Useful tips

Launch a distrobox from you applications list

Starting from distrobox 1.4.0, containers created will automatically generate a desktop entry. For containers generated with older versions, you can use:

distrobox generate-entry you-container-name

To delete it:

distrobox generate-entry you-container-name --delete

Create a distrobox with a custom HOME directory

distrobox create supports the use of the --home flag, as specified in the usage HERE

Simply use:

distrobox create --name test --image your-chosen-image:tag --home /your/custom/home

Mount additional volumes in a distrobox

distrobox create supports the use of the --volume flag, as specified in the usage HERE

Simply use:

distrobox create --name test --image your-chosen-image:tag --volume /your/custom/volume/path

Use a different shell than the host

From version 1.4.0, distrobox enter will execute the login shell of the container’s user by default. So, just change the default shell in the container using:

chsh -s /bin/shell-to-use

exit and log back in the container.

For version older than 1.4.0, distrobox will pick up the shell from the host and use it inside the container. If you want a different one you can use:

SHELL=/bin/zsh distrobox create -n test
SHELL=/bin/zsh distrobox enter test

Run the container with real root

When using podman, distrobox will prefer to use rootless containers. In this mode the root user inside the container is not the real root user of the host. But it still has the same privileges as your normal $USER.

But what if you really really need those root privileges even inside the container?

Running sudo distrobox is not supported, instead, it is better to simply use normal command with the --root or -r flag, so that distrobox can still integrate better with your $USER.

:~$ distrobox create --name test --image your-chosen-image:tag --root

Another use case, what if you want or need to run distrobox with the root user, in a login shell?

Before the 1.4.3 release, it wasn’t possible. We couldn’t make a distinction between someone running distrobox via sudo from someone logged in as the root user in a shell. Now things are as easy as it would be if you were creating a rootless container:

:~# distrobox create --name your-container --pull --image your-chosen-image:tag`


:~# distrobox enter your-container`

We trust you already know the implications of running distrobox, as well as anything else, with the root user and that with great power comes great responsibilities.

Run Debian/Ubuntu container behind proxy

It might be that you’re trying to set-up your distrobox, but you’re stuck behind a proxy. A simple solution can be crafted using pre-init-hooks

t="echo 'Acquire::http::Proxy \\\""${proxy}"\\\";' > /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/proxy.conf; echo 'Acquire::https::Proxy \\\""${proxy}"\\\";' >> /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/proxy.conf;"
http_proxy="${proxy}" distrobox create --image debian --name deb --pre-init-hooks "${t}"

This way, we’re configuring apt before using it.

Using a command other than sudo to run a rootful container

When using the --root option with Distrobox, internally, it uses sudo to be able to interact with the rootful container through podman/docker, which will prompt for a valid root password on the terminal. However, some users might prefer to use a command other than sudo in order to authenticate as root; for example, pkexec could be used to display a graphical authentication prompt. If you need this, make sure to specify the desired command through the DBX_SUDO_PROGRAM environment variable (supported by most distrobox subcommands), alongside --root. Sample usage:

DBX_SUDO_PROGRAM="pkexec" distrobox create --name test --image your-chosen-image:tag --root

Additionally, you may also have any further distrobox commands use pkexec (for example) for rootful containers by appending the line distrobox_sudo_program="pkexec" (replace pkexec with the desired program) to one of the config file paths that distrobox supports; for example, to ‘~/.distroboxrc’.

It is also worth noting that, if your sudo program does not have persistence (i.e., cooldown before asking for the root password again after a successful authentication) configured, then you may have to enter the root password multiple times, as distrobox calls multiple podman/docker commands under the hood. In order to avoid this, it is recommended to either configure your sudo program to be persistent, or, if that’s not feasible, use sudo whenever possible (which has persistence enabled by default).

However, if you’d like to have a graphical authentication prompt, but would also like to benefit from sudo’s persistence (to avoid prompting for a password multiple times in a row), you may specify sudo --askpass as the sudo program. The --askpass option makes sudo launch the program in the path (or name, if it is in $PATH) specified by the SUDO_ASKPASS environment variable, and uses its output (to stdout) as the password input to authenticate as root. If unsuccessful, it launches the program again, until either it outputs the correct password, the user cancels the operation, or a limit of amount of authentication attempts is reached.

