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Advanced Docker Techniques


When you run a container, you can bring a directory from the host system into the container, and give it a new name and location using the -v or --volume flag.

$ mkdir -p ~/local-data-folder
$ echo "some data" >> ~/local-data-folder/data.txt
$ docker run -v ${HOME}/local-data-folder:/data $YOUR_DOCKERHUB_USERNAME/mynotebook:latest cat /data/data.txt

In the example above, you can mount a folder from your localhost, in your home user directory into the container as a new directory named /data.

Create and manage volumes

Unlike a bind mount, you can create and manage volumes outside the scope of any container.

A given volume can be mounted into multiple containers simultaneously. When no running container is using a volume, the volume is still available to Docker and is not removed automatically. You can remove unused volumes using docker volume prune command.

When you create a Docker volume, it is stored within a directory on the Docker Linux host (/var/lib/docker/).

Let's create a volume

$ docker volume create my-vol

List volumes:

$ docker volume ls

local               my-vol

Inspect a volume by looking at the Mount section in the docker volume inspect

$ docker volume inspect my-vol
        "Driver": "local",
        "Labels": {},
        "Mountpoint": "/var/lib/docker/volumes/my-vol/_data",
        "Name": "my-vol",
        "Options": {},
        "Scope": "local"

Remove a volume

$ docker volume rm my-vol
$ docker volume ls

Populate a volume using a container

This example starts an alpine container and populates the new volume output-vol with the some output created by the container.

docker volume create output-vol
docker run --name=data-app --mount source=output-vol,target=/data alpine sh -c 'env >> /data/container-env.txt'

Use docker inspect output-vol to see where the volume data lives on your host, and then use cat to confirm that it contains the output created by the container.

docker volume inspect output-vol
sudo cat /var/lib/docker/volumes/output-vol/_data/container-env.txt

You should see something like:


After running either of these examples, run the following commands to clean up the container and volume.

docker rm data-app
docker volume rm output-vol

Bind mounts

Bind mounts: When you use a bind mount, a file or directory on the host machine is mounted into a container.


If you are developing new Docker applications, consider using named volumes instead. You can't use Docker CLI commands to directly manage bind mounts.



One side effect of using bind mounts, for better or for worse, is that you can change the host filesystem via processes running in a container, including creating, modifying, or deleting important system files or directories. This is a powerful ability which can have security implications, including impacting non-Docker processes on the host system.

If you use --mount to bind-mount a file or directory that does not yet exist on the Docker host, Docker does not automatically create it for you, but generates an error.

Start a container with a bind mount

Create a bind-data directory in your home directory.

cd ~
mkdir -p ~/bind-data

Run a container, mounting this directory inside the container, and the container should create some data in there.

docker run --mount type=bind,source="$(pwd)"/bind-data,target=/data alpine sh -c 'env >> /data/container-env.txt'

Check that the output looks right.

cat ~/bind-data/container-env.txt

Use a read-only bind mount

For some development applications, the container needs to write into the bind mount, so changes are propagated back to the Docker host. At other times, the container only needs read access.

This example modifies the one above but mounts the directory as a read-only bind mount, by adding ro to the (empty by default) list of options, after the mount point within the container. Where multiple options are present, separate them by commas.

docker run --mount type=bind,source="$(pwd)"/bind-data,target=/data,readonly alpine sh -c 'ls -al /data/ && env >> /data/container-env.txt'

You should see an error message about not being able to write to a read-only file system.

sh: can't create /data/container-env.txt: Read-only file system

Last update: 2023-03-27