How To Install and Use Docker on Debian 10


The main mission of Docker as an application is to ease managing application processes in containers, which help running your applications in resource-isolated processes. Containers can be compared to virtual machines; however, they are more resource-friendly, more portable, and more dependent on the host operating system.

To get a more detailed discussion of the different Docker components, see The Docker Ecosystem: An Introduction to Common Components.

This tutorial will guide you upon installing and using Docker Community Edition (CE) on Debian 10. You will see how to install Docker, application, work with images and containers, and push an image to a Docker Repository.

Step One  — Docker Installation Process

Note that the official Debian repository may not necessarily contain the latest version of Docker installation package. To get the latest version, you need to install Docker from the official Docker repository. To download the application from the website, add a new package source, the GPG key from Docker to make sure the downloads are valid, and install the package.

The first thing you should do is to update your existing list of packages:

$ sudo apt update

After that, you need to install some prerequisite packages that let apt use packages over HTTPS. To do that, type:

$ sudo apt install apt-transport-https ca-certificates curl gnupg2 software-properties-common

Then follow by adding the GPG key for the official Docker repository to the system:

$ curl -fsSL | sudo apt-key add -

After that, add the Docker repository to APT sources:

$ sudo add-apt-repository "deb [arch=amd64] $(lsb_release -cs) stable"

The next step is to update the package database with the Docker packages taken from the repo you have just added:

$ sudo apt update

You need to ensure that you are installing from the Docker repo but not the default Debian repo:

$ apt-cache policy docker-ce

Normally, you will see the output as shown below, yet the version number for Docker may be different:

Output of apt-cache policy docker-ce
  Installed: (none)
  Candidate: 5:18.09.7~3-0~debian-buster
  Version table:
     5:18.09.7~3-0~debian-buster 500
        500 buster/stable amd64 Packages

As you can see, docker-ce was not installed, but buster stands as the candidate for installation from the Docker repository for Debian 10.

The final step is to install Docker:

$ sudo apt install docker-ce

At this moment, Docker is installed, the daemon started, and the process is enabled to start on boot. To check that the application is running, type:

$ sudo systemctl status docker

You are supposed to see the output similar to the one shown below. If you see something alike, it means that the service is active and running:

● docker.service - Docker Application Container Engine
   Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/docker.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled)
   Active: active (running) since Mon 2019-06-11 11:09:23 UTC; 41s ago
 Main PID: 4598 (dockerd)
    Tasks: 8
   Memory: 31.6M
   CGroup: /system.slice/docker.service
           └─5709 /usr/bin/dockerd -H fd:// --containerd=/run/containerd/containerd.sock

Having installed Docker, you receive the Docker service (daemon) and the Docker client (docker command line utility). Further in this tutorial,  you will be guided on how to use the docker command.

Step Two  — Executing the Docker Command Without Sudo (Optional)

 Only the root user or a user in the docker group can run the docker command. The user is created automatically during the process of Docker installation. If you try to run the docker command without the sudo prefix and not in the docker group, you will receive the following output:

docker: Cannot connect to the Docker daemon. Is the docker daemon running on this host?.
See 'docker run --help'.

If you do not want to add sudo every time you run the docker command, type your username to the docker group:

$ sudo usermod -aG docker ${USER}

You need to log out of the server and log in again in order to to apply the new group membership. An alternative way is to type the following command:

$ su - ${USER}

The system will prompt you to enter your user’s password to continue.

To confirm that the user has been added to the docker group, type the following:

$ id -nG
sammy sudo docker

In case you need to add another user (which you have not logged in as) to the docker group, state its username explicitly:

$ sudo usermod -aG docker username

The below guide is based on the supposition that you run the docker command as a user in the docker group. In case you prefer not to, prepend the commands with sudo.