So, for example, assume you’d like to use zenity --password to prompt for the sudo password. You may save a script, e.g. my-password-prompt, to somewhere in your machine - say, to ~/.local/bin/my-password-prompt - with the following contents:

zenity --password

Make it executable using, for example, chmod (in the example, by running chmod +x ~/.local/bin/my-password-prompt - replace with the path to your script). Afterwards, make sure SUDO_ASKPASS is set to your newly-created script’s path, and also ensure DBX_SUDO_PROGRAM is set to sudo --askpass, and you should be good to go. For example, running the below command should only prompt the root authentication GUI once throughout the whole process:

SUDO_ASKPASS="$HOME/.local/bin/my-password-prompt" DBX_SUDO_PROGRAM="sudo --askpass" distrobox-ephemeral -r

You may make these options persist by specifying those environment variables in your shell’s rc file (such as ~/.bashrc). Note that this will also work if distrobox_sudo_program="sudo --askpass" is specified in one of distrobox’s config files (such as ~/.distroboxrc), alongside export SUDO_ASKPASS="/path/to/password/prompt/program" (for example - however, this last line is usually better suited to your shell’s rc file).

Duplicate an existing distrobox

It can be useful to just duplicate an already set up environment, to do this, distrobox create supports the use of the --clone flag, as specified in the usage HERE

Simply use:

distrobox create --name test --clone name-of-distrobox-to-clone

Export to the host

Distrobox supports exporting to the host either binaries or applications. Head over the usage page to have an explanation and examples.

Execute commands on the host

You can check this little post about executing commands on the host.

Resolve “Error cannot open display: :0”

If your container is not able to connect to your host xserver, make sure to install xhost on the host machine and run xhost +si:localuser:$USER. If you wish to enable this functionality on future reboots add the above command to your ~/.distroboxrc

-$ cat ~/.distroboxrc
xhost +si:localuser:$USER`

Enable SSH X-Forwarding when SSH-ing in a distrobox

SSH X-forwarding by default will not work because the container hostname is different from the host’s one. You can create a distrobox with will have the same hostname as the host by creating it with the following init-hook:

distrobox create --name test --image your-chosen-image:tag \
                  --init-hooks '"$(uname -n)" > /etc/hostname'`

This will ensure SSH X-Forwarding will work when SSH-ing inside the distrobox:

ssh -X myhost distrobox enter test -- xclock

Using init system inside a distrobox

You can use an init system inside the container. You can either use supported pre-created images, or have to add additional packages.

Example of such images are:

You can use such feature using:

distrobox create -i --init --name test

If you want to use a non-pre-create image, you’ll need to add the additional package:

distrobox create -i alpine:latest --init --additional-packages "openrc" -n test
distrobox create -i debian:stable --init --additional-packages "systemd libpam-systemd" -n test
distrobox create -i ubuntu:22.04 --init --additional-packages "systemd libpam-systemd" -n test
distrobox create -i archlinux:latest --init --additional-packages "systemd" -n test
distrobox create -i --init --additional-packages "systemd" -n test
distrobox create -i --init --additional-packages "systemd" -n test

Note however that in this mode, you’ll not be able to access host’s processes from within the container.


Systemd running on openSUSE image

OpenRC running on Alpine Linux image

Example use:

~$ distrobox create -i --init --name test

user@test:~$ sudo systemctl enable --now sshd

user@test:~$ sudo systemctl status sshd
    ● sshd.service - OpenSSH server daemon
       Loaded: loaded (sshd.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled)
       Active: active (running) since Fri 2022-01-28 22:54:50 CET; 17s ago
         Docs: man:sshd(8)
     Main PID: 291 (sshd)

Using Docker inside a Distrobox

You may want to run a separate instance of docker inside your container. In order to do this, create a container with an init system using a podman rootful container or using docker using the unshare-all flag


distrobox create --root \
  --image \
  --additional-packages "systemd docker" \
  --init \

