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This document explains how to setup Xen 4.2 in Arch. It uses the new oxenstored / xl toolstack (replaces the xend / xm toolstack which was deprecated in Xen 4.1).

What is Xen?

According to the Xen development team:

"The Xen hypervisor, the powerful open source industry standard for virtualization, offers a powerful, efficient, and secure feature set for virtualization of x86, x86_64, IA64, PowerPC, and other CPU architectures. It supports a wide range of guest operating systems including Windows®, Linux®, Solaris®, and various versions of the BSD operating systems."

The Xen hypervisor is a thin layer of software which emulates a computer architecture. It is started by the boot loader and allows several operating systems to run simultaneously on top of it. Once the Xen hypervisor is loaded, it starts the "Dom0" (for "domain 0"), or privileged domain, which in our case runs a Linux kernel (other possible Dom0 operating systems are NetBSD and OpenSolaris). The hardware must, of course, be supported by this kernel to run Xen. Once the Dom0 has started, one or more "DomU" domains can be started and controlled from Dom0.

Types of Virtualization Available with Xen

Paravirtual (PV)

Paravirtualized guests require a kernel with support for Xen built in. This is default for all recent Linux kernels and some other Unix-like systems. Paravirtualized domUs usually run faster as they do not have to run in emulated hardware.

Hardware Virtual (HVM)

For hardware virtualization in our domUs, the host system hardware must include either Intel VT-x or AMD-V (SVM) virtualization support. In order to verify this, run the following command on the host system:

grep -E "(vmx|svm)" --color=always /proc/cpuinfo

If the above command does not produce output, then hardware virtualization support is unavailable and your hardware is unable to run Xen HVM guests. It is also possible that the host CPU supports one of these features, but that the functionality is disabled by default in the system BIOS. To verify this, access the host system's BIOS configuration menu during the boot process and look for an option related to virtualization support. If such an option exists and is disabled, then enable it, boot the system and repeat the above command.

Paravirtual on Hardware (PV on HM)

There is a third mode which runs Xen on top of a HardwareVirtual guest.

Recommended Practices

The current xen.org wiki has a section regarding best practices for running Xen. It includes information on allocating a fixed amount of memory dom0 and how to dedicate (pin) a CPU core for its own use.

Obtaining Xen

Xen is available from AUR,

To speed the introduction of 4.2, the maintainer during Xen 4.1 stepped aside; there are significant changes between 4.1 and 4.2, coupled with the transition of Arch from rc.d to systemd.

As it may take a short time for the new package to settle out there is still a section to build it from source. See #Building and Installing Xen Hypervisor and Dom0 Host from Source.

Setting up the Host (Dom0)

Xen requires that you boot a special xen kernel (xen.gz) which in turn boots your system's normal kernel. A new bootloader entry is needed. See #Bootloader Configuration.

Previous versions of Xen created a network bridge to enable communication between the Xen host, Xen guests and the internet. Xen 4.2 requires networking to be set up by the host system. See #Set up Networking.

The Xen host maintains the tools and configuration files for creating and controlling Xen guests. See #Creating Guest Domains (domU).

Required packages for Xen host

bridge-utils lzo2 bluez vde2 sdl libaio

Bootloader Configuration

The menuentry for a Xen system starts a Xen kernel before starting the main host's kernel.


To boot into the Xen system, we need a new menuentry in grub.cfg.

Example non-xen menuentry for LVM with gpt partition table

menuentry 'Arch ' {
  insmod part_gpt
  insmod lvm
  insmod ext2
  set root='lvm/vg0-arch'
  linux /boot/vmlinuz-linux root=/dev/mapper/vg0-arch ro init=/usr/lib/systemd/systemd quiet
  initrd /boot/initramfs-linux.img

The menuentry to boot the same arch system after Xen has been installed. Get the UUID for lvm/vg0-arch by using blkid.

menuentry 'Arch Xen 4.2' {
  insmod lvm
  insmod part_gpt
  insmod ext2
  set root='lvm/vg0-arch'
  search --no-floppy --fs-uuid --set=root 346de8aa-6150-4d7b-a8c2-1c43f5929f99
  multiboot /boot/xen.gz placeholder dom0_mem=1024M
  module /boot/vmlinuz-linux placeholder root=/dev/mapper/vg0-arch ro init=/usr/lib/systemd/systemd quiet
  module  /boot/initramfs-linux.img

Example for a physical partition

Arch Linux(XEN)
menuentry "Arch Linux(XEN)" {
    set root=(hd0,X)
  search --no-floppy --fs-uuid --set=root 346de8aa-6150-4d7b-a8c2-1c43f5929f99
    multiboot /boot/xen.gz dom0_mem=1024M
    module /boot/vmlinuz-linux-xen-dom0 root=/dev/sdaY ro
    module /boot/initramfs-linux-xen-dom0.img

More at Grub2

Set up Networking

Previous versions of Xen provided a bridge connection whereas Xen 4.2 requires that network communications between the guest, the host (and beyond) is set up separately. Using dhcp throughout simplifies things while we get everything working, the guest. When fully working, the guest will normally benefit from a static network address.