Step Three — The Docker Command

The use of docker command consists of passing it a chain of commands and options followed by arguments. The syntax looks like this:

$ docker [option] [command] [arguments]

To see the subcommands available, type:

$ docker

Concerning Docker 18, the list of available subcommands looks like this:

attach      Attach local standard input, output, and error streams to a running container
build       Build an image from a Dockerfile
commit      Create a new image from a container's changes
cp          Copy files/folders between a container and the local filesystem
create      Create a new container
diff        Inspect changes to files or directories on a container's filesystem
events      Get real time events from the server
exec        Run a command in a running container
export      Export a container's filesystem as a tar archive
history     Show the history of an image
images      List images
import      Import the contents from a tarball to create a filesystem image
info        Display system-wide information
inspect     Return low-level information on Docker objects
kill        Kill one or more running containers
load        Load an image from a tar archive or STDIN
login       Log in to a Docker registry
logout      Log out from a Docker registry
logs        Fetch the logs of a container
pause       Pause all processes within one or more containers
port        List port mappings or a specific mapping for the container
ps          List containers
pull        Pull an image or a repository from a registry
push        Push an image or a repository to a registry
rename      Rename a container
restart     Restart one or more containers
rm          Remove one or more containers
rmi         Remove one or more images
run         Run a command in a new container
save        Save one or more images to a tar archive (streamed to STDOUT by default)
search      Search the Docker Hub for images
start       Start one or more stopped containers
stats       Display a live stream of container(s) resource usage statistics
stop        Stop one or more running containers
tag         Create a tag TARGET_IMAGE that refers to SOURCE_IMAGE
top         Display the running processes of a container
unpause     Unpause all processes within one or more containers
update      Update configuration of one or more containers
version     Show the Docker version information
wait        Block until one or more containers stop, then print their exit codes

To check the options available to a particular command, enter:

$ docker docker-subcommand --help

To get Docker system-wide information, type:

$ docker info

To get an understanding of some of these commands, check the information below. Let us start with images.

Step Four  — Working with Docker Images

Docker images build Docker containersDocker is set by default to pull these images from Docker Hub. It is a Docker registry that is managed by Docker company.  Any person can host Docker images on Docker Hub. It means that Linux distributions as well as most applications you might be using, will have images hosted there.

In order to check access and the ability to download images from Docker Hub, type the comand below:

$ docker run hello-world

If you see the output below , it is an indication of Docker correct work:

Unable to find image 'hello-world:latest' locally
latest: Pulling from library/hello-world
1b920d010524: Pull complete
Digest: sha256:41a6564065299bab090f783208c1e3a3f10934cf7756b09cb2f1e02147c6ed8
Status: Downloaded newer image for hello-world:latest

Hello from Docker!
This message shows that your installation appears to be working correctly.

Initially, Docker was unable to find the hello-world image locally. That is why it downloaded the image from the default repository Docker Hub. Having downloaded the image, Docker created a container from the image and the application within the container executed, displaying the message.

Use the docker command and the search subcommand to look for images available on Docker Hub. For instance, to search for the Ubuntu image, type the command below:

$ docker search ubuntu

The script will search Docker Hub and offer a list of all images that match the search string. You should see the output alike:

NAME                                                      DESCRIPTION                                     STARS               OFFICIAL            AUTOMATED
ubuntu                                                    Ubuntu is a Debian-based Linux operating sys…   9704                [OK]
dorowu/ubuntu-desktop-lxde-vnc                            Docker image to provide HTML5 VNC interface …   319                                     [OK]
rastasheep/ubuntu-sshd                                    Dockerized SSH service, built on top of offi…   224                                     [OK]
consol/ubuntu-xfce-vnc                                    Ubuntu container with "headless" VNC session…   183                                     [OK]
ubuntu-upstart                                            Upstart is an event-based replacement for th…   99                  [OK]
ansible/ubuntu14.04-ansible                               Ubuntu 14.04 LTS with ansible                   97                                      [OK]
neurodebian                                               NeuroDebian provides neuroscience research s…   57                  [OK]
1and1internet/ubuntu-16-nginx-php-phpmyadmin-mysql-5      ubuntu-16-nginx-php-phpmyadmin-mysql-5          50                                      [OK]

As you can see, in the OFFICIAL column, OK stands for an image built and supported by the company behind the project. When you identify the image you want  to use, use the pull subcommand to download it to your computer.