Inside the container:

luca-linux@tumbleweed:~$ sudo systemctl enable --now docker
luca-linux@tumbleweed:~$ sudo systemctl status docker
● docker.service - Docker Application Container Engine
     Loaded: loaded (/usr/lib/systemd/system/docker.service; enabled; preset: disabled)
     Active: active (running) since Sat 2023-08-26 19:21:34 UTC; 3min 47s ago
   Main PID: 1924 (dockerd)
        CPU: 1.268s
     CGroup: /system.slice/docker-b63c525a32a313837146cfb00ed09c151eabd3137ad62779f47d3924c92f7b16.scope/system.slice/docker.service
             ├─1924 /usr/bin/dockerd --add-runtime oci=/usr/sbin/docker-runc
             └─1942 containerd --config /var/run/docker/containerd/containerd.toml --log-level warn

Aug 26 19:21:31 tumbleweed.localhost dockerd[1924]: time="2023-08-26T19:21:31.188589166Z" level=error msg="failed to mount overlay: invalid argument" storage-driver=overlay2
Aug 26 19:21:31 tumbleweed.localhost dockerd[1924]: time="2023-08-26T19:21:31.391206840Z" level=warning msg="WARNING: No swap limit support"
Aug 26 19:22:54 tumbleweed.localhost dockerd[1942]: time="2023-08-26T19:22:54.385157019Z" level=info msg="loading plugin \"io.containerd.event.v1.publisher\"..." runtime=io.containerd.runc.v2 type=io.containerd.event.v1
Aug 26 19:22:54 tumbleweed.localhost dockerd[1942]: time="2023-08-26T19:22:54.385241039Z" level=info msg="loading plugin \"io.containerd.internal.v1.shutdown\"..." runtime=io.containerd.runc.v2 type=io.containerd.internal.v1
Aug 26 19:22:54 tumbleweed.localhost dockerd[1942]: time="2023-08-26T19:22:54.385250887Z" level=info msg="loading plugin \"io.containerd.ttrpc.v1.task\"..." runtime=io.containerd.runc.v2 type=io.containerd.ttrpc.v1
Aug 26 19:22:54 tumbleweed.localhost dockerd[1942]: time="2023-08-26T19:22:54.385411802Z" level=info msg="starting signal loop" namespace=moby path=/run/docker/containerd/daemon/io.containerd.runtime.v2.task/moby/bd4cb19537b4c39131b084e04>
Aug 26 19:23:16 tumbleweed.localhost dockerd[1942]: time="2023-08-26T19:23:16.575589748Z" level=error msg="failed to enable controllers ([cpuset cpu io memory hugetlb pids rdma misc])" error="failed to write subtree controllers [cpuset cp>
Aug 26 19:23:16 tumbleweed.localhost dockerd[1942]: time="2023-08-26T19:23:16.575764283Z" level=warning msg="error from *cgroupsv2.Manager.EventChan" error="failed to add inotify watch for \"/sys/fs/cgroup/system.slice/docker-b63c525a32a3>
Aug 26 19:23:44 tumbleweed.localhost dockerd[1942]: time="2023-08-26T19:23:44.744144975Z" level=warning msg="cleaning up after shim disconnected" id=bd4cb19537b4c39131b084e04c354712bac71c6d1ced33d6d1d6933ada0507cc namespace=moby
Aug 26 19:23:44 tumbleweed.localhost dockerd[1942]: time="2023-08-26T19:23:44.754027382Z" level=warning msg="cleanup warnings time=\"2023-08-26T19:23:44Z\" level=info msg=\"starting signal loop\" namespace=moby pid=2221 runtime=io.contain>
luca-linux@tumbleweed:~$ sudo docker run --rm -ti alpine
/ # 

Using Podman inside a Distrobox

You may want to run a separate instance of podman inside your container. In order to do this, create a container using the unshare-all flag, the container manager can be anyone of choice.


distrobox create \
  --image \
  --additional-packages "podman crun" \

Inside it install podman, and add suduids for the user:

sudo usermod --add-subuids 10000-65536 $USER
sudo usermod --add-subgids 10000-65536 $USER
cat << EOF > /etc/containers/containers.conf
log_driver = "k8s-file"
cgroup_manager = "cgroupfs"

Then you’ll be able to use both rootful and rootless podman inside the container:

luca-linux@tumbleweed:~> podman run --rm -ti alpine
/ #
luca-linux@tumbleweed:~> sudo podman run --rm -ti alpine
/ #

