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Created: 2022-03-23 | Last update: 2022-03-24

Docker Containers Cheat Sheet

What's a Docker Container?

A Docker container image is a lightweight, standalone, executable package of software that includes everything needed to run an application: code, runtime, system tools, system libraries and settings.


Your basic isolated Docker process. Containers are to Virtual Machines as threads are to processes. Or you can think of them as chroots on steroids.


Normally if you run a container without options it will start and stop immediately, if you want keep it running you can use the command, docker run -td container_id this will use the option -t that will allocate a pseudo-TTY session and -d that will detach automatically the container (run container in background and print container ID).

If you want a transient container, docker run --rm will remove the container after it stops.

If you want to map a directory on the host to a docker container, docker run -v $HOSTDIR:$DOCKERDIR. Also see Volumes.

If you want to remove also the volumes associated with the container, the deletion of the container must include the -v switch like in docker rm -v.

There's also a logging driver available for individual containers in docker 1.10. To run docker with a custom log driver (i.e., to syslog), use docker run --log-driver=syslog.

Another useful option is docker run --name yourname docker_image because when you specify the --name inside the run command this will allow you to start and stop a container by calling it with the name the you specified when you created it.

Starting and Stopping

If you want to detach from a running container, use Ctrl + p, Ctrl + q. If you want to integrate a container with a host process manager, start the daemon with -r=false then use docker start -a.

If you want to expose container ports through the host, see the exposing ports section.

Restart policies on crashed docker instances are covered here.

CPU Constraints

You can limit CPU, either using a percentage of all CPUs, or by using specific cores.

For example, you can tell the cpu-shares setting. The setting is a bit strange -- 1024 means 100% of the CPU, so if you want the container to take 50% of all CPU cores, you should specify 512. See for more:

docker run -it -c 512 agileek/cpuset-test

You can also only use some CPU cores using cpuset-cpus. See for details and some nice videos:

docker run -it --cpuset-cpus=0,4,6 agileek/cpuset-test

Note that Docker can still see all of the CPUs inside the container -- it just isn't using all of them. See for more details.

Memory Constraints

You can also set memory constraints on Docker:

docker run -it -m 300M ubuntu:14.04 /bin/bash


Linux capabilities can be set by using cap-add and cap-drop. See for details. This should be used for greater security.

To mount a FUSE based filesystem, you need to combine both --cap-add and --device:

docker run --rm -it --cap-add SYS_ADMIN --device /dev/fuse sshfs

Give access to a single device:

docker run -it --device=/dev/ttyUSB0 debian bash

Give access to all devices:

docker run -it --privileged -v /dev/bus/usb:/dev/bus/usb debian bash

More info about privileged containers here.


  • docker ps shows running containers.
  • docker logs gets logs from container. (You can use a custom log driver, but logs is only available for json-file and journald in 1.10).
  • docker inspect looks at all the info on a container (including IP address).
  • docker events gets events from container.
  • docker port shows public facing port of container.
  • docker top shows running processes in container.
  • docker stats shows containers' resource usage statistics.
  • docker diff shows changed files in the container's FS.

docker ps -a shows running and stopped containers.

docker stats --all shows a list of all containers, default shows just running.

Import / Export

  • docker cp copies files or folders between a container and the local filesystem.
  • docker export turns container filesystem into tarball archive stream to STDOUT.

Executing Commands

To enter a running container, attach a new shell process to a running container called foo, use: docker exec -it foo /bin/bash.


Thanks to @wsargent for creating this cheat sheet.


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