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Qubes/Why use Qubes over other Virtualizers

Why use Qubes over other Virtualizers?[edit]

The Qubes project is focusing on providing the Qubes OS desktop operating system that runs a virtualizer. Not a general purpose operating system where the ability to install a virtualizer is just another feature.

  • Security
    • Network stack, WiFi drivers are running in a dedicated network VM, which reduces attack surface.
    • Qubes actively discourages using the host (dom0) for any other purposes than running VMs.
    • Firewalled / no open incoming ports by default.
    • No networking on the host (dom0). Even the download part of fetching host (dom0) upgrades is done in a dedicated UpdateVM (currently by default NetVM), before those are verified and installed on dom0.
    • DisposableVMs [1]
    • Joanna Rutkowska, security researcher, developer of Qubes OS made a security comparison about software compartmentalization vs. physical separation (pdf), that concluded, that in some cases, notably for specific, desktop-related workflows, Physical Isolation might be less secure sometimes than Qubes (software compartmentalization) approach.
    • Supports Anti Evil Maid (AEM).
    • No microphones attached to VMs by default.
    • TCP timestamps disabled by default. [2]
    • ICMP timestamps disabled by default. [3]
  • Usability
    • Creating new VMs is very easy and very fast.
    • The VMs start menu is integrated into the host's (dom0) start menu.
    • Usable, secure clipboard and files copy and paste.
    • Easier backup / restore of VMs.
    • Keyboard layout only needs to be configured once in dom0.
    • No duplicate task bars.
    • Default seamless mode for windows. (Similar to VirtualBox’s Seamless Mode or VMware’s Unity Mode. [4]) Yet, distinction of which window comes from what VM is easily possible. [5]
  • Performance
    • VMs start up much faster, because fewer services need to be started.
    • AppVMs therefore also take much less RAM.
    • AppVMs take much fewer disk space, because those can share the root image of the TemplateVM. (Read more: TemplateImplementation)

Qubes-Whonix advantages over Non-Qubes-Whonix[edit]

  • Anonymity
    • Easy to tunnel whole system including host (dom0) updates through Tor (besides sys-net and sys-firewall).
  • Security
    • Multiple Whonix-Workstations AppVMs can easily use the same Whonix-Gateway ProxyVM without being able to contact each other. [6]
    • Downloads of Whonix TemplateVM images are using cryptographic signatures of the dom0 package manager (qubes-dom0-update / dnf) which makes verification transparent (doing it for the user without knowing it).
  • Usability


  1. There are no disposable Whonix VMs yet, but Qubes encourages using regular / DisposableVMs.
  2. Computer_Security_Education#Disable_TCP_Timestamps
  3. Computer_Security_Education#Disable ICMP Timestamps
  4. http://www.howtogeek.com/171145/use-virtualboxs-seamless-mode-or-vmwares-unity-mode-to-seamlessly-run-programs-from-a-virtual-machine/
  5. https://www.qubes-os.org/doc/GettingStarted/
  6. This issue for non-Qubes-Whonix is documented on the Multiple Whonix-Workstations wiki page.
  7. Post_Install_Advice#Network_Time_Syncing
  8. https://phabricator.whonix.org/T71
  9. Whonix VirtualBox issues: VLC / Video Player Crash
  10. Whonix KVM Video issue: https://www.whonix.org/old-forum/index.php/topic,1768.0.html
  11. Whonix VirtualBox: You have duplicate sound settings withing VMs.
  12. Whonix KVM: https://www.whonix.org/old-forum/index.php/topic,1767.0.html

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