Need help with linuxkit?
Click the “chat” button below for chat support from the developer who created it, or find similar developers for support.

About the developer

7.1K Stars 916 Forks Apache License 2.0 7.8K Commits 304 Opened issues


A toolkit for building secure, portable and lean operating systems for containers

Services available


Need anything else?

Contributors list



LinuxKit, a toolkit for building custom minimal, immutable Linux distributions.

  • Secure defaults without compromising usability
  • Everything is replaceable and customisable
  • Immutable infrastructure applied to building Linux distributions
  • Completely stateless, but persistent storage can be attached
  • Easy tooling, with easy iteration
  • Built with containers, for running containers
  • Designed to create reproducible builds [WIP]
  • Designed for building and running clustered applications, including but not limited to container orchestration such as Docker or Kubernetes
  • Designed from the experience of building Docker Editions, but redesigned as a general-purpose toolkit
  • Designed to be managed by external tooling, such as Infrakit (renamed to deploykit which has been archived in 2019) or similar tools
  • Includes a set of longer-term collaborative projects in various stages of development to innovate on kernel and userspace changes, particularly around security

LinuxKit currently supports the

, and
architectures on a variety of platforms, both as virtual machines and baremetal (see below for details).


  • LinuxKit kubernetes aims to build minimal and immutable Kubernetes images. (previously
    in this repository).
  • LinuxKit LCOW LinuxKit images and utilities for Microsoft's Linux Containers on Windows.
  • linux A copy of the Linux stable tree with branches LinuxKit kernels.
  • virtsock A
    library and test utilities for
    and Hyper-V sockets.
  • rtf A regression test framework used for the LinuxKit CI tests (and other projects).
  • homebrew Homebrew packages for the

Getting Started

Build the

LinuxKit uses the

tool for building, pushing and running VM images.

Simple build instructions: use

to build. This will build the tool in
. Add this to your
or copy it to somewhere in your
sudo cp bin/* /usr/local/bin/
. Or you can use
sudo make install

If you already have

installed you can use
go install[email protected]
to install the

On MacOS there is a

brew tap
available. Detailed instructions are at linuxkit/homebrew-linuxkit, the short summary is
brew tap linuxkit/linuxkit
brew install --HEAD linuxkit

Build requirements from source using a container - GNU

- Docker - optionally

For a local build using

make local
go get -u
go get -u

Building images

Once you have built the tool, use

linuxkit build linuxkit.yml

to build the example configuration. You can also specify different output formats, eg

linuxkit build -format raw-bios linuxkit.yml
to output a raw BIOS bootable disk image, or
linuxkit build -format iso-efi linuxkit.yml
to output an EFI bootable ISO image. See
linuxkit build -help
for more information.

Booting and Testing

You can use

linuxkit run 
linuxkit run .
to execute the image you created with
linuxkit build .yml
. This will use a suitable backend for your platform or you can choose one, for example VMWare. See
linuxkit run --help

Currently supported platforms are: - Local hypervisors - HyperKit (macOS)

- Hyper-V (Windows)
- qemu (macOS, Linux, Windows)
[x86_64, arm64, s390x]
- VMware (macOS, Windows)
- Cloud based platforms: - Amazon Web Services
- Google Cloud
- Microsoft Azure
- OpenStack
- Scaleway
- Baremetal: -
[x86_64, arm64]
- Raspberry Pi Model 3b

Running the Tests

The test suite uses

To install this you should use

make bin/rtf && make install
. You will also need to install
on your system as some tests use it.

To run the test suite:

cd test
rtf -v run -x

This will run the tests and put the results in a the


Run control is handled using labels and with pattern matching. To run add a label you may use:

rtf -v -l slow run -x

To run tests that match the pattern

you would use the following command:
rtf -v run -x linuxkit.examples

Building your own customised image

To customise, copy or modify the

to your own

or use one of the examples and then run
linuxkit build file.yml
to generate its specified output. You can run the output with
linuxkit run file

The yaml file specifies a kernel and base init system, a set of containers that are built into the generated image and started at boot time. You can specify the type of artifact to build eg

linuxkit build -format vhd linuxkit.yml

If you want to build your own packages, see this document.

Yaml Specification

The yaml format specifies the image to be built:

  • kernel
    specifies a kernel Docker image, containing a kernel and a filesystem tarball, eg containing modules. The example kernels are built from
  • init
    is the base
    process Docker image, which is unpacked as the base system, containing
    and a few tools. Built from
  • onboot
    are the system containers, executed sequentially in order. They should terminate quickly when done.
  • services
    is the system services, which normally run for the whole time the system is up
  • files
    are additional files to add to the image

For a more detailed overview of the options see yaml documentation

Architecture and security

There is an overview of the architecture covering how the system works.

There is an overview of the security considerations and direction covering the security design of the system.


This project was extensively reworked from the code we are shipping in Docker Editions, and the result is not yet production quality. The plan is to return to production quality during Q3 2017, and rebase the Docker Editions on this open source project during this quarter. We plan to start making stable releases on this timescale.

This is an open project without fixed judgements, open to the community to set the direction. The guiding principles are: - Security informs design - Infrastructure as code: immutable, manageable with code - Sensible, secure, and well-tested defaults - An open, pluggable platform for diverse use cases - Easy to use and participate in the project - Built with containers, for portability and reproducibility - Run with system containers, for isolation and extensibility - A base for robust products

Development reports

There are monthly development reports summarising the work carried out each month.


We maintain an incomplete list of adopters. Please open a PR if you are using LinuxKit in production or in your project, or both.


See FAQ.

Released under the Apache 2.0 license.

We use cookies. If you continue to browse the site, you agree to the use of cookies. For more information on our use of cookies please see our Privacy Policy.