Docker contexts


This guide shows how you can use contexts to manage Docker daemons from a single client.

Each context contains all information required to manage resources on the daemon. The docker context command makes it easy to configure these contexts and switch between them.

As an example, a single Docker client might be configured with two contexts:

  • A default context running locally
  • A remote, shared context

Once these contexts are configured, you can use the docker context use <context-name> command to switch between them.


To follow the examples in this guide, you'll need:

  • A Docker client that supports the top-level context command

Run docker context to verify that your Docker client supports contexts.

The anatomy of a context

A context is a combination of several properties. These include:

  • Name and description
  • Endpoint configuration
  • TLS info

To list available contexts, use the docker context ls command.

$ docker context ls
NAME        DESCRIPTION                               DOCKER ENDPOINT               ERROR
default *                                             unix:///var/run/docker.sock

This shows a single context called "default". It's configured to talk to a daemon through the local /var/run/docker.sock Unix socket.

The asterisk in the NAME column indicates that this is the active context. This means all docker commands run against this context, unless overridden with environment variables such as DOCKER_HOST and DOCKER_CONTEXT, or on the command-line with the --context and --host flags.

Dig a bit deeper with docker context inspect. The following example shows how to inspect the context called default.

$ docker context inspect default
        "Name": "default",
        "Metadata": {},
        "Endpoints": {
            "docker": {
                "Host": "unix:///var/run/docker.sock",
                "SkipTLSVerify": false
        "TLSMaterial": {},
        "Storage": {
            "MetadataPath": "\u003cIN MEMORY\u003e",
            "TLSPath": "\u003cIN MEMORY\u003e"

Create a new context

You can create new contexts with the docker context create command.

The following example creates a new context called docker-test and specifies the host endpoint of the context to TCP socket tcp://docker:2375.

$ docker context create docker-test --docker host=tcp://docker:2375
Successfully created context "docker-test"

The new context is stored in a meta.json file below ~/.docker/contexts/. Each new context you create gets its own meta.json stored in a dedicated sub-directory of ~/.docker/contexts/.

You can view the new context with docker context ls and docker context inspect <context-name>.

$ docker context ls
NAME          DESCRIPTION                             DOCKER ENDPOINT               ERROR
default *                                             unix:///var/run/docker.sock
docker-test                                           tcp://docker:2375

The current context is indicated with an asterisk ("*").

Use a different context

You can use docker context use to switch between contexts.

The following command will switch the docker CLI to use the docker-test context.

$ docker context use docker-test
Current context is now "docker-test"

Verify the operation by listing all contexts and ensuring the asterisk ("*") is against the docker-test context.

$ docker context ls
NAME            DESCRIPTION                           DOCKER ENDPOINT               ERROR
default                                               unix:///var/run/docker.sock
docker-test *                                         tcp://docker:2375

docker commands will now target endpoints defined in the docker-test context.

You can also set the current context using the DOCKER_CONTEXT environment variable. The environment variable overrides the context set with docker context use.

Use the appropriate command below to set the context to docker-test using an environment variable.

> $env:DOCKER_CONTEXT='docker-test'
$ export DOCKER_CONTEXT=docker-test

Run docker context ls to verify that the docker-test context is now the active context.

You can also use the global --context flag to override the context. The following command uses a context called production.

$ docker --context production container ls

Exporting and importing Docker contexts

You can use the docker context export and docker context import commands to export and import contexts on different hosts.

The docker context export command exports an existing context to a file. The file can be imported on any host that has the docker client installed.

Exporting and importing a context

The following example exports an existing context called docker-test. It will be written to a file called docker-test.dockercontext.

$ docker context export docker-test
Written file "docker-test.dockercontext"

Check the contents of the export file.

$ cat docker-test.dockercontext

Import this file on another host using docker context import to create context with the same configuration.

$ docker context import docker-test docker-test.dockercontext
Successfully imported context "docker-test"

You can verify that the context was imported with docker context ls.

The format of the import command is docker context import <context-name> <context-file>.

Updating a context

You can use docker context update to update fields in an existing context.

The following example updates the description field in the existing docker-test context.

$ docker context update docker-test --description "Test context"
Successfully updated context "docker-test"