QEMU has two operating modes:
- User mode emulation
In this mode QEMU runs single Linux or Darwin/Mac OS X programs that were compiled for a different CPU. System calls are thunked for endianness and for 32/64 bit mismatches. Fast cross-compilation and cross-debugging are the main targets for user-mode emulation.
- Computer emulation
In this mode QEMU emulates a full computer system, including peripherals. It can be used to provide virtual hosting of several virtual computers on a single computer. QEMU can boot many guest operating systems, including Linux, Solaris, Microsoft Windows, DOS, and BSD 1; it supports emulating several hardware platforms, including x86, x86-64, ARM, Alpha, ETRAX CRIS, MIPS, MicroBlaze, PowerPC and SPARC.