Persist the DB

In case you didn't notice, your todo list is empty every single time you launch the container. Why is this? In this part, you'll dive into how the container is working.

The container's filesystem

When a container runs, it uses the various layers from an image for its filesystem. Each container also gets its own "scratch space" to create/update/remove files. Any changes won't be seen in another container, even if they're using the same image.

See this in practice

To see this in action, you're going to start two containers. In one container, you'll create a file. In the other container, you'll verify the file exists. What you'll see is that the file created in one container isn't available in another.

  1. Start an Alpine container and access its shell.

    $ docker run -ti --name=mytest alpine
  2. In the container, create a greeting.txt file with hello inside.

    / # echo "hello" > greeting.txt
  3. Exit the container.

    / # exit
  4. Run a new Alpine container and use the cat command to verify that the file does not exist.

    $ docker run alpine cat greeting.txt

    You should see output similar to the following that indicates the file does not exist in the new container.

    cat: can't open 'greeting.txt': No such file or directory
  5. Go ahead and remove the containers using docker ps --all to get the IDs, and then docker rm -f <container-id> to remove the containers.

Container volumes

With the previous experiment, you saw that each container starts from the image definition each time it starts. While containers can create, update, and delete files, those changes are lost when you remove the container and Docker isolates all changes to that container. With volumes, you can change all of this.

Volumes provide the ability to connect specific filesystem paths of the container back to the host machine. If you mount a directory in the container, changes in that directory are also seen on the host machine. If you mount that same directory across container restarts, you'd see the same files.

There are two main types of volumes. You'll eventually use both, but you'll start with volume mounts.

Persist the todo data

By default, the todo app stores its data in a SQLite database at /etc/todos/todo.db in the container's filesystem. If you're not familiar with SQLite, no worries! It's simply a relational database that stores all the data in a single file. While this isn't the best for large-scale applications, it works for small demos. You'll learn how to switch this to a different database engine later.

With the database being a single file, if you can persist that file on the host and make it available to the next container, it should be able to pick up where the last one left off. By creating a volume and attaching (often called "mounting") it to the directory where you stored the data, you can persist the data. As your container writes to the todo.db file, it will persist the data to the host in the volume.

As mentioned, you're going to use a volume mount. Think of a volume mount as an opaque bucket of data. Docker fully manages the volume, including the storage location on disk. You only need to remember the name of the volume.

Create a volume and start the container

You can create the volume and start the container using the CLI or Docker Desktop's graphical interface.

  1. Create a volume by using the docker volume create command.

    $ docker volume create todo-db
  2. Stop and remove the todo app container once again with docker rm -f <id>, as it is still running without using the persistent volume.

  3. Start the todo app container, but add the --mount option to specify a volume mount. Give the volume a name, and mount it to /etc/todos in the container, which captures all files created at the path.

    $ docker run -dp --mount type=volume,src=todo-db,target=/etc/todos getting-started


    If you're using Git Bash, you must use different syntax for this command.

    $ docker run -dp --mount type=volume,src=todo-db,target=//etc/todos getting-started

    For more details about Git Bash's syntax differences, see Working with Git Bash.

To create a volume:

  1. Select Volumes in Docker Desktop.
  2. In Volumes, select Create.
  3. Specify todo-db as the volume name, and then select Create.

To stop and remove the app container:

  1. Select Containers in Docker Desktop.
  2. Select Delete in the Actions column for the container.

To start the todo app container with the volume mounted:

  1. Select the search box at the top of Docker Desktop.

  2. In the search window, select the Images tab.

  3. In the search box, specify the image name, getting-started.


    Use the search filter to filter images and only show Local images.

  4. Select your image and then select Run.

  5. Select Optional settings.

  6. In Host port, specify the port, for example, 3000.

  7. In Host path, specify the name of the volume, todo-db.

  8. In Container path, specify /etc/todos.

  9. Select Run.

Verify that the data persists

  1. Once the container starts up, open the app and add a few items to your todo list.

    Items added to todo list
  2. Stop and remove the container for the todo app. Use Docker Desktop or docker ps to get the ID and then docker rm -f <id> to remove it.

  3. Start a new container using the previous steps.

  4. Open the app. You should see your items still in your list.

  5. Go ahead and remove the container when you're done checking out your list.

You've now learned how to persist data.

Dive into the volume

A lot of people frequently ask "Where is Docker storing my data when I use a volume?" If you want to know, you can use the docker volume inspect command.

$ docker volume inspect todo-db

You should see output like the following:

        "CreatedAt": "2019-09-26T02:18:36Z",
        "Driver": "local",
        "Labels": {},
        "Mountpoint": "/var/lib/docker/volumes/todo-db/_data",
        "Name": "todo-db",
        "Options": {},
        "Scope": "local"

The Mountpoint is the actual location of the data on the disk. Note that on most machines, you will need to have root access to access this directory from the host.


In this section, you learned how to persist container data.

Related information:

Next steps

Next, you'll learn how you can develop your app more efficiently using bind mounts.