How to copy files from host to Docker container? – Dev

The best answers to the question “How to copy files from host to Docker container?” in the category Dev.


I am trying to build a backup and restore solution for the Docker containers that we work with.

I have Docker base image that I have created, ubuntu:base, and do not want have to rebuild it each time with a Docker file to add files to it.

I want to create a script that runs from the host machine and creates a new container using the ubuntu:base Docker image and then copies files into that container.

How can I copy files from the host to the container?


  1. Get container name or short container id:

    $ docker ps
  2. Get full container id:

    $ docker inspect -f   '{{.Id}}'  SHORT_CONTAINER_ID-or-CONTAINER_NAME
  3. Copy file:

    $ sudo cp path-file-host /var/lib/docker/aufs/mnt/FULL_CONTAINER_ID/PATH-NEW-FILE


$ docker ps


d8e703d7e303   solidleon/ssh:latest      /usr/sbin/sshd -D                      cranky_pare

$ docker inspect -f   '{{.Id}}' cranky_pare


$ docker inspect -f   '{{.Id}}' d8e703d7e303


$ sudo cp file.txt /var/lib/docker/aufs/mnt/**d8e703d7e3039a6df6d01bd7fb58d1882e592a85059eb16c4b83cf91847f88e5**/root/file.txt


The cp command can be used to copy files.

One specific file can be copied TO the container like:

docker cp foo.txt container_id:/foo.txt

One specific file can be copied FROM the container like:

docker cp container_id:/foo.txt foo.txt

For emphasis, container_id is a container ID, not an image ID. (Use docker ps to view listing which includes container_ids.)

Multiple files contained by the folder src can be copied into the target folder using:

docker cp src/. container_id:/target
docker cp container_id:/src/. target

Reference: Docker CLI docs for cp

In Docker versions prior to 1.8 it was only possible to copy files from a container to the host. Not from the host to a container.


The following is a fairly ugly way of doing it but it works.

docker run -i ubuntu /bin/bash -c 'cat > file' < file


The cleanest way is to mount a host directory on the container when starting the container:

{host} docker run -v /path/to/hostdir:/mnt --name my_container my_image
{host} docker exec -it my_container bash
{container} cp /mnt/sourcefile /path/to/destfile