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Lightweight Linux for Docker
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Latest commit cef800b @tianon tianon Update to 1.9.1


Boot2Docker is a lightweight Linux distribution made specifically to run Docker containers. It runs completely from RAM, is a small ~24MB download and boots in ~5s (YMMV).


  • Kernel 4.1.13 with AUFS, Docker v1.9.1 - using libcontainer
  • Container persistence via disk automount on /var/lib/docker
  • SSH keys persistence via disk automount

Note: Boot2Docker uses port 2376, the registered IANA Docker SSL port

Caveat Emptor

Boot2Docker is currently designed and tuned for development. Using it for any kind of production workloads at this time is highly discouraged.


Installation instructions for OS X and Windows are available on the Docker documentation site.

The ISO can be downloaded here.

All in one Installers for OS X and Windows

We have built installers for OS X and Windows which will install the boot2docker management tool, VirtualBox, and any tools needed to run Boot2Docker.

Installation using the boot2docker management tool

If you have the prerequisites, or want to help develop Boot2Docker, you can also download the appropriate boot2docker management release and use it to download boot2docker.iso.

How to use

The boot2docker management tool leverages VirtualBox's VBoxManage to initialise, start, stop and delete the VM right from the command line.


$ boot2docker init

Start VM

$ boot2docker up

Upgrade the Boot2docker VM image

$ boot2docker stop
$ boot2docker download
$ boot2docker up

If your Boot2Docker virtual machine was created prior to 0.11.1-pre1, it's recommended that you delete - boot2docker delete and then create a new VM - boot2docker init.

The main change is the addition of a /var/lib/boot2docker/userdata.tar file that is un-tarred into the /home/docker directory on boot. This file contains .ssh/authorized_keys and .ssh/authorized_keys2 files containing a public SSH key.

Docker Hub

To save and share container images, automate workflows, and more sign-up for a free Docker Hub account.

More information

See Frequently asked questions for more details.

Boot script log

The bootup script output is logged to /boot.log, so you can see (and potentially debug) what happens. Note that this is not persistent between boots because we're logging from before the persistence partition is mounted (and it may not exist at all).

Container Port redirection

The latest version of boot2docker sets up two network adaptors, one using NAT to allow the VM to download images and files from the internet, and a host only network that Docker container's ports will be exposed on.

If you run a container with an exposed port, and then use OSX's open command:

$ boot2docker up
$ eval "$(boot2docker shellinit)"
$ docker run --name nginx-test -d -p 80:80 nginx
$ open http://$(boot2docker ip 2>/dev/null)/
$ docker stop nginx-test
$ docker rm nginx-test

The eval "$(boot2docker shellinit)" sets the DOCKER_HOST environment variable for this shell, then the docker run starts the webserver as a daemon, and open will then show the default page in your default web browser (using boot2docker ip).

If you want to share container ports with other computers on your LAN, you will need to set up NAT adaptor based port forwarding.

Docker daemon options

If you need to customize the options used to start the Docker daemon, you can do so by adding entries to the /var/lib/boot2docker/profile file on the persistent partition inside the Boot2Docker virtual machine. Then restart the daemon.

The following example will enable core dumps inside containers, but you can specify any other options you may need.

boot2docker ssh -t sudo vi /var/lib/boot2docker/profile
# Add something like:
#     EXTRA_ARGS="--default-ulimit core=-1"
boot2docker restart

TLS support

By default, boot2docker runs docker with TLS enabled. It auto-generates certificates and stores them in /home/docker/.docker inside the VM. The boot2docker up command will copy them to ~/.boot2docker/certs on the host machine once the VM has started, and output the correct values for the DOCKER_CERT_PATH and DOCKER_TLS_VERIFY environment variables.

eval "$(boot2docker shellinit)" will also set them correctly.

We strongly recommend against running Boot2Docker with an unencrypted Docker socket for security reasons, but if you have tools that cannot be easily switched, you can disable it by adding DOCKER_TLS=no to your /var/lib/boot2docker/profile file.

Folder sharing

Boot2Docker is essentially a remote Docker engine with a read only filesystem (other than Docker images, containers and volumes). The most scalable and portable way to share disk space between your local desktop and a Docker container is by creating a volume container and then sharing that to where it's needed.

One well tested approach is to use a file sharing container like svendowideit/samba:

$ # Make a volume container (only need to do this once)
$ docker run -v /data --name my-data busybox true
$ # Share it using Samba (Windows file sharing)
$ docker run --rm -v /usr/local/bin/docker:/docker -v /var/run/docker.sock:/docker.sock svendowideit/samba my-data
$ # then find out the IP address of your Boot2Docker host
$ boot2docker ip

Connect to the shared folder using Finder (OS X):

Connect to cifs://
Once mounted, will appear as /Volumes/data

Or on Windows, use Explorer to Connect to:


You can then use your data container from any container you like:

$ docker run -it --volumes-from my-data ubuntu

You will find the "data" volume mounted as "/data" in that container. Note that "my-data" is the name of volume container, this is shared via the "network" by the "samba" container that refers to it by name. So, in this example, if you were on OS-X you now have /Volumes/data and /data in container being shared. You can change the paths as needed.

VirtualBox Guest Additions

Alternatively, Boot2Docker includes the VirtualBox Guest Additions built in for the express purpose of using VirtualBox folder sharing.

