How to Install Docker on Windows 10 Home

If you’ve ever tried to install Docker for Windows, you’ve probably came to realize that the installer won’t run on Windows 10 Home. Only Windows Pro, Enterprise or Education support Docker. Upgrading your Windows license is pricey, and also pointless, since you can still run Linux Containers on Windows without relying on Hyper-V technology, a requirement for Docker for Windows.

If you plan on running Windows Containers, you’ll need a specific version and build of Windows Server. Check out the Windows container version compatibility matrix for details.

99.999% of the time, you only need a Linux Container, since it supports software built using open-source and .NET technologies. In addition, Linux Containers can run on any distro and on popular CPU architectures, including x86_64, ARM and IBM.

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to quickly setup a Linux VM on Windows Home running Docker Engine with the help of Docker Machine. Here’s a list of software you’ll need to build and run Docker containers:

  • Docker Machine: a CLI tool for installing Docker Engine on virtual hosts
  • Docker Engine: runs on top of the Linux Kernel; used for building and running containers
  • Docker Client: a CLI tool for issuing commands to Docker Engine via REST API
  • Docker Compose: a tool for defining and running multi-container applications

I’ll show how to perform the installation in the following environments:

  1. On Windows using Git Bash
  2. On Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 (running Ubuntu 18.04)

First, allow me to explain how the Docker installation will work on Windows.

How it Works

As you probably know, Docker requires a Linux kernel to run Linux Containers. For this to work on Windows, you’ll need to set up a Linux virtual machine to run as guest in Windows 10 Home.

docker windows home

Setting up the Linux VM can be done manually. The easiest way is to use Docker Machine to do this work for you by running a single command. This Docker Linux VM can either run on your local system or on a remote server. Docker client will use SSH to communicate with Docker Engine. Whenever you create and run images, the actual process will happen within the VM, not on your host (Windows).

Let’s dive into the next section to set up the environment needed to install Docker.

Initial Setup

You may or may not have the following applications installed on your system. I’ll assume you don’t. If you do, make sure to upgrade to the latest versions. I’m also assuming you’re running the latest stable version of Windows. At the time of writing, I’m using Windows 10 Home version 1903. Let’s start installing the following:

  1. Install Git Bash for Windows. This will be our primary terminal for running Docker commands.

  2. Install Chocolatey, a package manager for Windows. It will make the work of installing the rest of the programs easier.

  3. Install VirtualBox and its extension. Alternatively, If you have finished installing Chocolatey, you can simply execute this command inside an elevated PowerShell terminal:

    C:\ choco install virtualbox
    
  4. If you’d like to try running Docker inside the WSL2 environment, you’ll need to set up WSL2 first. You can follow this tutorial for step-by-step instructions.

Docker Engine Setup

Installing Docker Engine is quite simple. First we need to install Docker Machine.

  1. Install Docker Machine by following instructions on this page. Alternatively, you can execute this command inside an elevated PowerShell terminal:

    C:\ choco install docker-machine
    
  2. Using Git Bash terminal, use Docker Machine to install Docker Engine. This will download a Linux image containing the Docker Engine and have it run as a VM using VirtualBox. Simply execute the following command:

    $ docker-machine create --driver virtualbox default
    
  3. Next, we need to configure which ports are exposed when running Docker containers. Doing this will allow us to access our applications via localhost<:port>. Feel free to add as many as you want. To do this, you’ll need to launch Oracle VM VirtualBox from your start menu. Select default VM on the side menu. Next click on Settings > Network > Adapter 1 > Port Forwarding. You should find the ssh forwarding port already set up for you. You can add more like so:

    docker vm ports

  4. Next, we need to allow Docker to mount volumes located on your hard drive. By default, you can only mount from the C://Users/ directory. To add a different path, simply go to Oracle VM VirtualBox GUI. Select default VM and go to Settings > Shared Folders. Add a new one by clicking the plus symbol. Enter the fields like so. If there’s an option called Permanent, enable it.

    docker vm volumes

  5. To get rid of the invalid settings error as seen in the above screenshot, simply increase Video Memory under the Display tab in the settings option. Video memory is not important in this case, as we’ll run the VM in headless mode.

