Rootless mode (Experimental)

The rootless mode allows running dockerd as an unprivileged user, using user_namespaces(7), mount_namespaces(7), network_namespaces(7).

No SETUID/SETCAP binary is required except newuidmap and newgidmap.


  • newuidmap and newgidmap need to be installed on the host. These commands are provided by the uidmap package on most distros.

  • /etc/subuid and /etc/subgid should contain >= 65536 sub-IDs. e.g. penguin:231072:65536.

$ id -u
$ whoami
$ grep ^$(whoami): /etc/subuid
$ grep ^$(whoami): /etc/subgid

Distribution-specific hint

Using Ubuntu kernel is recommended.


Debian GNU/Linux

  • Add kernel.unprivileged_userns_clone=1 to /etc/sysctl.conf (or /etc/sysctl.d) and run sudo sysctl -p
  • To use overlay2 storage driver (recommended), run sudo modprobe overlay permit_mounts_in_userns=1 (Debian-specific kernel patch, introduced in Debian 10). Put the configuration to /etc/modprobe.d for persistence.
  • Known to work on Debian 9 and 10. overlay2 is only supported since Debian 10 and needs modprobe configuration described above.

Arch Linux

  • Add kernel.unprivileged_userns_clone=1 to /etc/sysctl.conf (or /etc/sysctl.d) and run sudo sysctl -p


  • sudo modprobe ip_tables iptable_mangle iptable_nat iptable_filter is required. (This is likely to be required on other distros as well)
  • Known to work on openSUSE 15.

Fedora 31 and later

  • Run sudo grubby --update-kernel=ALL --args="systemd.unified_cgroup_hierarchy=0" and reboot.

Fedora 30

  • No preparation is needed


  • No preparation is needed


  • Add user.max_user_namespaces=28633 to /etc/sysctl.conf (or /etc/sysctl.d) and run sudo sysctl -p
  • systemctl --user does not work by default. Run the daemon directly without systemd: --experimental --storage-driver vfs
  • Known to work on RHEL/CentOS 7.7. Older releases require extra configuration steps.
  • RHEL/CentOS 7.6 and older releases require COPR package vbatts/shadow-utils-newxidmap to be installed.
  • RHEL/CentOS 7.5 and older releases require running sudo grubby --update-kernel=ALL --args="user_namespace.enable=1" and reboot.

Known limitations

  • Only vfs graphdriver is supported. However, on Ubuntu and Debian 10, overlay2 and overlay are also supported.
  • Following features are not supported:
    • Cgroups (including docker top, which depends on the cgroups device controller)
    • Apparmor
    • Checkpoint
    • Overlay network
    • Exposing SCTP ports
  • To use ping command, see Routing ping packets
  • To expose privileged TCP/UDP ports (< 1024), see Exposing privileged ports


The installation script is available at .

$ curl -fsSL | sh

Make sure to run the script as a non-root user.

The script will show the environment variables that are needed to be set:

$ curl -fsSL | sh
# Docker binaries are installed in /home/penguin/bin
# WARN: dockerd is not in your current PATH or pointing to /home/penguin/bin/dockerd
# Make sure the following environment variables are set (or add them to ~/.bashrc):

export PATH=/home/penguin/bin:$PATH
export PATH=$PATH:/sbin
export DOCKER_HOST=unix:///run/user/1001/docker.sock

# To control docker service run:
# systemctl --user (start|stop|restart) docker

To install the binaries manually without using the installer, extract docker-rootless-extras-<version>.tar.gz along with docker-<version>.tar.gz:



Use systemctl --user to manage the lifecycle of the daemon:

$ systemctl --user start docker

To launch the daemon on system startup, enable systemd lingering:

$ sudo loginctl enable-linger $(whoami)

To run the daemon directly without systemd, you need to run instead of dockerd:

$ --experimental --storage-driver vfs

As Rootless mode is experimental, currently you always need to run with --experimental. You also need --storage-driver vfs unless using Ubuntu or Debian 10 kernel.


  • The socket path is set to $XDG_RUNTIME_DIR/docker.sock by default. $XDG_RUNTIME_DIR is typically set to /run/user/$UID.
  • The data dir is set to ~/.local/share/docker by default.
  • The exec dir is set to $XDG_RUNTIME_DIR/docker by default.
  • The daemon config dir is set to ~/.config/docker (not ~/.docker, which is used by the client) by default.
  • The script executes dockerd in its own user, mount, and network namespaces. You can enter the namespaces by running nsenter -U --preserve-credentials -n -m -t $(cat $XDG_RUNTIME_DIR/
  • docker info shows rootless in SecurityOptions
  • docker info shows none as Cgroup Driver


You need to set the socket path explicitly.

$ export DOCKER_HOST=unix://$XDG_RUNTIME_DIR/docker.sock
$ docker run -d nginx

Rootless Docker in Docker

To run Rootless Docker inside “rootful” Docker, use docker:<version>-dind-rootless image instead of docker:<version>-dind image.

$ docker run -d --name dind-rootless --privileged docker:19.03-dind-rootless --experimental

docker:<version>-dind-rootless image runs as a non-root user (UID 1000). However, --privileged is required for disabling seccomp, AppArmor, and mount masks.

Expose Docker API socket via TCP

To expose the Docker API socket via TCP, you need to launch with DOCKERD_ROOTLESS_ROOTLESSKIT_FLAGS="-p".

 -H tcp:// \
 --tlsverify --tlscacert=ca.pem --tlscert=cert.pem --tlskey=key.pem

Routing ping packets

Add net.ipv4.ping_group_range = 0 2147483647 to /etc/sysctl.conf (or /etc/sysctl.d) and run sudo sysctl -p.

Exposing privileged ports

To expose privileged ports (< 1024), set CAP_NET_BIND_SERVICE on rootlesskit binary.

$ sudo setcap cap_net_bind_service=ep $HOME/bin/rootlesskit

Or add net.ipv4.ip_unprivileged_port_start=0 to /etc/sysctl.conf (or /etc/sysctl.d) and run sudo sysctl -p.

Limiting resources

Currently rootless mode ignores cgroup-related docker run flags such as --cpus and memory. However, traditional ulimit and cpulimit can be still used, though it works in process-granularity rather than container-granularity.

Changing network stack uses slirp4netns (if installed) or VPNKit as the network stack by default. These network stacks run in userspace and might have performance overhead. See RootlessKit documentation for further information.

Optionally, you can use lxc-user-nic instead for the best performance. To use lxc-user-nic, you need to edit /etc/lxc/lxc-usernet and set $DOCKERD_ROOTLESS_ROOTLESSKIT_NET=lxc-user-nic.