Internal data structure

Lima home directory (${LIMA_HOME})

Defaults to ~/.lima.

Note that we intentionally avoid using ~/Library/Application Support/Lima on macOS.

We use ~/.lima so that we can have enough space for the length of the socket path, which must be less than 104 characters on macOS.

Unix: The directory can not be located on an NFS file system, it needs to be local.

Config directory (${LIMA_HOME}/_config)

The config directory contains global lima settings that apply to all instances.

User identity:

Lima creates a default identity and uses its public key as the authorized key to access all lima instances. In addition lima will also configure all public keys from ~/.ssh/*.pub as well, so the user can use the ssh endpoint without having to specify an identity explicitly.

  • user: private key
  • public key

Instance directory (${LIMA_HOME}/<INSTANCE>)

An instance directory contains the following files:


  • lima-version: the Lima version used to create this instance
  • lima.yaml: the YAML
  • protected: empty file, used by limactl protect


  • cidata.iso: cloud-init ISO9660 image. See cidata.iso.


  • basedisk: the base image
  • diffdisk: the diff image (QCOW2)


  • kernel: the kernel
  • kernel.cmdline: the kernel cmdline
  • initrd: the initrd


  • qmp.sock: QMP socket
  • qemu-efi-code.fd: QEMU UEFI code (not always present)


  • VZ PID
  • vz-identifier: Unique machine identifier file for a VM
  • vz-efi: EFIVariable store file for a VM


  • serial.log: default serial log (QEMU only), for debugging
  • serial.sock: default serial socket (QEMU only), for debugging (Usage: socat -,echo=0,icanon=0 unix-connect:serial.sock)
  • serialp.log: PCI serial log (QEMU (ARM) only), for debugging
  • serialp.sock: PCI serial socket (QEMU (ARM) only), for debugging (Usage: socat -,echo=0,icanon=0 unix-connect:serialp.sock)
  • serialv.log: virtio serial log, for debugging
  • serialv.sock: virtio serial socket (QEMU only), for debugging (Usage: socat -,echo=0,icanon=0 unix-connect:serialv.sock)


  • ssh.sock: SSH control master socket
  • ssh.config: SSH config file for ssh -F. Not consumed by Lima itself.


  • vncdisplay: VNC display host/port
  • vncpassword: VNC display password

Guest agent:

Each drivers use their own mode of communication

  • qemu: uses virtio-port io.lima-vm.guest_agent.0
  • vz: uses vsock port 2222
  • wsl2: uses free random vsock port The fallback is to use port forward over ssh port
  • ga.sock: Forwarded to /run/lima-guestagent.sock in the guest, via SSH

Host agent:

  • hostagent PID
  • ha.sock: hostagent REST API
  • ha.stdout.log: hostagent stdout (JSON lines, see pkg/hostagent/events.Event)
  • ha.stderr.log: hostagent stderr (human-readable messages)

Disk directory (${LIMA_HOME}/_disk/<DISK>)

A disk directory contains the following files:

data disk:

  • datadisk: the qcow2 or raw disk that is attached to an instance


  • in_use_by: symlink to the instance directory that is using the disk

When using vmType: vz (Virtualization.framework), on boot, any qcow2 (default) formatted disks that are specified in additionalDisks will be converted to RAW since Virtualization.framework only supports mounting RAW disks. This conversion enables additional disks to work with both Virtualization.framework and QEMU, but it has some consequences when it comes to interacting with the disks. Most importantly, a regular macOS default cp command will copy the entire virtual disk size, instead of just the used/allocated portion. The easiest way to copy only the used data is by adding the -c option to cp: cp -c old_path new_path. cp -c uses clonefile(2) to create a copy-on-write clone of the disk, and should return instantly.

ls will also only show the full/virtual size of the disks. To see the allocated space, du -h disk_path or qemu-img info disk_path can be used instead. See #1405 for more details.

Lima cache directory (~/Library/Caches/lima)

Currently hard-coded to ~/Library/Caches/lima on macOS.

Uses $XDG_CACHE_HOME/lima, normally $HOME/.cache/lima, on Linux.