  6. To start the Linux VM, simply execute this command in Git Bash. The Linux VM will launch. Give it some time for the boot process to complete. It shouldn’t take more than a minute. You’ll need to do this every time you boot your host OS:

    $ docker-machine start vbox
    
  7. Next, we need to set up our Docker environment variables. This is to allow the Docker client and Docker Compose to communicate with the Docker Engine running in the Linux VM, default. You can do this by executing the commands in Git Bash:

    # Print out docker machine instance settings
    $ docker-machine env default
    
    # Set environment variables using Linux 'export' command
    $ eval $(docker-machine env default --shell linux)
    

    You’ll need to set the environment variables every time you start a new Git Bash terminal. If you’d like to avoid this, you can copy eval output and save it in your .bashrc file. It should look something like this:

    export DOCKER_TLS_VERIFY="1"
    export DOCKER_HOST="tcp://192.168.99.101:2376"
    export DOCKER_CERT_PATH="C:\Users\Michael Wanyoike\.docker\machine\machines\default"
    export DOCKER_MACHINE_NAME="default"
    export COMPOSE_CONVERT_WINDOWS_PATHS="true"
    

    IMPORTANT: for the DOCKER_CERT_PATH, you’ll need to change the Linux file path to a Windows path format. Also take note that there’s a chance the IP address assigned might be different from the one you saved every time you start the default VM.

In the next section, we’ll install Docker Client and Docker Compose.

Docker Tools Setup

For this section, you’ll need to install the following tools using PowerShell in admin mode. These tools are packaged inside the Docker for Windows installer. Since the installer refuses to run on Windows 10 Home, we’ll install these programs individually using Chocolatey:

C:\ choco install docker-cli
C:\ choco install docker-compose

Once the installation process is complete, you can switch back to Git Bash terminal. You can continue using PowerShell, but I prefer Linux syntax to execute commands. Let’s execute the following commands to ensure Docker is running:

# Start Docker VM
$ docker-machine start default

# Confirm Docker VM is running
$ docker-machine ls

# Configure Docker Envrionment to use Docker Vm
$ eval $(docker-machine env default --shell linux)

# Confirm Docker is connected. Should output Docker VM specs
$ docker info

# Run hello-world docker image. Should output "Hello from Docker"
$ docker run hello-world

If all the above commands run successfully, it means you’ve successfully installed Docker. If you want to try out a more ambitious example, I have a small Node.js application that that I’ve configured to run on Docker containers. First, you’ll need to install GNU Make using PowerShell with Admin privileges:

C:\ choco install make

Next, execute the following commands. Running this Node.js example will ensure you have no problem with exposed ports and mounting volumes on the Windows filesystem. First, navigate to a folder that that you’ve already mounted in VirtualBox settings. Next, execute the following commands:

$ git clone git@github.com:brandiqa/docker-node.git

$ cd docker-node/website

$ make

When you hit the last command, you should expect a similar output:

docker volume create nodemodules
nodemodules
docker-compose -f docker-compose.builder.yml run --rm install
npm WARN optional SKIPPING OPTIONAL DEPENDENCY: fsevents@1.2.9 (node_modules/fsevents):
npm WARN notsup SKIPPING OPTIONAL DEPENDENCY: Unsupported platform for fsevents@1.2.9: wanted {"os":"darwin","arch":"any"} (current: {"os":"linux","arch":"x64"})

audited 9731 packages in 21.405s

docker-compose up
Starting website_dev_1 ... done
Attaching to website_dev_1
dev_1  |
dev_1  | > docker-node@1.0.0 start /usr/src/app
dev_1  | > parcel src/index.html --hmr-port 1235
dev_1  |
dev_1  | Server running at http://localhost:1234

Getting the above output means that volume mounting occurred successfully. Open localhost:1234 to confirm that the website can be accessed. This will confirm that you have properly configured the ports. You can edit the source code, for example change the h1 title in App.jsx. As soon as you save the file, the browser page should refresh automatically. This means hot module reloading works from a Docker container.

I would like to bring your attention to the docker-compose.yml file in use. For hot module reloading to work from a Docker Container in Windows requires the following:

  1. When using parcel, specify HMR port in your package.json start script:

    parcel src/index.html –hmr-port 1235

  2. In the VM’s Port Forwarding rules, make sure these ports are exposed to the host system:

    • 1234
    • 1235
  3. inotify doesn’t work on vboxsf filesystems, so file changes can’t be detected. The workaround is to set polling for Chokidar via environment variables in docker-compose.yml. Here’s the full file so that you can see how it’s set:

    version: '3'
    services:
      dev:
        image: node:10-jessie-slim
        volumes:
          - nodemodules:/usr/src/app/node_modules
          - ./:/usr/src/app
        working_dir: /usr/src/app
        command: npm start
        ports:
          - 1234:1234
          - 1235:1235
        environment:
        - CHOKIDAR_USEPOLLING=1
    volumes:
      nodemodules:
        external: true
    

Now that we have a fully working implementation of Docker on Windows 10 home, let’s set it up on WSL2 for those who are interested.