Netcfg greatly simplifies network configuration and is now included as standard in the base package. Example configuration files are provided in etc/network.d/examples and Xen 4.2 provides scripts for various networking configurations in /etc/xen/scripts.

Network Bridge

By default, Xen expects a bridge connection to be named xenbr0.

# cd /etc/network.d
# cp examples/bridge xenbridge-dhcp

make the following changes to xen-bridge:

DESCRIPTION="Xen bridge connection"

assuming your existing eth0 connection is called eth0-dhcp, edit /etc/conf.d/netcfg

NETWORKS=(eth0-dhcp xenbridge-dhcp)

restart the network:

systemctl restart netcfg.service

when the prompt returns, check all is well

ip addr show
brctl show

1: lo: <LOOPBACK,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 16436 qdisc noqueue state UNKNOWN 
   link/loopback 00:00:00:00:00:00 brd 00:00:00:00:00:00
   inet scope host lo
   inet6 ::1/128 scope host 
      valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
3: xenbr0: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1500 qdisc noqueue state UP 
   link/ether 00:1a:92:06:c0:c0 brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff
   inet brd scope global xenbr0
   inet6 fe80::21a:92ff:fe06:c0c0/64 scope link 
      valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever

bridge name	bridge id		STP enabled	interfaces
xenbr0		8000.001a9206c0c0	no		eth0

Creating Guest Domains (domU)

Creating Paravirtualized (PV) Guests

The general procedure is: perform a normal or minimal installation of the distro that will become a guest; copy its kernel/initrd to a directory on the host; modify its /etc/fstab to use the virtual disk; modify its the way it sets up a terminal (getty); create a config file for xl.

Example for Debian Squeeze

Install Debian 6.0 (do not bother with graphical interface, install as little as possible). Having installed it, boot into in your new Arch Xen system and mount it.

The example has the guest Debian Squeeze installed onto /dev/vg0/pv_squeeze

# mkdir /tmp/squeeze
# mkdir -p /var/lib/xen/images/squeeze
# mount -text4 /dev/vg0/pv_squeeze /tmp/squeeze/

Copy the kernel and initrd to a location available Xen. n.b. Squeeze has softlinks (vmlinuz and initrd.img) in its root directory to the current kernel, so check you have copied a real kernel, and not just a link!

# cp /tmp/squeeze/vmlinuz /tmp/squeeze/initrd.img /var/lib/xen/images/squeeze

edit /tmp/squeeze/etc/fstab change its root entry to begin with /dev/xvda1

# /dev/xvda1 / ext4 noatime,nodiratime,errors=remount-ro 0 1

Debian Squeeze uses /etc/inittab to configure its terminals. Other distros use other mechanisms. We need to replace the creation of terminals tty1, tty2 etc. with a single hvc0.

Comment out any getty tty lines like these:
1:2345:respawn:/sbin/getty 38400 tty1
2:23:respawn:/sbin/getty 38400 tty2

Replace with the single line
hvc:2345:respawn:/sbin/getty 38400 hvc0

Create a guest configuration file by copying one of the given example files and editing as follows:

# cp /etc/xen/xlexample.pvlinux /etc/xen/pv-squeeze.cfg
edit /etc/xen/pv-squeeze.cfg with the following:
name = "squeeze.pvlinux"
extra = "root=/dev/xvda1"
memory = 256
vcpus = 2
disk = [ '/dev/vg0/pv_squeeze,raw,xvda1,rw' ]

Running a Guest

Using the Debian Squeeze example, start the guest domU and a console

# xl create /etc/xen/pv-squeeze.cfg

Check all is well:

# xl list

Name            ID   Mem VCPUs	    State	Time(s)
Domain-0         0  1024     2     r-----      26.2
pv-squeeze       1   123     2     -b----       1.5

Start a console:

# xl console /etc/xen/pv-squeeze.cfg

( example output)
   0.000000] Initializing cgroup subsys cpuset
[    0.000000] Initializing cgroup subsys cpu
[    0.000000] Linux version 2.6.32-5-xen-amd64 (Debian 2.6.32-46) (dannf@debian.org) (gcc version 4.3.5 (Debian 4.3.5-4) ) #1 SMP Sun Sep 23 13:49:30 UTC 2012
[    0.000000] Command line: root=/dev/xvda1
[    0.000000] KERNEL supported cpus:
[    0.000000]   Intel GenuineIntel
[    0.000000]   AMD AuthenticAMD
[    0.000000]   Centaur CentaurHauls

Useful xl command examples

# xl top
# xl list
# xl shutdown pv-squeeze
# xl destroy pv-squeeze

Installing DomU Guests


The default Arch initramfs images lack essential xen modules. In the guest install, we need to add the following to mkinitcpio.conf

MODULES = "xen-blkfront xen-fbfront xen-netfront xen-kbdfront"

and then rebuild its initramfs-linux.img with mkinitcpio -p linux.


Wheezy (testing) and Squeeze have identical setups.