The following command will download the official ubuntu image to your computer:

$ docker pull ubuntu

The following output will be returned:

Using default tag: latest
latest: Pulling from library/ubuntu
5b7339115d1d: Pull complete
14ca77e8f672: Pull complete
a21c2b1caad2: Pull complete
b053a23005b3: Pull complete
Digest: sha256:8b1702dcfe32c873a660a32cfd306dd7fc1c4fd111adfb783db68defc7794b3c
Status: Downloaded newer image for ubuntu:latest

After the download, use the run subcommand run to run a container using the downloaded image. Same as in the hello-world example, if an image has not been downloaded while executing docker with the run subcommand, the first thing that the Docker client will do is download the image, and after that, run a container using it.

Type the command provided below to see the downloaded images:

$ docker images

The output will look like the following:

REPOSITORY          TAG                 IMAGE ID            CREATED             SIZE
ubuntu              latest              2c108a37151f        1 weeks ago         64.2MB
hello-world         latest              fce279e99eb8        5 months ago        1.84kB

As shown later in this tutorial, you can modify images used to run containers. Moreover, you can use them to generate new images, which you can upload (push in technical language) to Docker Hub or other Docker registries.

Step Five — How to Run a Docker Container

The container hello-world is an example of a container which runs and exits having emitted a test message. However, containers can be interactive and more useful. As mentioned before, they are like virtual machines, yet more resource-friendly.

See the example of how to run a container with the latest Ubuntu image. You can get interactive shell access into the container by using the combination of the -i and -t switches:

$ docker run -it ubuntu

Your command prompt should take the form shown below. This way, it will reflect the fact that you work inside the container:


Pay attention to the container id reflected in the command prompt. Remeber it. In our example, the id is d9b100f2f636. This ID will be needed later to identify the container when you need to remove it.

Now any command can be run inside the container. As an example, you can update the package database inside the container. What is notable, there is no need to use sudo prefix because you operate inside the container as the root user:

root@d9b100f2f631:/# apt update

After that install any application inside it. As an example, we install Node.js:

root@d9b100f2f631:/# apt install nodejs

This command will install Node.js from the official Ubuntu repository in the container. After the installation, check the installation status of Node.js:

root@d9b100f2f631:/# node -v

Your terminal will return the version number:


Please note thay any alteration made inside the container applies only to that container.

If you need to exit the container, simply type exit at the prompt.

To learn how to manage the containers on our system, see the below sections.

Step Six — How to Manage Docker Containers

In the process of use, many active (running) and inactive containers will be stored on your computer. To see those that are active, type:

$ docker ps

The output similar to the following will be returned:

CONTAINER ID        IMAGE               COMMAND             CREATED             

In our tutorial, two containers have been started; the first from the hello-world image and the second one from the ubuntu image. None of them is running; however, they  exist in  your system.

To check all containers both active and inactive, use docker ps with the -a switch:

$ docker ps -a

Normally, you should see a similar output:

CONTAINER ID        IMAGE               COMMAND             CREATED              STATUS                      PORTS               NAMES
d43d0bbfbd25        ubuntu              "/bin/bash"         About a minute ago   Exited (0) 18 seconds ago                       friendly_volhard
0740844d024c        hello-world         "/hello"            2 minutes ago        Exited (0) 2 minutes ago                        elegant_neumann

To see the container that was created the last, pass it the -l switch:

$ docker ps -l
CONTAINER ID        IMAGE               COMMAND             CREATED              STATUS                      PORTS               NAMES
d43d0bbfbd25        ubuntu              "/bin/bash"         About a minute ago   Exited (0) 34 seconds ago                       friendly_volhard

Use docker start to start a stopped container. The command should be followed by the container’s name or the container ID. See how to start the Ubuntu-based container with the ID d9b100f2f636:

$ docker start d43d0bbfbd25

This way, you will start the container. View its status with docker ps:

CONTAINER ID        IMAGE               COMMAND             CREATED              STATUS              PORTS               NAMES
d43d0bbfbd25        ubuntu              "/bin/bash"         About a minute ago   Up 7 seconds                            friendly_volhard

Type docker stop and follow it by the container name or ID.  In our example, we will apply the name that was assigned to the container by Docker, which is friendly_volhard:

$ docker stop friendly_volhard

If you do not need a container anymore, use the docker rm command to remove it. Remember to follow it with the container name or ID. The docker ps -a command will help you find the container ID or name for the container associated with the hello-world image.

