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This HOWTO page describes how to checkpoint and restore a Docker container.

Note.svg Note: This page was originally written a few months ago. Since then, interfacing with CRIU has been added to Docker's native exec driver (libcontainer) and pull requests to add checkpoint/restore functionality to Docker have been submitted. If you just want to experiment with C/R, you can use one of the following Docker versions for your C/R experiments:

Docker 1.5 [1] Docker 1.7 [2]

Note.svg Note: The OverlayFS filesystem was merged into the upstream Linux kernel 3.18 and is now Docker's preferred filesystem (instead of AUFS). However, there is a bug in OverlayFS that reports the wrong mnt_id in /proc/<pid>/fdinfo/<fd> and the wrong symlink target path for /proc/<pid>/<fd>. Fortunately, these bugs have been fixed in the kernel v4.2-rc2. See below for instructions on how to apply the relevant patches.
Note.svg Note: If your process uses async IO and your kernel is older than 3.19, you need to apply two patches. See below for instructions.


There are two ways to checkpoint and restore a Docker container:

1. External C/R using CRIU directly on the command line as it's typically done for any process tree.

This approach is called external because it's happening external to the Docker daemon. After checkpoint, the Docker daemon thinks that the container has exited. After restore, the Docker daemon doesn't know that the container is running again. Therefore, commands such as docker ps, stop, kill and logs will not work correctly.

2. Native C/R using new docker checkpoint and docker restore commands.

This approach is called native because the Docker daemon is involved in both checkpoint and restore. Therefore, its notion of the container state will be corrent. All commands such as docker ps, stop, kill and logs will work. This is obviously the preferred method of checkpointing and restoring Docker containers.

Native C/R is work in progress, say pre-alpha quality. You can watch this short demo video to see how it works. Source files for Docker 1.5 C/R are here and for Docker 1.7 C/R are here. The wiki page provides an overview of the project history.


The following small kernel patches fix the mount id and symlink target path issues noted above:

Assuming that you are running Ubuntu Vivid (Linux kernel 3.19), here is how you can patch your kernel:

git clone  git://
cd ubuntu-vivid
git remote add torvalds  git://
git remote update

git cherry-pick 155e35d4da
git cherry-pick df1a085af1
git cherry-pick f25801ee46
git cherry-pick 4bacc9c923
git cherry-pick 9391dd00d1

cp /boot/config-$(uname -r) .config
make olddefconfig
make -j 8 bzImage modules
sudo make install modules_install
sudo reboot

Async IO (AIO)

If you are using a kernel older than 3.19 and your container uses AIO, you need the following AIO kernel patches from 3.19:

External C/R

Note.svg Note: External C/R was done as proof-of-concept. Its use is discouraged and the helper script mentioned below will be deprecated in the near future.

Starting with CRIU 1.3, it is possible to checkpoint and restore a process tree running inside a Docker container. However, it's important to note that Docker needs native support for checkpoint and restore in order to maintain its parent-child relationship and to correctly keep track of container states. In other words, while CRIU can C/R a process tree, the restored tree will not become a child of Docker and, from Docker's point of view, the container's state will remain "Exited" (even after successful restore).

It's important to re-emphasize that by checkpointing and restoring a Docker container, we mean C/R of a process tree running inside a container, excluding the Docker daemon itself. As CRIU currently does not support nested PID namespaces, the C/R process tree cannot include the Docker daemon which runs in the global PID namespace.

Command Line Options

In addition to the usual CRIU command line options used when checkpointing and restoring a process tree, the following command line options are needed for Docker containers.


This option has been used in the past only for restore operations that wanted to change the root of the mount namespace. It was not used for checkpoint operations.

However, because Docker by default uses the AUFS graph driver and the AUFS module in the kernel reveals branch pathnames in /proc/pid/map_files, option --root is used to specify the root of the mount namespace. Once the kernel AUFS module is fixed, it won't be necessary to specify this option anymore.


This option is used to specify the path of the external bind mounts. Docker sets up /etc/{hostname,hosts,resolv.conf} as targets with source files outside the container's mount namespace. Older versions of Docker also bind mount /.dockerinit.

