Multi-platform images

A multi-platform image refers to a single image that includes variants for multiple different architectures and, in some cases, different operating systems, like Windows. This means that whether you are using an ARM-based system or an x86 machine, Docker automatically detects and selects the appropriate variant for your hosts's operating system and architecture.

Many of the Docker Official Images available on Docker Hub support various architectures. For instance, the busybox image includes support for these platforms:

  • x86-64 (linux/amd64, linux/i386)
  • ARM architectures (linux/arm/v5, linux/arm/v6, linux/arm/v7, linux/arm64)
  • PowerPC and IBM Z (linux/ppc64le, linux/s390x)

On an x86 machine, Docker will automatically use the linux/amd64 variant when you run a container or invoke a build.

Most Docker images use the linux/ OS prefix to indicate they are Linux-based. While Docker Desktop on macOS or Windows typically runs Linux containers using a Linux VM, Docker also supports Windows containers if you're operating in Windows container mode.

Building multi-platform images

When triggering a build, use the --platform flag to define the target platforms for the build output, such as linux/amd64 and linux/arm64:

$ docker build --platform linux/amd64,linux/arm64 .

By default, Docker can build for only one platform at a time. To build for multiple platforms concurrently, you can:

  • Enable the containerd image store: The default image store in Docker Engine doesn't support multi-platform images. The containerd image store does, and lets you create multi-platform images using the default builder. Refer to the containerd in Docker Desktop documentation.

  • Create a custom builder: Initialize a builder that uses the docker-container driver, which supports multi-platform builds. For more details, see the docker-container driver documentation.


You can build multi-platform images using three different strategies, depending on your use case:

  1. Using emulation, via QEMU support in the Linux kernel
  2. Building on a single builder backed by multiple nodes of different architectures.
  3. Using a stage in your Dockerfile to cross-compile to different architectures


Building multi-platform images under emulation with QEMU is the easiest way to get started if your builder already supports it. Docker Desktop supports it out of the box. It requires no changes to your Dockerfile, and BuildKit automatically detects the secondary architectures that are available. When BuildKit needs to run a binary for a different architecture, it automatically loads it through a binary registered in the binfmt_misc handler.


Emulation with QEMU can be much slower than native builds, especially for compute-heavy tasks like compilation and compression or decompression.

Use multiple native nodes or cross-compilation instead, if possible.

Support on Docker Desktop

Docker Desktop provides support for running and building multi-platform images under emulation by default, which means you can run containers for different Linux architectures such as arm, mips, ppc64le, and even s390x.

This doesn't require any special configuration in the container itself as it uses QEMU bundled within the Docker Desktop VM. Because of this, you can run containers of non-native architectures like the arm32v7 or ppc64le automatically.

QEMU without Docker Desktop

If you're running Docker Engine on Linux, without Docker Desktop, you must install statically compiled QEMU binaries and register them with binfmt_misc. This enables QEMU to execute non-native file formats for emulation. The QEMU binaries must be statically compiled and registered with the fix_binary flag. This requires a kernel version 4.8 or later, and binfmt-support version 2.1.7 or later.

Once QEMU is installed and the executable types are registered on the host OS, they work transparently inside containers. You can verify your registration by checking if F is among the flags in /proc/sys/fs/binfmt_misc/qemu-*. While Docker Desktop comes preconfigured with binfmt_misc support for additional platforms, for other installations it likely needs to be installed using tonistiigi/binfmt image:

$ docker run --privileged --rm tonistiigi/binfmt --install all

Multiple native nodes

Using multiple native nodes provide better support for more complicated cases that QEMU can't handle, and also provides better performance.

You can add additional nodes to a builder using the --append flag.

The following command creates a multi-node builder from Docker contexts named node-amd64 and node-arm64. This example assumes that you've already added those contexts.

$ docker buildx create --use --name mybuild node-amd64
$ docker buildx create --append --name mybuild node-arm64
$ docker buildx build --platform linux/amd64,linux/arm64 .

While this approach has advantages over emulation, managing multi-node builders introduces some overhead of setting up and managing builder clusters. Alternatively, you can use Docker Build Cloud, a service that provides managed multi-node builders on Docker's infrastructure. With Docker Build Cloud, you get native multi-platform ARM and X86 builders without the burden of maintaining them. Using cloud builders also provides additional benefits, such as a shared build cache.

After signing up for Docker Build Cloud, add the builder to your local environment and start building.

$ docker buildx create --driver cloud <ORG>/<BUILDER_NAME>
$ docker build \
  --builder cloud-<ORG>-<BUILDER_NAME> \
  --platform linux/amd64,linux/arm64,linux/arm/v7 \
  --tag <IMAGE_NAME> \
  --push .

For more information, see Docker Build Cloud.


Depending on your project, if the programming language you use has good support for cross-compilation, you can leverage multi-stage builds to build binaries for target platforms from the native architecture of the builder. Special build arguments, such as BUILDPLATFORM and TARGETPLATFORM, are automatically available for use in your Dockerfile.

In the following example, the FROM instruction is pinned to the native platform of the builder (using the --platform=$BUILDPLATFORM option) to prevent emulation from kicking in. Then the pre-defined $BUILDPLATFORM and $TARGETPLATFORM build arguments are interpolated in a RUN instruction. In this case, the values are just printed to stdout with echo, but this illustrates how you would pass them to the compiler for cross-compilation.