Windows Subsystem for Linux 2

Installing Docker on WSL2 is not as straightforward as it seems. Unfortunately, the latest version of Docker Engine can’t run on WSL2. However, there’s an older version, docker-ce=17.09.0~ce-0~ubuntu, that’s capable of running well in WSL2. I won’t be covering that here. Instead, I’ll show you how to access Docker Engine running in the VM we set up earlier from a WSL terminal.

All we have to do is install Docker client and Docker compose. Assuming you’re running WSL2 Ubuntu Terminal, execute the following:

  1. Install Docker using the official instructions:

    # Update the apt package list.
    sudo apt-get update -y
    
    # Install Docker's package dependencies.
    sudo apt-get install -y \
        apt-transport-https \
        ca-certificates \
        curl \
        software-properties-common
    
    # Download and add Docker's official public PGP key.
    curl -fsSL https://download.docker.com/linux/ubuntu/gpg | sudo apt-key add -
    
    # Verify the fingerprint.
    sudo apt-key fingerprint 0EBFCD88
    
    # Add the `stable` channel's Docker upstream repository.
    #
    # If you want to live on the edge, you can change "stable" below to "test" or
    # "nightly". I highly recommend sticking with stable!
    sudo add-apt-repository \
    "deb [arch=amd64] https://download.docker.com/linux/ubuntu \
    $(lsb_release -cs) \
    stable"
    
    # Update the apt package list (for the new apt repo).
    sudo apt-get update -y
    
    # Install the latest version of Docker CE.
    sudo apt-get install -y docker-ce
    
    # Allow your user to access the Docker CLI without needing root access.
    sudo usermod -aG docker $USER
    
  2. Install Docker Compose using this official guide. An alternative is to use PIP, which will simply install the latest stable version:

    # Install Python and PIP.
    sudo apt-get install -y python python-pip
    
    # Install Docker Compose into your user's home directory.
    pip install --user docker-compose
    
  3. Fix the Docker mounting issue in WSL terminal by inserting this content in /etc/wsl.conf. Create the file if it doesn’t exist:

    [automount]
    root = /
    options = "metdata"
    

    You’ll need to restart your machine for this setting to take effect.

  4. Assuming that Linux Docker VM is running, you’ll need to connect the Docker tools in the WSL environment to it. If you can access docker-machine from the Ubuntu terminal, run the eval command. Otherwise, you can insert the following Docker variable in your .bashrc file. Here is an example of mine:

    export DOCKER_HOST="tcp://192.168.99.101:2376"
    export DOCKER_CERT_PATH="/c/Users/Michael Wanyoike/.docker/machine/machines/vbox"
    export DOCKER_MACHINE_NAME="vbox"
    export COMPOSE_CONVERT_WINDOWS_PATHS="true"
    

    You’ll need to restart your terminal or execute source ~/.bashrc for the settings to take effect. Running Docker commands should work properly in WSL without a hitch.

Switching to Linux

We’re now coming to the end of this article. The steps for setting up Docker in Windows 10 is a bit of a lengthy process. If you plan to reformat your machine, you’ll have to go through the same process again. It’s worse if your job is to install Docker on multiple machines running Windows 10 Home.

A simpler solution is to switch to Linux for development. You can create a partition and set up dual booting. You can also use VirtualBox to install and run a full Linux Distro inside Windows. Check out which popular distro you’d like to try out. I use Linux Lite because it’s lightweight and is based on Ubuntu. With VirtualBox, you can try out as many distros as you wish.

Linux Lite VM

If you’re using a distro based on Ubuntu, you can install Docker easily with these commands:

# Install https://snapcraft.io/ package manager
sudo apt install snapd

# Install Docker Engine, Docker Client and Docker Compose
sudo snap install docker

# Run Docker commands without sudo
sudo usermod -aG docker $USER

You’ll need to log out and then log in for the last command to take effect. After that, you can run any Docker command without issue. You don’t need to worry about issues with mounting or ports. Docker Engine runs as a service in Linux, which by default starts automatically. No need for provisioning a Docker VM. Everything works out of the box without relying on a hack.

Summary

I hope you’ve had smooth sailing installing and running Docker on Windows 10 Home. I believe this technique should work on older versions such as Windows 7. In case you run into a problem, just go through the instructions to see if you missed something. Do note, however, that I haven’t covered every Docker feature. You may encounter a bug or an unsupported feature that requires a workaround, or may have no solution at all. If that’s the case, I’d recommend you just switch to Linux if you want a smoother development experience using Docker.