For example, assuming the default Docker configuration, /etc/hostname in the container's mount namespace is bind mounted from the source at /var/lib/docker/containers/container_id/hostname.


When a process tree exits after a checkpoint operation, the cgroups that Docker had created for the container are removed. This option is needed during restore to move the process tree into its cgroups, re-creating them if necessary.


Docker bind mounts /dev/null on /dev/stdin for detached containers (i.e., docker run -d ...). Since earlier versions of Docker used /dev/null in the global namespace, this option tells CRIU to treat the global /dev/null and the container /dev/null as the same device.


For native C/R support, this option tells CRIU to let the restored process "inherit" its specified file descriptor (instead of restoring from checkpoint).

Restore Prework for External C/R

Docker supports many storage drivers (AKA graph drivers) including AUFS, Btrfs, ZFS, DeviceMapper, OverlayFS, and VFS. The user can specify his/her desired storage driver via the DOCKER_DRIVER environment variable or the -s (--storage-driver) command line option.

Currently C/R can only be done on containers using either AUFS, OverlayFS, or VFS. In the following example, we assume AUFS.

When Docker notices that the container has exited (due to CRIU dump), it dismantles the container's filesystem. We need to set up the container's filesystem again before attempting to restore.

An External C/R Example

Below is an example to show C/R operations for a shell script that continuously appends a number to a file. You can use tail -f to see the process in action.

As you will see below, after restore, the process's parent is PID 1 (init), not Docker. Also, although the process has been successfully restored, Docker still thinks that the container has exited.

To set up the container's AUFS filesystem before restore, its branch information should be saved before checkpointing the container. For convenience, however, AUFS branch information is saved in the dump.log file. So we can examine dump.log to set up the filesystem again.

For brevity, the 64-character long container ID is replaced by the string <container_id> in the following lines.

$ docker run -d busybox:latest /bin/sh -c 'i=0; while true; do echo $i >> /foo; i=$(expr $i + 1); sleep 3; done'
$ docker ps
168aefb8881b  busybox:latest  "/bin/sh -c 'i=0; 6 seconds ago  Up 4 seconds
$ sudo criu dump -o dump.log -v4 -t 17810 \
	-D /tmp/img/<container_id> \
	--root /var/lib/docker/aufs/mnt/<container_id> \
	--ext-mount-map /etc/resolv.conf:/etc/resolv.conf \
	--ext-mount-map /etc/hosts:/etc/hosts \
	--ext-mount-map /etc/hostname:/etc/hostname \
	--ext-mount-map /.dockerinit:/.dockerinit \
	--manage-cgroups \
$ sudo grep successful /tmp/img/<container_id>/dump.log
(00.020103) Dumping finished successfully
$ docker ps -a
168aefb8881b  busybox:latest  "/bin/sh -c 'i=0; 6 minutes ago  Exited (-1) 4 minutes ago
$ sudo mount -t aufs -o br=\
none /var/lib/docker/aufs/mnt/<container_id>
$ sudo criu restore -o restore.log -v4 -d
	-D /tmp/img/<container_id> \
	--root /var/lib/docker/aufs/mnt/<container_id> \
	--ext-mount-map /etc/resolv.conf:/var/lib/docker/containers/<container_id>/resolv.conf \
	--ext-mount-map /etc/hosts:/var/lib/docker/containers/<container_id>/hosts \
	--ext-mount-map /etc/hostname:/var/lib/docker/containers/<container_id>/hostname \
	--ext-mount-map /.dockerinit:/var/lib/docker/init/dockerinit-1.0.0 \
	--manage-cgroups \
$ sudo grep successful /tmp/img/<container_id>/restore.log
(00.424428) Restore finished successfully. Resuming tasks.
$ ps -ef | grep /bin/sh
root     18580     1  0 12:38 ?        00:00:00 /bin/sh -c i=0; while true; do echo $i >> /foo; i=$(expr $i + 1); sleep 3; done
$ docker ps -a
168aefb8881b  busybox:latest  "/bin/sh -c 'i=0; 7 minutes ago  Exited (-1) 5 minutes ago

External C/R Helper Script

As seen in the above examples, the CRIU command line for checkpointing and restoring a Docker container is pretty long. For restore, there is also an additional step to set up the root filesystem before invoking CRIU.