Uses %LocalAppData%\lima, C:\Users\<USERNAME>\AppData\Local\lima, on Windows.

Download cache (~/Library/Caches/lima/download/by-url-sha256/<SHA256_OF_URL>)

The directory contains the following files:

  • url: raw url text, without “\n”
  • data: data
  • <ALGO>.digest: digest of the data, in OCI format. e.g., file name sha256.digest, with content sha256:5ba3d476707d510fe3ca3928e9cda5d0b4ce527d42b343404c92d563f82ba967

Environment variables

  • $LIMA_HOME: The “Lima home directory” (see above).

    • Default : ~/.lima
  • $LIMA_INSTANCE: lima ... is expanded to limactl shell ${LIMA_INSTANCE} ....

    • Default : default
  • $LIMA_SHELL: lima ... is expanded to limactl shell --shell ${LIMA_SHELL} ....

    • No default : will use the user’s shell configured inside the instance
  • $LIMA_WORKDIR: lima ... is expanded to limactl shell --workdir ${LIMA_WORKDIR} ....

    • No default : will attempt to use the current directory from the host
  • $QEMU_SYSTEM_X86_64: path of qemu-system-x86_64

    • Default: qemu-system-x86_64 in $PATH
  • $QEMU_SYSTEM_AARCH64: path of qemu-system-aarch64

    • Default: qemu-system-aarch64 in $PATH
  • $QEMU_SYSTEM_ARM: path of qemu-system-arm

    • Default: qemu-system-arm in $PATH


cidata.iso contains the following files:

  • user-data: Cloud-init user-data
  • meta-data: Cloud-init meta-data
  • network-config: Cloud-init Networking Config Version 2
  • lima.env: The LIMA_CIDATA_* environment variables (see below) available during processing
  • lima-guestagent: Lima guest agent binary
  • nerdctl-full.tgz: nerdctl-full-<VERSION>-<OS>-<ARCH>.tar.gz
  • Boot script
  • boot/*: Boot script modules
  • util/*: Utility command scripts, executed in the boot script modules
  • provision.system/*: Custom provision scripts (system)
  • provision.user/*: Custom provision scripts (user)
  • etc_environment: Environment variables to be added to /etc/environment (also loaded during

Max file name length = 30

Volume label

The volume label is “cidata”, as defined by cloud-init NoCloud.

Environment variables

  • LIMA_CIDATA_NAME: the lima instance name
  • LIMA_CIDATA_MNT: the mount point of the disk. /mnt/lima-cidata.
  • LIMA_CIDATA_USER: the user name string
  • LIMA_CIDATA_UID: the numeric UID
  • LIMA_CIDATA_HOME: the guest home directory
  • LIMA_CIDATA_HOSTHOME_MOUNTPOINT: the mount point of the host home directory, or empty if not mounted
  • LIMA_CIDATA_MOUNTS: the number of the Lima mounts
  • LIMA_CIDATA_MOUNTS_%d_MOUNTPOINT: the N-th mount point of Lima mounts (N=0, 1, …)
  • LIMA_CIDATA_MOUNTTYPE: the type of the Lima mounts (“reverse-sshfs”, “9p”, …)
  • LIMA_CIDATA_CONTAINERD_USER: set to “1” if rootless containerd to be set up
  • LIMA_CIDATA_CONTAINERD_SYSTEM: set to “1” if system-wide containerd to be set up
  • LIMA_CIDATA_SLIRP_GATEWAY: set to the IP address of the host on the SLIRP network.
  • LIMA_CIDATA_SLIRP_DNS: set to the IP address of the DNS on the SLIRP network.
  • LIMA_CIDATA_SLIRP_IP_ADDRESS: set to the IP address of the guest on the SLIRP network.
  • LIMA_CIDATA_UDP_DNS_LOCAL_PORT: set to the udp port number of the hostagent dns server (or 0 when not enabled).
  • LIMA_CIDATA_TCP_DNS_LOCAL_PORT: set to the tcp port number of the hostagent dns server (or 0 when not enabled).

VM lifecycle

(based on Lima 0.8.3)