$ docker rm elegant_neumann

To can start a new container and name it, use the --name switchYou can create a container that will be self-removed when stopped. For that, use the --rm switch. To get additional information, use the docker run help command.

You can turn containers into images that can be used to build new containers. See the following section.

Step Seven — Making Changes in a Container to a Docker Image

In a Docker image, you can make different manipulations such as creating, modifying, and deleting files exactly as you can do with a virtual machine. What is noteworthy is that the changes made inside the image will only apply to that container. You can start and stop it, but if you use the docker rm command, you will destroy it along with the changes made.

In this section, you will learn how to save the state of a container as a new Docker image.

Having installed Node.js in the Ubuntu container, your container runs off an image. However, this container differs from the image that was used to create it. You can reuse this Node.js container as the basis for new images later.

Then use the command provided below to implement the changes to a new Docker image instance:

$ docker commit -m "What you did to the image" -a "Author Name" container_id repository/new_image_name

The -m switch stands for the commit message, which informs about the changes made, and -a  specifies the author. The container_id is the one that was noted earlier when starting the interactive Docker session. If you have not created additional repositories on Docker Hub, the repository will be your Docker Hub username.

For Instance, for the user sammy, which has the container ID d9b100f2f636, you should use the command:

$ docker commit -m "added Node.js" -a "sammy" d43d0bbfbd25 sammy/ubuntu-nodejs

When you commit an image, it is saved on your computer locally. The tutorial will show you how to push an image to a Docker registry like Docker Hub to provide access to it to others.

Type the command below to see the listing of the Docker images. It will show the new and the old images:

$ docker images

The output like below will be returned:

REPOSITORY            TAG                 IMAGE ID            CREATED             SIZE
sammy/ubuntu-nodejs   latest              d441c62350b4        9 seconds ago      152MB
ubuntu                latest              4c108a37151f        1 weeks ago         64.2MB
hello-world           latest              fce289e99eb9        5 months ago        1.84kB

As you can see from the example, ubuntu-nodejs is the new image. It was derived from the ubuntu image that already existed at Docker Hub . The size difference shows the changes made. In this case, the change means the installation of NodeJS. Therefore, if you need to run a container using Ubuntu with NodeJS pre-installed, use the new image.

Also, you can build Images from a Dockerfile. It helps to automate software installation in a new image. This tutorial does not cover this question.

See the section below to find out how to make the image available to others.

Step Eight — Pushing Docker Images to a Docker Repository

To share the created image with others,namely to push an image to Docker Hub or any other registry of Docker, you must have an account there.

First of all, log into Docker Hub to be able to push your image:

$ docker login -u docker-registry-username

After that, you will see the prompt that will ask you to authenticate with your Docker Hub password. With the correct password in place, authentication will succeed.

Important: If your Docker registry username differs from the local username that was used to create the image, tag your image with your registry username. Based on data in the example discussed in the previous section, type:

$ docker tag sammy/ubuntu-nodejs docker-registry-username/ubuntu-nodejs

Then use the command below to push your own image:

$ docker push docker-registry-username/docker-image-name

In order to push the ubuntu-nodejs image to the sammy repository, type the following command:

$ docker push sammy/ubuntu-nodejs

You might need to wait until  it uploads the images, and return the output like this:

The push refers to a repository []
e3fbbfb44187: Pushed
5f70bf18a086: Pushed
a3b5c80a4eba: Pushed
7f18b442972b: Pushed
3ce512daaf78: Pushed
7aae4540b42d: Pushed


 An image that was pushed to a registry, should be listed on the dashboard of your account. It should look like the image below.

New Docker image listing on Docker Hub

If a push attempt returns an error like this, you might not have logged in:

The push refers to a repository []
e3fbbfb44187: Preparing
5f70bf18a086: Preparing
a3b5c80a4eba: Preparing
7f18b442972b: Preparing
3ce512daaf78: Preparing
7aae4540b42d: Waiting
unauthorized: authentication required

Thus, you need to log in using docker login and try to push the image again. After that, check if it exists on your Docker Hub repository page.

docker pull sammy/ubuntu-nodejs command will pull the image to a new machine. The image will be used to run a new container.



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