Configure and troubleshoot the Docker daemon

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

After successfully installing Docker and starting Docker, the dockerd daemon runs with its default configuration. This topic shows how to customize the configuration, start the daemon manually, and troubleshoot and debug the daemon if you run into issues.

Start the daemon using operating system utilities

The command to start Docker depends on your operating system. Check the correct page under Install Docker. To configure Docker to start automatically at system boot, see Configure Docker to start on boot

Start the daemon manually

Typically, you start Docker using operating system utilities. For debugging purposes, you can start Docker manually using the dockerd command. You may need to use sudo, depending on your operating system configuration. When you start Docker this way, it runs in the foreground and sends its logs directly to your terminal.

$ dockerd

INFO[0000] +job init_networkdriver()
INFO[0000] +job serveapi(unix:///var/run/docker.sock)
INFO[0000] Listening for HTTP on unix (/var/run/docker.sock)

To stop Docker when you have started it manually, issue a Ctrl+C in your terminal.

Configure the Docker daemon

The daemon includes many configuration options, which you can pass as flags when starting Docker manually, or set in the daemon.json configuration file. The second method is recommended because those configuration changes persist when you restart Docker.

See dockerd for a full list of configuration options.

Here is an example of starting the Docker daemon manually with some configuration options:

$ dockerd -D --tls=true --tlscert=/var/docker/server.pem --tlskey=/var/docker/serverkey.pem -H tcp://

This command enables debugging (-D), enables TLS (-tls), specifies the server certificate and key (--tlscert and --tlskey), and specifies the network interface where the daemon listens for connections (-H).

A better approach is to put these options into the daemon.json file and restart Docker. This method works for every Docker platform. The following daemon.json example sets all the same options as the above command:

  "debug": true,
  "tls": true,
  "tlscert": "/var/docker/server.pem",
  "tlskey": "/var/docker/serverkey.pem",
  "hosts": ["tcp://"]

Many specific configuration options are discussed throughout the Docker documentation. Some places to go next include:

Troubleshoot the daemon

You can enable debugging on the daemon to learn about the runtime activity of the daemon and to aid in troubleshooting. If the daemon is completely non-responsive, you can also force a full stack trace of all threads to be added to the daemon log by sending the SIGUSR signal to the Docker daemon.

Out Of Memory Exceptions (OOME)

If your containers attempt to use more memory than the system has available, you may experience an Out Of Memory Exception (OOME) and a container, or the Docker daemon, might be killed by the kernel OOM killer. To prevent this from happening, ensure that your application runs on hosts with adequate memory and see Understand the risks of running out of memory.

Read the logs

The daemon logs may help you diagnose problems. The logs may be saved in one of a few locations, depending on the operating system configuration and the logging subsystem used:

Operating systemLocation
RHEL, Oracle Linux/var/log/messages
Ubuntu 16.04+, CentOSUse the command journalctl -u docker.service
Ubuntu 14.10-/var/log/upstart/docker.log

Enable debugging

There are two ways to enable debugging. The recommended approach is to set the debug key to true in the daemon.json file. This method works for every Docker platform.

  1. Edit the daemon.json file, which is usually located in /etc/docker/. You may need to create this file, if it does not yet exist. On macOS or Windows, do not edit the file directly. Instead, go to Preferences / Daemon / Advanced.

  2. If the file is empty, add the following:

      "debug": true

    If the file already contains JSON, just add the key "debug": true, being careful to add a comma to the end of the line if it is not the last line before the closing bracket. Also verify that if the log-level key is set, it is set to either info or debug. info is the default, and possible values are debug, info, warn, error, fatal.

  3. Send a HUP signal to the daemon to cause it to reload its configuration. On Linux hosts, use the following command.

    $ sudo kill -SIGHUP $(pidof dockerd)

    On Windows hosts, restart Docker.

Instead of following this procedure, you can also stop the Docker daemon and restart it manually with the -D flag. However, this may result in Docker restarting with a different environment than the one the hosts’s startup scripts will create, and this may make debugging more difficult.

Force a stack trace to be logged

If the daemon is unresponsive, you can force a full stack trace to be logged by sending a SIGUSR1 signal to the daemon.

  • Linux:

    $ sudo kill -SIGUSR1 $(pidof dockerd)
  • Windows Server:

    Download docker-signal.

    Run the executable with the flag --pid=<PID of daemon>.

This will force a stack trace to be logged but will not stop the daemon.

The daemon will continue operating after handling the SIGUSR1 signal and dumping the stack traces to the log. The stack traces can be used to determine the state of all goroutines and threads within the daemon.

Check whether Docker is running

The operating-system independent way to check whether Docker is running is to ask Docker, using the docker info command.

You can also use operating system utilities, such as sudo systemctl is-active docker or sudo status docker or sudo service docker status, or checking the service status using Windows utilities.

Finally, you can check in the process list for the dockerd process, using commands like ps or top.

docker, daemon, configuration, troubleshooting