Volumes are the preferred mechanism for persisting data generated by and used by Docker containers. While bind mounts are dependent on the directory structure and OS of the host machine, volumes are completely managed by Docker. Volumes have several advantages over bind mounts:

  • Volumes are easier to back up or migrate than bind mounts.
  • You can manage volumes using Docker CLI commands or the Docker API.
  • Volumes work on both Linux and Windows containers.
  • Volumes can be more safely shared among multiple containers.
  • Volume drivers let you store volumes on remote hosts or cloud providers, encrypt the contents of volumes, or add other functionality.
  • New volumes can have their content pre-populated by a container.
  • Volumes on Docker Desktop have much higher performance than bind mounts from Mac and Windows hosts.

In addition, volumes are often a better choice than persisting data in a container's writable layer, because a volume doesn't increase the size of the containers using it, and the volume's contents exist outside the lifecycle of a given container.

Volumes on the Docker host

If your container generates non-persistent state data, consider using a tmpfs mount to avoid storing the data anywhere permanently, and to increase the container's performance by avoiding writing into the container's writable layer.

Volumes use rprivate bind propagation, and bind propagation isn't configurable for volumes.

Choose the -v or --mount flag

In general, --mount is more explicit and verbose. The biggest difference is that the -v syntax combines all the options together in one field, while the --mount syntax separates them. Here is a comparison of the syntax for each flag.

If you need to specify volume driver options, you must use --mount.

  • -v or --volume: Consists of three fields, separated by colon characters (:). The fields must be in the correct order, and the meaning of each field isn't immediately obvious.

    • In the case of named volumes, the first field is the name of the volume, and is unique on a given host machine. For anonymous volumes, the first field is omitted.
    • The second field is the path where the file or directory are mounted in the container.
    • The third field is optional, and is a comma-separated list of options, such as ro. These options are discussed below.
  • --mount: Consists of multiple key-value pairs, separated by commas and each consisting of a <key>=<value> tuple. The --mount syntax is more verbose than -v or --volume, but the order of the keys isn't significant, and the value of the flag is easier to understand.

    • The type of the mount, which can be bind, volume, or tmpfs. This topic discusses volumes, so the type is always volume.
    • The source of the mount. For named volumes, this is the name of the volume. For anonymous volumes, this field is omitted. Can be specified as source or src.
    • The destination takes as its value the path where the file or directory is mounted in the container. Can be specified as destination, dst, or target.
    • The readonly option, if present, causes the bind mount to be mounted into the container as read-only. Can be specified as readonly or ro.
    • The volume-opt option, which can be specified more than once, takes a key-value pair consisting of the option name and its value.


If your volume driver accepts a comma-separated list as an option, you must escape the value from the outer CSV parser. To escape a volume-opt, surround it with double quotes (") and surround the entire mount parameter with single quotes (').

For example, the local driver accepts mount options as a comma-separated list in the o parameter. This example shows the correct way to escape the list.

$ docker service create \
 --mount 'type=volume,src=<VOLUME-NAME>,dst=<CONTAINER-PATH>,volume-driver=local,volume-opt=type=nfs,volume-opt=device=<nfs-server>:<nfs-path>,"volume-opt=o=addr=<nfs-address>,vers=4,soft,timeo=180,bg,tcp,rw"'
 --name myservice \

The examples below show both the --mount and -v syntax where possible, with --mount first.

Differences between -v and --mount behavior

As opposed to bind mounts, all options for volumes are available for both --mount and -v flags.

Volumes used with services, only support --mount.

Create and manage volumes

Unlike a bind mount, you can create and manage volumes outside the scope of any container.

Create a volume:

$ docker volume create my-vol

List volumes:

$ docker volume ls

local               my-vol

Inspect a volume:

$ docker volume inspect my-vol
        "Driver": "local",
        "Labels": {},
        "Mountpoint": "/var/lib/docker/volumes/my-vol/_data",
        "Name": "my-vol",
        "Options": {},
        "Scope": "local"

Remove a volume:

$ docker volume rm my-vol

Start a container with a volume

If you start a container with a volume that doesn't yet exist, Docker creates the volume for you. The following example mounts the volume myvol2 into /app/ in the container.