Common Errors

'xl list' complains about libxl - Either you have not booted into the Xen system, or xen modules listed in xencommons script are not installed

xl create fails - check the guest's kernel is located correctly, check the pv-xxx.cfg file for spelling mistakes (like using initrd instead of ramdisk)

Arch linux guest hangs with a ctrl-d message - press ctrl-d until you get back to a prompt, rebuild its initramfs as set

The domu guest hangs at 'crond' - The guest's terminal needs to be set to hvc0 instead of tty1 See the Debian Squeeze example above.

Building and Installing Xen Hypervisor and Dom0 Host from Source

Xen recommends that a Xen host (dom0) is 64-bit, guests may be either 32-bit or 64-bit. To build such a system requires a mixed 64/32-bit installation and packages from the the Community repository; the host uses a network bridge and a modified entry in the bootloader configuration file (for example, grub.cfg). These notes assume an installation using systemd is in use, as is the default for a new installation of Arch. For these reasons, you may prefer to make a fresh installation of Arch on which to build and install Xen.

Building Xen

Building and installing Xen significantly modifies your system. Xen is an established program, but Xen 4.2 is extremely new. Consider Xen 4.2 on an Arch system to be untested. Consider yourself to be an alpha tester, perhaps make a throw-away Arch system for the Xen installation.

It is best practise to backup and highly recommended to make a fresh installation of Arch on which to build and install Xen.

  • The build process installs additional source from git, so a working internet connection is required.
  • systemd service files will be available soon. Until then we use (the currently still supported, but legacy) rc.d and rc.conf.

Edit /etc/pacman.conf to uncomment entries under repositries for multilib and community (three lines each). Prepare for and perform a full system upgrade (pacman -Syu). Install packages listed under 'Required packages for build'. Download Xen Hypervisor 4.2 tarball from http://xen.org/products/downloads.html. Unpack the tarball to a suitable location (tar xjf <path/to/tarball> location). Unfortunately, the build process also creates binaries and scripts for the old, deprecated xend/xm. The Xen documentation recommends building Xen as root.

# cd xen-4.2.0
# PYTHON=/usr/bin/python2
# export PYTHON
# ./configure
# make world
# make dist

The dist directory can be used to install Xen to any machine, but it

  • sets the 'sticky' bit on all file permissions
  • installs startup scripts to etc/init.d (equivalent of etc/rc.d)
  • includes some udev rules for 'xend' which creates LOTS of error messages when booting up (xend is not used, having been replaced by xendomains)

The only script we need from etc/init.d is xendomains since the systemd service files given below replace etc/init.d/xencommons. The service files are based on those in Fedora 17 (which uses systemd and provides Xen 4.1). However, it places xendomains in /usr/libexec which is not present in Arch. The xendomain.service below uses /etc/xen/scripts as the location for xendomains.

Fix these problems with

# cd dist
# chmod -R -s install/
# cp install/etc/init.d/xendomains install/etc/xen/scripts
# rm install/etc/init.d/*
# rmdir install/etc/init.d
# rm install/etc/udev/rules.d/xend.rules

If installing to another Arch system, make a tarball and copy it over:

# cd ..
# tar cjf ~/xen-dist-4.2.bz2 dist/

copy the tarball to the other installation, boot into it and use 'tar xjf xen-dist-4.2.bz2 .' to unpack
then install packages listed under 'Packages required for host'

Now change to the 'dist' directory and install
# cd dist

Whether installing now, or to another installation, from the dist directory issue:

# ./install.sh

Enabling Xen under Systemd

Add the following files



n.b The following were included in xencommons, but were not inserted by systemd evtchn gntdev netbk blkbk xen-scsibk usbbk pciback blktap2 blktap. xen-acpi-processor may not work on some machines. Remove this when getting error.


Description=Xenstored - daemon managing xenstore file system
Before=libvirtd.service libvirt-guests.service

ExecStart=/usr/sbin/xenstored --pid-file /var/run/xenstored.pid $XENSTORED_ARGS



Description=Xenconsoled - handles logging from guest consoles and hypervisor




Description=Xendomains - start and stop guests on boot and shutdown
Requires=proc-xen.mount xenstored.service
After=proc-xen.mount xenstored.service xenconsoled.service

ExecStartPre=/usr/bin/grep -q control_d /proc/xen/capabilities
ExecStart=/etc/xen/scripts/xendomains start 
ExecStop=/etc/xen/scripts/xendomains stop


Issue the following so that the services are started at bootup:

# systemctl enable xenstored.service
# systemctl enable xenconsoled.service
# systemctl enable xendomains.service

Include in your /etc/fstab

 none /proc/xen xenfs defaults 0 0

Add a new Xen menuentry in grub.cfg as described earlier and then reboot into the new Xen system and check all is well:

# xl list

Name                                        ID   Mem VCPUs	State	Time(s)
Domain-0                                     0  1024     2     r-----       6.1

Required packages for building Xen

base-devel zlib lzo2 python2 ncurses openssl libx11 yajl 
libaio glib2 base-devel bridge-utils iproute gettext
dev86 bin86 iasl markdown git wget

optional packages:  ocaml ocaml-findlib