Using LXC inside a Distrobox

You may want to run an LXC instance inside your container. In order to do this, create a container with an init system using the unshare-all flag, this works with either docker, rootful podman, or rootless podman.


distrobox create --root \
  --image \
  --additional-packages "systemd lxc" \
  --init \

Inside the container we will need to first setup the lxcbr0 network and enable the services:

luca-linux@tumbleweed:~> sudo systemctl enable --now lxc-monitord.service lxc-net.service lxc.service lxcfs.service
Created symlink /etc/systemd/system/ → /usr/lib/systemd/system/lxc-monitord.service.
Created symlink /etc/systemd/system/ → /usr/lib/systemd/system/lxc-net.service.
Created symlink /etc/systemd/system/ → /usr/lib/systemd/system/lxc.service.
Created symlink /etc/systemd/system/ → /usr/lib/systemd/system/lxcfs.service.
luca-linux@tumbleweed:~> ip a
1: lo: <LOOPBACK,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 65536 qdisc noqueue state UNKNOWN group default qlen 1000
    link/loopback 00:00:00:00:00:00 brd 00:00:00:00:00:00
    inet scope host lo
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
    inet6 ::1/128 scope host proto kernel_lo 
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
2: tap0: <BROADCAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 65520 qdisc fq_codel state UNKNOWN group default qlen 1000
    link/ether 02:81:bf:43:1e:65 brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff
    inet brd scope global tap0
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
    inet6 fd00::81:bfff:fe43:1e65/64 scope global dynamic mngtmpaddr proto kernel_ra 
       valid_lft 86309sec preferred_lft 14309sec
    inet6 fe80::81:bfff:fe43:1e65/64 scope link proto kernel_ll 
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
luca-linux@tumbleweed:~> sudo ip link add name lxcbr0 type bridge
luca-linux@tumbleweed:~> sudo ip link set dev lxcbr0 up
luca-linux@tumbleweed:~> sudo ip link set tap0 master lxcbr0
luca-linux@tumbleweed:~> sudo ip address add dev lxcbr0

Then we can proceed with the LXC container creation:

luca-linux@tumbleweed:~> sudo lxc-create -n test-nested-lxc -t download
[ ... ] # Here do the interactive rootfs choice, I'll use alpine:edge amd64

Downloading the image index
Downloading the rootfs
Downloading the metadata
The image cache is now ready
Unpacking the rootfs

You just created an Alpinelinux edge x86_64 (20230826_13:00) container.

luca-linux@tumbleweed:~> sudo lxc-start test-nested-lxc
luca-linux@tumbleweed:~> sudo lxc-attach test-nested-lxc
/ # ps aux
    1 root      0:00 /sbin/init
  266 root      0:00 /sbin/syslogd -t -n
  273 root      0:00 /sbin/openrc default
  293 root      0:00 /usr/sbin/crond -c /etc/crontabs -f
  300 root      0:00 {networking} /sbin/openrc-run /etc/init.d/networking --lockfd 4 start
  301 root      0:00 {} /bin/sh /lib/rc/sh/ /etc/init.d/networking start
  347 root      0:00 ifup -i /etc/network/interfaces eth0
  367 root      0:00 {dhcp} /bin/sh /usr/libexec/ifupdown-ng/dhcp
  372 root      0:00 /sbin/udhcpc -b -R -p /var/run/ -i eth0 -x hostname:test-nested-lxc
  375 root      0:00 /bin/ash
  376 root      0:00 ps aux
/ #

And you have a working LXC inside your Distrobox container.

Using Waydroid inside a Distrobox

Waydroid is a popular solution for running Android applications on Linux using an LXC container. Since these containers run inside a Distrobox, you can also run Waydroid.

Note: Wayland and the binder_linux module are required at the host level. You can install the DKMS from the choff/anbox-modules repository.

