Emulating devices with Speculos

Ledger has developed its own Ledger Nano S / Ledger Nano X / Ledger Blue emulator, called Speculos. This emulator can be useful if you want to run tests, debug your app with GDB, or just try your app without having to physically plug-in your Ledger device.

We will go over quick guide to using speculos, but more information is available in the docs section of the github page.


  1. Start by cloning the official Speculos repo:

    git clone https://github.com/LedgerHQ/speculos
  2. Make sure you have the appropriate packages installed on your machine:

    sudo apt install qemu-user-static python3-pyqt5 python3-construct python3-jsonschema python3-mnemonic python3-pyelftools gcc-arm-linux-gnueabihf libc6-dev-armhf-cross gdb-multiarch
  3. Build:

    cmake -Bbuild -H.
    make -C build/

Please note that the first build can take some time because a tarball of OpenSSL is downloaded (the integrity of the downloaded tarball is checked) before being built. Further invocations of make skip this step.

The following command line can be used for a debug build:

cmake -Bbuild -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Debug -H.



Only run Speculos on trusted apps, as a malicious app could exploit it and make arbitrary Linux system calls.

To run your application, simply type in:

./speculos.py /path/to/app.elf

You can then use your left / right arrows to emulate the left and right buttons of your device.

Communicating with the device

You can communicate with the emulated device using APDUs. Speculos embbeds a TCP server (listening on to forwards APDUs to the target app.

In this example we will use the ledgerctl client that you can install with pip:

pip3 install ledgerwallet

If the environment variables LEDGER_PROXY_ADDRESS and LEDGER_PROXY_PORT are set, the library ill try to use the device emulated by Speculos. For instance, the following command-line sends the APDU e0 c4 00 00 00 (Bitcoin-app’s APDU to request the version):

$ ./speculos.py /path/to/app.elf &  # First start the app in the background
$ echo 'e0c4000000' | LEDGER_PROXY_ADDRESS= LEDGER_PROXY_PORT=9999 ledgerctl send -
10:01:09.546:apdu: > e0c4000000
10:01:09.547:apdu: < 6d00

Other clients are available (ledgerblue, btchip-python…) and you will find more information in speculos’ doc.

Debugging with GDB

Speculos can also be used to debug your code with GDB:

./speculos.py -d /path/to/app.elf &
./tools/debug.sh /path/to/app.elf

This command should start a brand new gdb instance with your app already loaded !

Debugging inside Visual Studio Code

Visual Studio Code users might be happy to learn that debugging through the usual VSCode interface is made possible using speculos.

In your .vscode file, simply create a launch.json file containing this:

    "version": "0.2.0",
    "configurations": [
            "type": "gdb",
            "request": "attach",
            "name": "Attach to gdbserver",
            "executable": "${workspaceFolder}/bin/app.elf",
            "target": ":1234",
            "remote": true,
            "cwd": "${workspaceFolder}",
            "valuesFormatting": "parseText",
            "gdbpath": "gdb-multiarch",
            "autorun": [
                "set architecture arm",
                "handle SIGILL nostop pass noprint",
                "add-symbol-file ${workspaceFolder}/bin/app.elf 0x40000000",
                "b *0x40000000",

Make sure you have Native Debug’s extension installed. Then, follow these steps:

  1. Set a breakpoint (click on the left-hand side of the line you want to set a breakpoint on).
  2. In a new terminal, attach speculos (run ./speculos.py -d /path/to/app.elf).
  3. In VSCode, press F5 to start the debugging session. You’re good to go !

If your device is in a loop (if you get the error Cannot execute this command while the selected thread is running), then you probably need to send an APDU to the device to actually reach the breakpoint you’ve set. Please refer to the Communicating with the device section.