To automate the C/R process, there is a helper script in the contrib subdirectory of CRIU sources, called In addition to invoking CRIU, this helper script sets up the root filesystem for AUFS, UnionFS, and VFS for restore.

With, all you have to provide is the container ID. If you don't specify a container ID, will list all running containers and prompt you to choose one. Also, as shown in the help output below, by setting the appropriate environment variable, it's possible to tell which Docker and CRIU binaries to use, where Docker's home directory is, and where CRIU should save and look for its image files.

# --help
Usage: -c|-r [-hv] [<container_id>]
	-c, --checkpoint	checkpoint container
	-h, --help		print help message
	-r, --restore		restore container
	-v, --verbose		enable verbose mode

	DOCKER_HOME		(default /var/lib/docker)
	CRIU_IMG_DIR		(default /var/lib/docker/criu_img)
	DOCKER_BINARY		(default docker)
	CRIU_BINARY		(default criu)

Below is an example to checkpoint and restore Docker container 4397:

# -c 4397
dump successful
# -r 4397
restore successful

Optionally, you can specify -v to see the commands that executes. For example:

# -c -v 40d3
docker binary: docker
criu binary: criu
image directory: /var/lib/docker/criu_img/40d363f564e00a2f893579fa012a200e475dcf8df47f2a22b7dd0860ffc3d7bf
container root directory: /var/lib/docker/aufs/mnt/40d363f564e00a2f893579fa012a200e475dcf8df47f2a22b7dd0860ffc3d7bf

criu dump -v4 -D /var/lib/docker/criu_img/40d363f564e00a2f893579fa012a200e475dcf8df47f2a22b7dd0860ffc3d7bf -o dump.log \
     --manage-cgroups --evasive-devices \
     --ext-mount-map /etc/resolv.conf:/etc/resolv.conf \
     --ext-mount-map /etc/hosts:/etc/hosts \
     --ext-mount-map /etc/hostname:/etc/hostname \
     --ext-mount-map /.dockerinit:/.dockerinit \
     -t 5991 --root /var/lib/docker/aufs/mnt/40d363f564e00a2f893579fa012a200e475dcf8df47f2a22b7dd0860ffc3d7bf

dump successful
(00.020827) Dumping finished successfully

# -r -v 40d3
docker binary: docker
criu binary: criu
image directory: /var/lib/docker/criu_img/40d363f564e00a2f893579fa012a200e475dcf8df47f2a22b7dd0860ffc3d7bf
container root directory: /var/lib/docker/aufs/mnt/40d363f564e00a2f893579fa012a200e475dcf8df47f2a22b7dd0860ffc3d7bf

mount -t aufs -o

criu restore -v4 -D /var/lib/docker/criu_img/40d363f564e00a2f893579fa012a200e475dcf8df47f2a22b7dd0860ffc3d7bf \
     -o restore.log --manage-cgroups --evasive-devices \
     --ext-mount-map /etc/resolv.conf:/var/lib/docker/containers/40d363f564e00a2f893579fa012a200e475dcf8df47f2a22b7dd0860ffc3d7bf/resolv.conf \
     --ext-mount-map /etc/hosts:/var/lib/docker/containers/40d363f564e00a2f893579fa012a200e475dcf8df47f2a22b7dd0860ffc3d7bf/hosts \
     --ext-mount-map /etc/hostname:/var/lib/docker/containers/40d363f564e00a2f893579fa012a200e475dcf8df47f2a22b7dd0860ffc3d7bf/hostname \
     --ext-mount-map /.dockerinit:/var/lib/docker/init/dockerinit-1.0.0 \
     -d --root /var/lib/docker/aufs/mnt/40d363f564e00a2f893579fa012a200e475dcf8df47f2a22b7dd0860ffc3d7bf \
     --pidfile /var/lib/docker/criu_img/40d363f564e00a2f893579fa012a200e475dcf8df47f2a22b7dd0860ffc3d7bf/

restore successful
(00.408807) Restore finished successfully. Resuming tasks.

root      6206     1  1 10:49 ?        00:00:00 /bin/sh -c i=0; while true; do echo $i >> /foo; i=$(expr $i + 1); sleep 3; done