The -v and --mount examples below produce the same result. You can't run them both unless you remove the devtest container and the myvol2 volume after running the first one.

$ docker run -d \
  --name devtest \
  --mount source=myvol2,target=/app \
$ docker run -d \
  --name devtest \
  -v myvol2:/app \

Use docker inspect devtest to verify that Docker created the volume and it mounted correctly. Look for the Mounts section:

"Mounts": [
        "Type": "volume",
        "Name": "myvol2",
        "Source": "/var/lib/docker/volumes/myvol2/_data",
        "Destination": "/app",
        "Driver": "local",
        "Mode": "",
        "RW": true,
        "Propagation": ""

This shows that the mount is a volume, it shows the correct source and destination, and that the mount is read-write.

Stop the container and remove the volume. Note volume removal is a separate step.

$ docker container stop devtest

$ docker container rm devtest

$ docker volume rm myvol2

Use a volume with Docker Compose

The example below shows a single Docker Compose service with a volume:

    image: node:lts
      - myapp:/home/node/app

Running docker compose up for the first time creates a volume. Docker reuses the same volume when you run the command subsequently.

You can create a volume directly outside of Compose using docker volume create and then reference it inside compose.yaml as follows:

    image: node:lts
      - myapp:/home/node/app
    external: true

For more information about using volumes with Compose, refer to the Volumes section in the Compose specification.

Start a service with volumes

When you start a service and define a volume, each service container uses its own local volume. None of the containers can share this data if you use the local volume driver. However, some volume drivers do support shared storage.

The following example starts an nginx service with four replicas, each of which uses a local volume called myvol2.

$ docker service create -d \
  --replicas=4 \
  --name devtest-service \
  --mount source=myvol2,target=/app \

Use docker service ps devtest-service to verify that the service is running:

$ docker service ps devtest-service

ID                  NAME                IMAGE               NODE                DESIRED STATE       CURRENT STATE            ERROR               PORTS
4d7oz1j85wwn        devtest-service.1   nginx:latest        moby                Running             Running 14 seconds ago

You can remove the service to stop the running tasks:

$ docker service rm devtest-service

Removing the service doesn't remove any volumes created by the service. Volume removal is a separate step.

Syntax differences for services

The docker service create command doesn't support the -v or --volume flag. When mounting a volume into a service's containers, you must use the --mount flag.

Populate a volume using a container

If you start a container which creates a new volume, and the container has files or directories in the directory to be mounted such as /app/, Docker copies the directory's contents into the volume. The container then mounts and uses the volume, and other containers which use the volume also have access to the pre-populated content.

To show this, the following example starts an nginx container and populates the new volume nginx-vol with the contents of the container's /usr/share/nginx/html directory. This is where Nginx stores its default HTML content.

The --mount and -v examples have the same end result.

$ docker run -d \
  --name=nginxtest \
  --mount source=nginx-vol,destination=/usr/share/nginx/html \
$ docker run -d \
  --name=nginxtest \
  -v nginx-vol:/usr/share/nginx/html \

After running either of these examples, run the following commands to clean up the containers and volumes. Note volume removal is a separate step.

$ docker container stop nginxtest

$ docker container rm nginxtest

$ docker volume rm nginx-vol

Use a read-only volume

For some development applications, the container needs to write into the bind mount so that changes are propagated back to the Docker host. At other times, the container only needs read access to the data. Multiple containers can mount the same volume. You can simultaneously mount a single volume as read-write for some containers and as read-only for others.

The following example changes the one above. It mounts the directory as a read-only volume, by adding ro to the (empty by default) list of options, after the mount point within the container. Where multiple options are present, you can separate them using commas.

The --mount and -v examples have the same result.

