Docker storage drivers
Ideally, very little data is written to a container's writable layer, and you use Docker volumes to write data. However, some workloads require you to be able to write to the container's writable layer. This is where storage drivers come in.
Docker supports several storage drivers, using a pluggable architecture. The storage driver controls how images and containers are stored and managed on your Docker host. After you have read the storage driver overview, the next step is to choose the best storage driver for your workloads. Use the storage driver with the best overall performance and stability in the most usual scenarios.
The Docker Engine provides the following storage drivers on Linux:
The Docker Engine has a prioritized list of which storage driver to use if no storage driver is explicitly configured, assuming that the storage driver meets the prerequisites, and automatically selects a compatible storage driver. You can see the order in the source code for Docker Engine 24.0.0open_in_new.
Some storage drivers require you to use a specific format for the backing filesystem. If you have external requirements to use a specific backing filesystem, this may limit your choices. See Supported backing filesystems.
After you have narrowed down which storage drivers you can choose from, your choice is determined by the characteristics of your workload and the level of stability you need. See Other considerations for help in making the final decision.
Docker Desktop, and Docker in Rootless mode
Modifying the storage-driver is not supported on Docker Desktop for Mac and Docker Desktop for Windows, and only the default storage driver can be used. The comparison table below is also not applicable for Rootless mode. For the drivers available in rootless mode, see the Rootless mode documentation.
Your operating system and kernel may not support every storage driver. For
aufs is only supported on Ubuntu and Debian, and may require extra
packages to be installed, while
btrfs is only supported if your system uses
btrfs as storage. In general, the following configurations work on recent
versions of the Linux distribution:
|Linux distribution||Recommended storage drivers||Alternative drivers|
devicemapper storage driver is deprecated, and will be removed in a future
release. It is recommended that users of the
devicemapper storage driver migrate
When in doubt, the best all-around configuration is to use a modern Linux
distribution with a kernel that supports the
overlay2 storage driver, and to
use Docker volumes for write-heavy workloads instead of relying on writing data
to the container's writable layer.
vfs storage driver is usually not the best choice, and primarily intended
for debugging purposes in situations where no other storage-driver is supported.
Before using the
vfs storage driver, be sure to read about
its performance and storage characteristics and limitations.
The recommendations in the table above are known to work for a large number of users. If you use a recommended configuration and find a reproducible issue, it is likely to be fixed very quickly. If the driver that you want to use is not recommended according to this table, you can run it at your own risk. You can and should still report any issues you run into. However, such issues have a lower priority than issues encountered when using a recommended configuration.
Depending on your Linux distribution, other storage-drivers, such as
be available. These storage drivers can have advantages for specific use-cases,
but may require additional set-up or maintenance, which make them not recommended
for common scenarios. Refer to the documentation for those storage drivers for
With regard to Docker, the backing filesystem is the filesystem where
/var/lib/docker/ is located. Some storage drivers only work with specific
|Storage driver||Supported backing filesystems|
Among other things, each storage driver has its own performance characteristics that make it more or less suitable for different workloads. Consider the following generalizations:
overlay2operates at the file level rather than the block level. This uses memory more efficiently, but the container's writable layer may grow quite large in write-heavy workloads.
- Block-level storage drivers such as
zfsperform better for write-heavy workloads (though not as well as Docker volumes).
zfsrequire a lot of memory.
zfsis a good choice for high-density workloads such as PaaS.
More information about performance, suitability, and best practices is available in the documentation for each storage driver.
If your enterprise uses SAN, NAS, hardware RAID, or other shared storage systems, they may provide high availability, increased performance, thin provisioning, deduplication, and compression. In many cases, Docker can work on top of these storage systems, but Docker does not closely integrate with them.
Each Docker storage driver is based on a Linux filesystem or volume manager. Be sure to follow existing best practices for operating your storage driver (filesystem or volume manager) on top of your shared storage system. For example, if using the ZFS storage driver on top of a shared storage system, be sure to follow best practices for operating ZFS filesystems on top of that specific shared storage system.
For some users, stability is more important than performance. Though Docker
considers all of the storage drivers mentioned here to be stable, some are newer
and are still under active development. In general,
overlay2 provides the
You can test Docker's performance when running your own workloads on different storage drivers. Make sure to use equivalent hardware and workloads to match production conditions, so you can see which storage driver offers the best overall performance.
The detailed documentation for each individual storage driver details all of the set-up steps to use a given storage driver.
To see what storage driver Docker is currently using, use
docker info and look
Storage Driver line:
$ docker info Containers: 0 Images: 0 Storage Driver: overlay2 Backing Filesystem: xfs <...>
To change the storage driver, see the specific instructions for the new storage driver. Some drivers require additional configuration, including configuration to physical or logical disks on the Docker host.
When you change the storage driver, any existing images and containers become inaccessible. This is because their layers cannot be used by the new storage driver. If you revert your changes, you can access the old images and containers again, but any that you pulled or created using the new driver are then inaccessible.