Manual Installation

To do this, we need a rootful container with Systemd plus some additional dependencies (tested with Vanilla OS Pico and Debian Sid):

Let’s create a rootful and unshared container as follows:

distrobox create --root \
  --image \
  --additional-packages "systemd libpam-systemd curl kmod dbus-x11 iptables mutter" \
  --init \
  --unshare-all \
  --name waydroid

Once it’s started with distrobox enter --root waydroid, we can proceed with the Waydroid installation from the official repository:

curl --progress-bar --proto '=https' --tlsv1.2 -Sf --output /usr/share/keyrings/waydroid.gpg
echo "deb [signed-by=/usr/share/keyrings/waydroid.gpg] bookworm main" | tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/waydroid.list
sudo apt update
sudo apt install waydroid

Then proceed with its initialization using:

export XDG_RUNTIME_DIR="/run/host/${XDG_RUNTIME_DIR}"
export DBUS_SESSION_BUS_ADDRESS="unix:path=/run/host/$(echo "${DBUS_SESSION_BUS_ADDRESS}" | cut -d '=' -f2-)"

waydroid init

The above environment variables must be present each time the waydroid command is used.

Automated Installation

The Waydroid image from the Vanilla OS Team is designed to streamline the entire setup process. To use it, proceed as follows:

distrobox create --root \
  --image \
  --init \
  --unshare-all \
  --name waydroid

distrobox enter --root waydroid

Once started, Waydroid is automatically executed via Systemd. Check for the process to finish using the systemctl status waydroid-init command, then start using Waydroid with:

ewaydroid --help

Make sure to use the ewaydroid command each time you need to work with Waydroid. This command is a wrapper that sets the proper environment variables to make it work with the host D-Bus.

Using host’s Podman or Docker inside a Distrobox

You can easily control host’s instance of docker or podman, using distrobox-host-exec You can use:

sudo ln -s /usr/bin/distrobox-host-exec /usr/local/bin/podman


sudo ln -s /usr/bin/distrobox-host-exec /usr/local/bin/docker

This will create a podman or docker command inside the distrobox that will transparently execute the command on the host.

Using distrobox as main cli

In case you want (like me) to use your container as the main CLI environment, it comes handy to use gnome-terminal profiles to create a dedicated setup for it:

Screenshot from 2021-12-19 22-29-08

Personally, I just bind Ctrl-Alt-T to the Distrobox profile and Super+Enter to the Host profile.

For other terminals, there are similar features (profiles) or you can set up a dedicated shortcut to launch a terminal directly in the distrobox

Using a different architecture

In case you want to run a container with a different architecture from your host, you can leverage the use of qemu and support from podman/docker.

Install on your host the following dependencies:

Then you can easily run the image you like:

~$ uname -m
~$ distrobox create -i aarch64/fedora -n fedora-arm64
~$ distrobox enter fedora-arm64
user@fedora-arm64:~$ uname -m


Using the GPU inside the container

For Intel and AMD Gpus, the support is backed in, as the containers will install their latest available mesa/dri drivers.

For NVidia, you can use the --nvidia flag during create, see distrobox-create documentation to discover how to use it.

~$ distrobox create --nvidia --name ubuntu-nvidia --image ubuntu:latest

Using nvidia-container-toolkit

Alternatively from the --nvidia flag, you can use NVidia’s own nvidia-container-toolkit. After following the official guide to set nvidia-ctk up you can use it from distrobox doing:

distrobox create --name example-nvidia-toolkit --additional-flags "--runtime=nvidia -e NVIDIA_VISIBLE_DEVICES=all -e NVIDIA_DRIVER_CAPABILITIES=all" --image nvidia/cuda

Slow creation on podman and image size getting bigger with distrobox create

For rootless podman 3.4.0 and upward, adding this to your ~/.config/containers/storage.conf file will improve container creation speed and fix issues with images getting bigger when using rootless containers.

driver = "overlay"

mount_program = "/usr/bin/fuse-overlayfs"

Note that this is necessary only on Kernel version older than 5.11 . From version 5.11 onwards native overlayfs is supported and reports noticeable gains in performance as explained HERE

Permission problems when using VirtualBox

If you have VirtualBox installed on your host, you may encounter some permission problems using rootless Podman:

Error: unable to start container "XYZ": runc: runc create failed: unable to start container process: error during container init: error mounting "/dev/vboxusb/002/005" to rootfs at "/dev/vboxusb/002/005": lstat /..../dev/vboxusb/002: permission denied: OCI permission denied

This is because a rootless container done with runc will not port the host’s groups into the container.