$ docker run -d \
  --name=nginxtest \
  --mount source=nginx-vol,destination=/usr/share/nginx/html,readonly \
$ docker run -d \
  --name=nginxtest \
  -v nginx-vol:/usr/share/nginx/html:ro \

Use docker inspect nginxtest to verify that Docker created the read-only mount correctly. Look for the Mounts section:

"Mounts": [
        "Type": "volume",
        "Name": "nginx-vol",
        "Source": "/var/lib/docker/volumes/nginx-vol/_data",
        "Destination": "/usr/share/nginx/html",
        "Driver": "local",
        "Mode": "",
        "RW": false,
        "Propagation": ""

Stop and remove the container, and remove the volume. Volume removal is a separate step.

$ docker container stop nginxtest

$ docker container rm nginxtest

$ docker volume rm nginx-vol

Share data between machines

When building fault-tolerant applications, you may need to configure multiple replicas of the same service to have access to the same files.

shared storage

There are several ways to achieve this when developing your applications. One is to add logic to your application to store files on a cloud object storage system like Amazon S3. Another is to create volumes with a driver that supports writing files to an external storage system like NFS or Amazon S3.

Volume drivers allow you to abstract the underlying storage system from the application logic. For example, if your services use a volume with an NFS driver, you can update the services to use a different driver. For example, to store data in the cloud, without changing the application logic.

Use a volume driver

When you create a volume using docker volume create, or when you start a container which uses a not-yet-created volume, you can specify a volume driver. The following examples use the vieux/sshfs volume driver, first when creating a standalone volume, and then when starting a container which creates a new volume.

Initial setup

The following example assumes that you have two nodes, the first of which is a Docker host and can connect to the second node using SSH.

On the Docker host, install the vieux/sshfs plugin:

$ docker plugin install --grant-all-permissions vieux/sshfs

Create a volume using a volume driver

This example specifies an SSH password, but if the two hosts have shared keys configured, you can exclude the password. Each volume driver may have zero or more configurable options, you specify each of them using an -o flag.

$ docker volume create --driver vieux/sshfs \
  -o sshcmd=test@node2:/home/test \
  -o password=testpassword \

Start a container which creates a volume using a volume driver

The following example specifies an SSH password. However, if the two hosts have shared keys configured, you can exclude the password. Each volume driver may have zero or more configurable options.


If the volume driver requires you to pass any options, you must use the --mount flag to mount the volume, and not -v.

$ docker run -d \
  --name sshfs-container \
  --mount type=volume,volume-driver=vieux/sshfs,src=sshvolume,target=/app,volume-opt=sshcmd=test@node2:/home/test,volume-opt=password=testpassword \

Create a service which creates an NFS volume

The following example shows how you can create an NFS volume when creating a service. It uses as the NFS server and /var/docker-nfs as the exported directory on the NFS server. Note that the volume driver specified is local.


$ docker service create -d \
  --name nfs-service \
  --mount 'type=volume,source=nfsvolume,target=/app,volume-driver=local,volume-opt=type=nfs,volume-opt=device=:/var/docker-nfs,volume-opt=o=addr=' \


$ docker service create -d \
    --name nfs-service \
    --mount 'type=volume,source=nfsvolume,target=/app,volume-driver=local,volume-opt=type=nfs,volume-opt=device=:/var/docker-nfs,"volume-opt=o=addr=,rw,nfsvers=4,async"' \

Create CIFS/Samba volumes

You can mount a Samba share directly in Docker without configuring a mount point on your host.

$ docker volume create \
	--driver local \
	--opt type=cifs \
	--opt device=//uxxxxx.your-server.de/backup \
	--opt o=addr=uxxxxx.your-server.de,username=uxxxxxxx,password=*****,file_mode=0777,dir_mode=0777 \
	--name cif-volume

The addr option is required if you specify a hostname instead of an IP. This lets Docker perform the hostname lookup.

Block storage devices

You can mount a block storage device, such as an external drive or a drive partition, to a container. The following example shows how to create and use a file as a block storage device, and how to mount the block device as a container volume.