The first of the following share names that exists (if any) will be automatically mounted at the location specified:

  1. Users share at /Users
  2. /Users share at /Users
  3. c/Users share at /c/Users
  4. /c/Users share at /c/Users
  5. c:/Users share at /c/Users

If some other path or share is desired, it can be mounted at run time by doing something like:

$ mount -t vboxsf -o uid=1000,gid=50 your-other-share-name /some/mount/location

It is also important to note that in the future, the plan is to have any share which is created in VirtualBox with the "automount" flag turned on be mounted during boot at the directory of the share name (ie, a share named home/jsmith would be automounted at /home/jsmith).

In case it isn't already clear, the Linux host support here is currently hazy. You can share your /home or /home/jsmith directory as Users or one of the other supported automount locations listed above, but note that you will then need to manually convert your docker run -v /home/...:... bind-mount host paths accordingly (ie, docker run -v /Users/...:...). As noted in the previous paragraph however, this is likely to change in the future as soon as a more suitable/scalable solution is found and implemented.

Installing secure Registry certificates

You can add your Registry server's public certificate (in .pem format) into the /var/lib/boot2docker/certs/ directory, and Boot2Docker will automatically load it from the persistence partition at boot.

You may need to add several certificates (as separate .pem files) to this directory, depending on the CA signing chain used for your certificate.

Insecure Registry

As of Docker version 1.3.1, if your registry doesn't support HTTPS, you must add it as an insecure registry.

$ boot2docker init
$ boot2docker up
$ boot2docker ssh "echo $'EXTRA_ARGS=\"--insecure-registry <YOUR INSECURE HOST>\"' | sudo tee -a /var/lib/boot2docker/profile && sudo /etc/init.d/docker restart"

then you should be able to do a docker push/pull.

Running behind a VPN (Cisco AnyConnect, etc)

So sometimes if you are behind a VPN, you'll get an i/o timeout error. The current work around is to forward the port in the boot2docker-vm.

If you get an error like the following:

Sending build context to Docker daemon
2014/11/19 13:53:33 Post dial tcp i/o timeout

That means you have to forward port 2376, which can be done like so:

  • Open VirtualBox
  • Open Settings > Network for your 'boot2docker-vm'
  • Select the adapter that is 'Attached To': 'NAT' and click 'Port Forwarding'.
  • Add a new rule:
    • Protocol: TCP
    • Host IP:
    • Host Port: 5555
    • Guest Port: 2376
  • Set DOCKER_HOST to 'tcp://'


The boot2docker management tool allows you to customise many options from both the command line, or by setting them in its configuration file.

See boot2docker config for more (including the format of the configuration file).

SSH into VM

$ boot2docker ssh

boot2docker auto logs in using the generated SSH key, but if you want to SSH into the machine manually (or you're not using a boot2docker managed VM), the credentials are:

user: docker
pass: tcuser

Persist data

Boot2docker uses Tiny Core Linux, which runs from RAM and so does not persist filesystem changes by default.

When you run boot2docker init, the boot2docker tool auto-creates a disk that will be automounted and used to persist your docker data in /var/lib/docker and /var/lib/boot2docker. This virtual disk will be removed when you run boot2docker delete. It will also persist the SSH keys of the machine. Changes outside of these directories will be lost after powering down or restarting the VM - to make permanent modifications see the FAQ.

If you are not using the boot2docker management tool, you can create an ext4 or btrfs formatted partition with the label boot2docker-data (mkfs.ext4 -L boot2docker-data /dev/sdX5) to your VM or host, and Boot2Docker will automount it on /mnt/sdX and then softlink /mnt/sdX/var/lib/docker to /var/lib/docker.

Install on any device

To 'install' the ISO onto an SD card, USB-Stick or even empty hard disk, you can use dd if=boot2docker.iso of=/dev/sdX. This will create the small boot partition, and install an MBR.

Build your own Boot2Docker ISO

Goto How to build for Documentation on how to build your own Boot2Docker ISOs.


See the workarounds doc for solutions to known issues.

boot2docker up doesn't work (OSX)

Sometimes OSX will install updates that break VirtualBox and require a restart of the kernel extensions that boot2docker needs in order to run. If you go to boot boot2docker after some updates or a system restart and you get an output such as the following:

$ boot2docker up
error in run: Failed to start machine "boot2docker-vm" (run again with -v for details)

You may need to reload the kernel extensions in order to get your system functioning again.

In this case, try running the following script (supplied with Virtual Box):

$ sudo /Library/Application\ Support/VirtualBox/LaunchDaemons/ restart

You should see output such as:

/Applications/ => /Applications/
/Applications/ => /Applications/
/Applications/ => /Applications/
/Applications/ => /Applications/
/Applications/ => /Applications/
/Applications/ => /Applications/
/Applications/ => /Applications/
/Applications/ => /Applications/
/Applications/ => /Applications/
/Applications/ => /Applications/
/Applications/ => /Applications/
/Applications/ => /Applications/
/Applications/ => /Applications/
/Applications/ => /Applications/
/Applications/ => /Applications/
/Applications/ => /Applications/
Loading VBoxDrv.kext
Loading VBoxUSB.kext
Loading VBoxNetFlt.kext
Loading VBoxNetAdp.kext

Now the VM should boot properly.

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