End-to-end development with physical hardware can be challenging due to a myriad of factors. Things like persistent state, physical wear, slow and difficult to update hardware bugs, lagging features, etc can pose additional hurdles to development tasks.

A potential way to overcome this, is to use QEMU instance with an attached virtualized TPM2.0 device. This device is made available to the guest OS, and with the appropriate versions of Linux, will expose the familiar /dev/tpm0 and /dev/tpmrm0 interfaces.

In this brief tutorial, we provide instructions on how to build such a system by leveraging other documentation as required.


Prior art does exist on this topic, and details used in this tutorial have references from the following resources:


Install the proper TPM2.0 Simulator

In this tutorial, we demonstrate how to leverage the swtpm as the TPM simulator. The project wiki has instructions for building and installing the simulator and its dependency, libtpms.

Install QEMU

Next, you need to install QEMU. This is operating system dependent. Details on installing QEMU can be found by visiting their website:


The minimum version of QEMU to support this is 4.0. In this tutorial, the author tested with version 5.2.

Install The Guest OS

The author installed Ubuntu 20.04, so the commands will be specific to that ISO, but another ISO could be substituted. Additionally, the naming convention on things like hard-drive could be changed to reflect your environment more closely.

Install the guest OS. This will be guest-OS specific. The general commands are to build a virtual disk:

qemu-img create -f qcow2 ubuntu-20.04-amd64.img 30G

Then attach it to a VM and start it with the installation media, usually an ISO:

qemu-system-x86_64 -hda ~/qemu-images/ubuntu-20.04-amd64.img -boot d -cdrom ~/Downloads/ubuntu-20.04.1-desktop-amd64.iso -m 2048 -enable-kvm

Start the Guest with a TPM2.0 Device

Now start the guest with a virtualized TPM2.0 device. To do this, one needs to start the SWTPM simulator in tpm2 mode using the option --tpm2, like so:

mkdir /tmp/emulated_tpm
swtpm socket --tpmstate dir=/tmp/emulated_tpm --ctrl type=unixio,path=/tmp/emulated_tpm/swtpm-sock --log level=20 --tpm2

Then start the guest:

qemu-system-x86_64 -hda ~/qemu-images/ubuntu-20.04-amd64.img -boot d -m 2048 -enable-kvm \
  -chardev socket,id=chrtpm,path=/tmp/emulated_tpm/swtpm-sock \
  -tpmdev emulator,id=tpm0,chardev=chrtpm -device tpm-tis,tpmdev=tpm0

Now verify that the device nodes are present in the guest VM by opening a console and running the following command:

ls /dev/tpm*

You should see /dev/tpm0 and /dev/tpmrm0 devices in the output of the ls command.


One of the major benefits to the emulated environment is being able to test end-to-end development without the need for physical hardware and it’s associated drawbacks across a wide variety of environments. QEMU has the ability to emulate multiple physical CPU architectures. Couple that with the ability to install a wide array of operating systems, and you have a flexible system for debugging and building new features from the lowest portions of the stack all they way to end client applications.


William Roberts