in other words, they are not part of the guestfs(3) API.


 help cmd

Without any parameter, this provides general help.

With a cmd parameter, this displays detailed help for that command.



This exits guestfish. You can also use ^D key.





guestfish returns 0 if the commands completed without error, or 1 if there was an error.



The edit command uses $EDITOR as the editor. If not set, it uses vi.


When using supermin ≥ 4.1.0, these have been renamed "SUPERMIN_KERNEL" and "SUPERMIN_MODULES".


The display command uses $GUESTFISH_DISPLAY_IMAGE to display images. If not set, it uses display(1).


Used with the --remote option to specify the remote guestfish process to control. See section "REMOTE CONTROL GUESTFISH OVER A SOCKET".


Set the command prompt. See "PROMPT".


The "hexedit" command uses $HEXEDITOR as the external hex editor. If not specified, the external hexedit(1) program is used.


If compiled with GNU readline support, various files in the home directory can be used. See "FILES".


Pass additional options to the guest kernel.


This is the old way to set LIBGUESTFS_BACKEND.


Choose the default way to create the appliance. See "guestfs_set_backend" in guestfs(3).


The location where libguestfs will cache its appliance, when using a supermin appliance. The appliance is cached and shared between all handles which have the same effective user ID.

If LIBGUESTFS_CACHEDIR is not set, then TMPDIR is used. If TMPDIR is not set, then /var/tmp is used.

See also "LIBGUESTFS_TMPDIR", "set-cachedir".


Set LIBGUESTFS_DEBUG=1 to enable verbose messages. This has the same effect as using the -v option.


Set the memory allocated to the qemu process, in megabytes. For example:


Set the path that guestfish uses to search for kernel and initrd.img. See the discussion of paths in guestfs(3).


Set the default qemu binary that libguestfs uses. If not set, then the qemu which was found at compile time by the configure script is used.


The location where libguestfs will store temporary files used by each handle.

If LIBGUESTFS_TMPDIR is not set, then TMPDIR is used. If TMPDIR is not set, then /tmp is used.

See also "LIBGUESTFS_CACHEDIR", "set-tmpdir".


Set LIBGUESTFS_TRACE=1 to enable command traces.


The more command uses $PAGER as the pager. If not set, it uses more.


Libguestfs and guestfish may run some external programs, and rely on $PATH being set to a reasonable value. If using the libvirt backend, libvirt will not work at all unless $PATH contains the path of qemu/KVM.


These two environment variables allow the kernel that libguestfs uses in the appliance to be selected. If $SUPERMIN_KERNEL is not set, then the most recent host kernel is chosen. For more information about kernel selection, see supermin-helper(8). This feature is only available in supermin / febootstrap ≥ 3.8.





This configuration file controls the default read-only or read-write mode (--ro or --rw).



If compiled with GNU readline support, then the command history is saved in this file.


If compiled with GNU readline support, then these files can be used to configure readline. For further information, please see "INITIALIZATION FILE" in readline(3).

To write rules which only apply to guestfish, use:

 $if guestfish

Variables that you can set in inputrc that change the behaviour of guestfish in useful ways include:

completion-ignore-case (default: on)

By default, guestfish will ignore case when tab-completing paths on the disk. Use:

 set completion-ignore-case off

to make guestfish case sensitive.

test2.img (etc)

When using the -N or --new option, the prepared disk or filesystem will be created in the file test1.img in the current directory. The second use of -N will use test2.img and so on. Any existing file with the same name will be overwritten.


guestfs(3),, virt-alignment-scan(1), virt-cat(1), virt-copy-in(1), virt-copy-out(1), virt-df(1), virt-edit(1), virt-filesystems(1), virt-inspector(1), virt-list-filesystems(1), virt-list-partitions(1), virt-ls(1), virt-make-fs(1), virt-rescue(1), virt-resize(1), virt-sparsify(1), virt-sysprep(1), virt-tar(1), virt-tar-in(1), virt-tar-out(1), virt-win-reg(1), display(1), hexedit(1), supermin-helper(8).


Richard W.M. Jones (rjones at redhat dot com)


Copyright (C) 2009-2013 Red Hat Inc.

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