Tip: Run virt-inspector on a compressed disk (with nbdkit)

virt-inspector is a very convenient tool to examine a disk image and find out if it contains an operating system, what applications are installed and so on.

If you have an xz-compressed disk image, you can run virt-inspector on it without uncompressing it, using the magic of captive nbdkit. Here’s how:

nbdkit xz file=win7.img.xz \
    -U - \
    --run 'virt-inspector --format=raw -a nbd://?socket=$unixsocket'

What’s happening here is we run nbdkit with the xz plugin, and tell it to serve NBD over a randomly named Unix domain socket (-U -).

We then run virt-inspector as a sub-process. This is called “captive nbdkit”. (Nbdkit is “captive” here, because it will exit as soon as virt-inspector exits, so there’s no need to clean anything up.)

The $unixsocket variable expands to the name of the randomly generated Unix domain socket, forming a libguestfs NBD URL which allows virt-inspector to examine the raw uncompressed data exported by nbdkit.

The nbdkit xz plugin only uncompresses those blocks of the data which are actually accessed, so this is quite efficient.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Tip: Run virt-inspector on a compressed disk (with nbdkit)

  1. Do you know if there is work being done on being able to delete a file based guest from virsh?

    Doing

    virsh destroy devel
    virsh undefine devel
    rm /var/lib/libvirt/images/devel.qcow2

    as a one-liner corrupts virsh, as the rm happens before the other two commands finishes completely.

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