OpenWrt on VMware Fusion on Apple Silicon HowTo

This document describes how to run the armsr/armv8 OpenWrt images in a VM hosted on macOS (Apple Silicon hardware) using VMware Fusion.

  • VMware Fusion installed
  • qemu installed (via Homebrew)
  • Familiarity with the command line on macOS (Terminal window)

You need an ARM system-ready 64-bit version of OpenWrt. There are two versions:

  • combined-squashfs.img.gz: This edition, as of release 23.05.0, does not work correctly with sysupgrade.
  • combined-ext4.img.gz This disk image uses a single read-write ext4 partition with no read-only squashfs root filesystem. Features like Failsafe Mode or Factory Reset won't be available as they need a read-only squashfs partition to function.

In the guide we'll use openwrt-armsr-armv8-generic-ext4-combined.img.gz because it supports sysupgrade.

  • Download a stable release of the generic-ext4-combined.img.gz image from targets/armsr/arvm8/ folder, e.g. 23.05.0.
  • Or you can try the fresher but unstable snapshot image.
  • Uncompress the gzip'ed img file. On macOS in a Terminal window use the command gzcat openwrt-*ext4-combined.img.gz > openwrt.img. As a result you get the raw openwrt.img image file.
  • Convert the raw image to a VMDK-formatted disk image: qemu-img convert -O vmdk openwrt.img openwrt.vmdk
  • Check your VMware Fusion networking configuration. You need to know the subnet used by the host-only networking:
    user@host demo % grep VNET_1_HOSTONLY_SUBNET '/Library/Preferences/VMware Fusion/networking'

:!: Tip: keep a copy of the original gzip'ed image file, it can be used as an image for sysupgrade.

:!: Tutorial and screenshots from VMware Fusion 13.5.0 on Apple Silicon

Start VMware fusion and use the File→New menu. Select Create a custom virtual machine

Select the appropriate Linux kernel version (OpenWrt 23.05.0 for armsr/armv8 uses Linux kernel 5.x).

Select Use an existing virtual disk and Choose virtual disk...

Select the openwrt.vmdk you created earlier, and Make a separate copy of the virtual disk.

On the Finish page, click Customize Settings.

Select a location to save the VM. After saving, edit the configuration.

The configuration you will set up by following this tutorial is:

  • br-lan of the VM on lan interface, fixed address (or whatever subnet VMware Fusion is using for VNET_1), set in VMware Fusion as Private to my Mac. This interface will always be available to the host even if host or VM are disconnected from any network.
  • eth1 of the VM on wan interface, dynamic address, set in VMware Fusion as Share with my Mac (NAT). This interface will be used to access the Internet through whatever setup the host also uses.

Note that the order of the “Private to my Mac” and “Share with my Mac” networks is important for turn-key operation of OpenWrt in the VM.

VM settings

Reconfigure some of the devices shown on the configuration page.

Remove unused devices

Click on the sound card. Remove the sound card.

Click on the camera. Remove the camera.

Click on the CD/DVD. Open the advanced options section. Remove the CD/DVD drive.

Network Settings

Click on the existing Network. Change it to Private to my Mac.

Click on the Add Device... button on the main settings panel. Click on Network Adapter. (This will add the network for the WAN.)

Configure it to Share with my Mac.

Other Device Settings

Optional: check the USB & Bluetooth settings and choose your desired options.

Click on the Processors and Memory icon. Configure the system for 512MB and 2 processor cores.

Close the settings panel.

Optional: make a snapshot to capture the original unconfigured state, using the application menu Virtual Machine→Snapshots→Take Snapshot

Virtual Machine OpenWrt Settings

  • Start your Virtual Machine (click the Play icon button)
  • Wait 4 seconds for GRUB to boot automatically
  • Press Enter to activate the console when the boot messages have finished scrolling by.

:!: OpenWrt by default configures the LAN into a bridge. This sets the virtual network adapter into promiscuous mode, which requires approval from VMware for the host-only network it uses. Promiscuous access is not required, so you can either approve or cancel the request.

  • Display the current LAN network configuration. Note that the default LAN address of is present on first boot. Type the uci show network.lan command into the virtual console window to see:
    root@openwrt:~# uci show network.lan
  • Edit the network configuration to allow SSH access. Use the VNET_1_HOSTONLY_SUBNET value from above, replacing the last octet with 2, and restart the network. An example to type into the console:
    uci set network.lan.ipaddr=
    uci commit
    service network restart
  • Now your VM is accessible from SSH, user root (no password) address
  • If you installed a release image such as 23.05.0, the LuCi web interface is available at your chosen IP address (such as
  • If you installed a snapshot that doesn't include LuCi, install it with
    opkg update && opkg install luci
  • You should have both internet access (try a opkg update) and a LAN interface with a static address you can connect your SSH client program to even if your PC is disconnected from a local network.
  • If you have more complex requirements you will have to set that up on your own by reading the documentation, or through LuCi.
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  • Last modified: 2023/10/21 19:27
  • by atownlede