The solution is to install crun from your package manager, and recreate your container.

crun supports the flag


Which will allow porting the host’s group inside the container, thus making it possible for the rootless container to read vbox files.

Container save and restore

To save, export and reuse an already configured container, you can leverage podman save or docker save and podman import or docker import to create snapshots of your environment.

To save a container to an image:

with podman:

podman container commit -p distrobox_name image_name_you_choose
podman save image_name_you_choose:latest | bzip2 >

with docker:

docker container commit -p distrobox_name image_name_you_choose
docker save image_name_you_choose:latest | gzip > image_name_you_choose.tar.gz

This will create a tar.gz of the container of your choice at that exact moment.

Now you can backup that archive or transfer it to another host, and to restore it just run

podman load < image_name_you_choose.tar.bz2


docker load < image_name_you_choose.tar.gz

And create a new container based on that image:

distrobox create --image image_name_you_choose:latest --name distrobox_name
distrobox enter --name distrobox_name

And you’re good to go, now you can reproduce your personal environment everywhere in simple (and scriptable) steps.

Check used resources

podman system df -v or docker system df -v

Pre-installing additional package repositories

On Red Hat Enterprise Linux and its derivatives, the amount of packages in the base repositories is limited, and additional packages need to be brought in by enabling additional repositories such as EPEL.

You can use --init-hooks to automate this, but this does not solve the issue for package installations done during initialization itself, e.g. if the shell you use on the host is not available in the default repos (e.g. fish).

Use the pre-initialization hooks for this:

distrobox create -i --init --name test --pre-init-hooks "dnf -y install dnf-plugins-core && dnf config-manager --enable powertools && dnf -y install epel-release"
distrobox create -i -n alma9 --pre-init-hooks "dnf -y install dnf-plugins-core && dnf config-manager --enable crb && dnf -y install epel-release"
distrobox create -i c9s --pre-init-hooks "dnf -y install dnf-plugins-core && dnf config-manager --enable crb && dnf -y install epel-next-release"

Apply resource limitation on the fly

Podman has --cpuset-cpus and --memory flags to apply limitation on how much resources a container can use. However, these flags only work during container creation (podman create / podman run) and not after it’s created (podman exec, which is used by Distrobox to execute commands inside of container), which means changing resource limitation requires recreation of a container.

Nonetheless you can still apply resource limitation using systemd’s resource control functionality. It’s not recommended to pass resource limitation arguments (e.g. --cpuset-cpus and --memory) to distrobox create --additional-flags as systemd already provides much more flexible resource control functionality.

To list all distroboxes and their full IDs:

podman ps --all --no-trunc --format "  " | grep "manager:distrobox" | cut -d " " -f1,2 | column -t

To check your container status with systemctl:

systemctl --user status libpod-$UUID.scope

Everything provided by systemd.resource-control could be applied to your distrobox. For example:

To make your distrobox only run on CPU0 and CPU1:

systemctl --user set-property libpod-$UUID.scope AllowedCPUs=0,1

To hard throttle your distrobox to not use above 20% of CPU:

systemctl --user set-property libpod-$UUID.scope CPUQuota=20%

To limit your distrobox’s maximum amount of memory:

systemctl --user set-property libpod-$UUID.scope MemoryMax=2G

To give your distrobox less IO bandwidth when IO is overloaded:

systemctl --user set-property libpod-$UUID.scope IOWeight=1

To see all applicable properties:

man systemd.resource-control

Changes are transient, meaning you lose the resource limitation properties when distrobox is stopped and restarted.

To make certain changes persistent, first check the currently active properties:

systemctl --user status libpod-$UUID.scope

Look for the Drop-In lines. Something like this should be shown:

    Drop-In: /run/user/1000/systemd/transient/libpod-45ae38d61c9a636230b2ba89ea07792d662e01cd9ee38d04feb0a994b039a271.scope.d

Move the transient overrides to persistent overrides:

mkdir -p ~/.config/systemd/user/libpod-$UUID.scope.d
mv --target-directory="$HOME/.config/systemd/user/libpod-$UUID.scope.d" \
  "/run/user/$(id -u)/systemd/transient/libpod-$UUID.scope.d/50-AllowedCPUs.conf"

Then reload systemd daemon to apply the changes:

systemctl --user daemon-reload