# syntax=docker/dockerfile:1
FROM --platform=$BUILDPLATFORM golang:alpine AS build
RUN echo "I am running on $BUILDPLATFORM, building for $TARGETPLATFORM" > /log
FROM alpine
COPY --from=build /log /log

Getting started

Run the docker buildx ls command to list the existing builders:

$ docker buildx ls
default *  docker
  default  default          running  v0.11.6  linux/amd64, linux/arm64, linux/arm/v7, linux/arm/v6

This displays the default builtin driver, that uses the BuildKit server components built directly into the Docker Engine, also known as the docker driver.

Create a new builder using the docker-container driver which gives you access to more complex features like multi-platform builds and the more advanced cache exporters, which are currently unsupported in the default docker driver:

$ docker buildx create --name mybuilder --bootstrap --use

Now listing the existing builders again, you can see that the new builder is registered:

$ docker buildx ls
mybuilder *   docker-container
  mybuilder0  unix:///var/run/docker.sock  running  v0.12.1  linux/amd64, linux/amd64/v2, linux/amd64/v3, linux/arm64, linux/riscv64, linux/ppc64le, linux/s390x, linux/386, linux/mips64le, linux/mips64, linux/arm/v7, linux/arm/v6
default       docker
  default     default                      running  v0.14.1  linux/amd64, linux/arm64, linux/arm/v7, linux/arm/v6


Test the workflow to ensure you can build, push, and run multi-platform images. Create a simple example Dockerfile, build a couple of image variants, and push them to Docker Hub.

The following example uses a single Dockerfile to build an Alpine image with cURL installed for multiple architectures:

# syntax=docker/dockerfile:1
FROM alpine:3.20
RUN apk add curl

Build the Dockerfile with buildx, passing the list of architectures to build for:

$ docker buildx build --platform linux/amd64,linux/arm64,linux/arm/v7 -t <username>/<image>:latest --push .
#16 exporting to image
#16 exporting layers
#16 exporting layers 0.5s done
#16 exporting manifest sha256:71d7ecf3cd12d9a99e73ef448bf63ae12751fe3a436a007cb0969f0dc4184c8c 0.0s done
#16 exporting config sha256:a26f329a501da9e07dd9cffd9623e49229c3bb67939775f936a0eb3059a3d045 0.0s done
#16 exporting manifest sha256:5ba4ceea65579fdd1181dfa103cc437d8e19d87239683cf5040e633211387ccf 0.0s done
#16 exporting config sha256:9fcc6de03066ac1482b830d5dd7395da781bb69fe8f9873e7f9b456d29a9517c 0.0s done
#16 exporting manifest sha256:29666fb23261b1f77ca284b69f9212d69fe5b517392dbdd4870391b7defcc116 0.0s done
#16 exporting config sha256:92cbd688027227473d76e705c32f2abc18569c5cfabd00addd2071e91473b2e4 0.0s done
#16 exporting manifest list sha256:f3b552e65508d9203b46db507bb121f1b644e53a22f851185d8e53d873417c48 0.0s done
#16 ...

#17 [auth] <username>/<image>:pull,push token for
#17 DONE 0.0s

#16 exporting to image
#16 pushing layers
#16 pushing layers 3.6s done
#16 pushing manifest for<username>/<image>:latest@sha256:f3b552e65508d9203b46db507bb121f1b644e53a22f851185d8e53d873417c48
#16 pushing manifest for<username>/<image>:latest@sha256:f3b552e65508d9203b46db507bb121f1b644e53a22f851185d8e53d873417c48 1.4s done
#16 DONE 5.6s


  • <username> must be a valid Docker ID and <image> and valid repository on Docker Hub.
  • The --platform flag informs buildx to create Linux images for x86 64-bit, ARM 64-bit, and ARMv7 architectures.
  • The --push flag generates a multi-arch manifest and pushes all the images to Docker Hub.

Inspect the image using docker buildx imagetools command:

$ docker buildx imagetools inspect <username>/<image>:latest
MediaType: application/vnd.docker.distribution.manifest.list.v2+json
Digest:    sha256:f3b552e65508d9203b46db507bb121f1b644e53a22f851185d8e53d873417c48

  MediaType: application/vnd.docker.distribution.manifest.v2+json
  Platform:  linux/amd64

  MediaType: application/vnd.docker.distribution.manifest.v2+json
  Platform:  linux/arm64

  MediaType: application/vnd.docker.distribution.manifest.v2+json
  Platform:  linux/arm/v7

The image is now available on Docker Hub with the tag <username>/<image>:latest. You can use this image to run a container on Intel laptops, Amazon EC2 Graviton instances, Raspberry Pis, and on other architectures. Docker pulls the correct image for the current architecture, so Raspberry PIs run the 32-bit ARM version and EC2 Graviton instances run 64-bit ARM.

The digest identifies a fully qualified image variant. You can also run images targeted for a different architecture on Docker Desktop. For example, when you run the following on a macOS:

$ docker run --rm<username>/<image>:latest@sha256:2b77acdfea5dc5baa489ffab2a0b4a387666d1d526490e31845eb64e3e73ed20 uname -m
$ docker run --rm<username>/<image>:latest@sha256:723c22f366ae44e419d12706453a544ae92711ae52f510e226f6467d8228d191 uname -m

In the previous example, uname -m returns aarch64 and armv7l as expected, even when running the commands on a native macOS or Windows developer machine.