The following procedure is only an example. The solution illustrated here isn't recommended as a general practice. Don't attempt this approach unless you're confident about what you're doing.

How mounting block devices works

Under the hood, the --mount flag using the local storage driver invokes the Linux mount syscall and forwards the options you pass to it unaltered. Docker doesn't implement any additional functionality on top of the native mount features supported by the Linux kernel.

If you're familiar with the Linux mount command, you can think of the --mount options as forwarded to the mount command in the following manner:

$ mount -t <mount.volume-opt.type> <mount.volume-opt.device> <mount.dst> -o <mount.volume-opts.o>

To explain this further, consider the following mount command example. This command mounts the /dev/loop5 device to the path /external-drive on the system.

$ mount -t ext4 /dev/loop5 /external-drive

The following docker run command achieves a similar result, from the point of view of the container being run. Running a container with this --mount option sets up the mount in the same way as if you had executed the mount command from the previous example.

$ docker run \

You can't run the mount command inside the container directly, because the container is unable to access the /dev/loop5 device. That's why the docker run command uses the --mount option.

Example: Mounting a block device in a container

The following steps create an ext4 filesystem and mounts it into a container. The filesystem support of your system depends on the version of the Linux kernel you are using.

  1. Create a file and allocate some space to it:

    $ fallocate -l 1G disk.raw
  2. Build a filesystem onto the disk.raw file:

    $ mkfs.ext4 disk.raw
  3. Create a loop device:

    $ losetup -f --show disk.raw


    losetup creates an ephemeral loop device that's removed after system reboot, or manually removed with losetup -d.

  4. Run a container that mounts the loop device as a volume:

    $ docker run -it --rm \
      --mount='type=volume,dst=/external-drive,volume-driver=local,volume-opt=device=/dev/loop5,volume-opt=type=ext4' \
      ubuntu bash

    When the container starts, the path /external-drive mounts the disk.raw file from the host filesystem as a block device.

  5. When you're done, and the device is unmounted from the container, detach the loop device to remove the device from the host system:

    $ losetup -d /dev/loop5

Back up, restore, or migrate data volumes

Volumes are useful for backups, restores, and migrations. Use the --volumes-from flag to create a new container that mounts that volume.

Back up a volume

For example, create a new container named dbstore:

$ docker run -v /dbdata --name dbstore ubuntu /bin/bash

In the next command:

  • Launch a new container and mount the volume from the dbstore container
  • Mount a local host directory as /backup
  • Pass a command that tars the contents of the dbdata volume to a backup.tar file inside our /backup directory.
$ docker run --rm --volumes-from dbstore -v $(pwd):/backup ubuntu tar cvf /backup/backup.tar /dbdata

When the command completes and the container stops, it creates a backup of the dbdata volume.

Restore volume from a backup

With the backup just created, you can restore it to the same container, or to another container that you created elsewhere.

For example, create a new container named dbstore2:

$ docker run -v /dbdata --name dbstore2 ubuntu /bin/bash

Then, un-tar the backup file in the new container’s data volume:

$ docker run --rm --volumes-from dbstore2 -v $(pwd):/backup ubuntu bash -c "cd /dbdata && tar xvf /backup/backup.tar --strip 1"

You can use the techniques above to automate backup, migration, and restore testing using your preferred tools.

Remove volumes

A Docker data volume persists after you delete a container. There are two types of volumes to consider:

  • Named volumes have a specific source from outside the container, for example, awesome:/bar.
  • Anonymous volumes have no specific source. Therefore, when the container is deleted, you can instruct the Docker Engine daemon to remove them.

Remove anonymous volumes

To automatically remove anonymous volumes, use the --rm option. For example, this command creates an anonymous /foo volume. When you remove the container, the Docker Engine removes the /foo volume but not the awesome volume.

$ docker run --rm -v /foo -v awesome:/bar busybox top


If another container binds the volumes with --volumes-from, the volume definitions are copied and the anonymous volume also stays after the first container is removed.

Remove all volumes

To remove all unused volumes and free up space:

$ docker volume prune

Next steps