Learn how to Install LXD / LXC Containers in Ubuntu

Let me start by explaining what a container is, it is normal process on the host machine (any Linux based m/c) with following characteristics,

  • It feels like a VM, but it is not.
  • Uses the host Kernel.
  • Cannot boot a different Operating System.
  • Can’t have its own modules.
  • Does not need “init” as PID (Process id) as “1”


LXC (LinuX Containers) technology was developed long ago and is an Operating System level virtualization technology. This was existing from the days of BSD and System-V Release 4 (Popular Unix flavors during 1980-90’s). But until recently, no one new how much it can help us in saving in terms of resource utilization. Because of this technology change, all enterprises are moving towards adoption of virtualization (be it Cloud or be it Docker containers). This also helped in better management of OpEX(Operational expenditures) and CaPEX(Captial expenditures) costs. Using this technique, we can create and run multiple and isolated Linux virtual environments on a single Linux host machine (called control host). LXC mainly uses Linux’s cgroups and namespaces functionalities, which were introduced in version 2.6.24(kernel version) onwards. In parallel many advancements in hypervisors happened like that of KVM, QEMU, Hyper-V, ESXi etc. Especially KVM (Kernel Virtual Machine) which is core of Linux OS, helped in this kind of advancement.

Difference between LXC and LXD is that LXC is the original and older way to manage containers but it is still supported, all commands of LXC starts with “lxc-“ like “lxc-create” & “lxc-info“, whereas LXD is a new way to manage containers and lxc command is used for all containers operations and management.

All of us know that “Docker” utilizes LXC and was developed using Go language, cgroups, namespaces and finally the Linux Kernel itself. Complete Docker has been built and developed using LXC as the basic foundation block. Docker is completely dependent on underlying infrastructure & hardware and using the Operating System as the medium. However, Docker is a portable and easily deployable container engine; all its dependencies are run using a virtual container on most of the Linux based servers. Groups, and Namespaces are the building block concepts for both LXC and Docker containers. Following are the brief description of these concepts.

C Groups (Control Groups)

With Cgroups each resource will have its own hierarchy.

  • CPU, Memory, I/O etc will have their own control group hierarchy. Following are various characterics of Cgroups,
  •  Each process is in each node
  • Each hierarchy starts with one node
  • Initially all processes start at the root node. Therefore “each node” is equivalent to “group of processes”.
  • Hierarchies are independent, ex: CPU, Block I/O, memory etc

As explained earlier there are various Cgroup types as listed below,

1) Memory Cgroups

a) Keeps track of pages used by each group.

b) File read/write/mmap from block devices

c) Anonymous memory(stack, heap etc)

d) Each memory page is charged to a group

e) Pages can be shared across multiple groups

2) CPU Cgroups

a) Track users/system cpu time

b)  Track usage per CPU

c) Allows set to weights

d) Can’t set cpu limits

3) Block IO Cgroup

a) Keep track of read/write(I/O’s)

b) Set throttle (limits) for each group (per block device)

c) Set real weights for each group (per block device)

4) Devices Cgroup

a) Controls what the group can do on device nodes

b) Permission include /read/write/mknode

5) Freezer Cgroup

a) Allow to freeze/thaw a group  of processes


c) Cannot be detected by processes


Namespaces provide processes with their own system view. Each process is in name space of each type.

There are multiple namespaces like,

  • PID – Process within a PID name space only see processes in the same PID name space
  • Net – Processes within a given network namespace get their own private network stack.
  • Mnt – Processes can have their own “root” and private “mount” points.
  • Uts –  Have container its own hostname
  • IPC – Allows processes to have own IPC semaphores, IPC message queues and shared memory
  • USR – Allows to map UID/GID

Installation and configuration of LXD containers

To have LXD installed on Ubuntu system (18.04 LTS) , we can start with LXD installation using below apt command

[email protected]:~$ sudo apt update
[email protected]:~$ sudo apt install lxd -y

Once the LXD is installed, we can start with its initialization as below, (most of the times use the default options)

[email protected]:~$ sudo lxd init


Once the LXD is initialized successfully, run the below command to verify information

[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc info | more


Use below command to list if there is any container is downloaded on our host,

[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc image list
[email protected]:~$

Quick and easy way to start the first container on Ubuntu 18.04 (or any supported Ubuntu flavor) use the following command. The container name we have provided is “shashi”

[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc launch ubuntu:18.04 shashi
Creating shashi
Starting shashi
[email protected]:~$

To list out what are the LXC containers that are in the system

[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc list
|  NAME  |  STATE  |         IPV4          |                     IPV6                      |    TYPE    | SNAPSHOTS |
| shashi | RUNNING | (eth0) | fd42:49da:7c44:cebe:216:3eff:fea4:ea06 (eth0) | PERSISTENT | 0         |
[email protected]:~$

Other Container management commands for LXD are listed below :

Note: In below examples, shashi is my container name

How to take bash shell of your LXD Container?

[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc exec shashi bash
[email protected]:~#

How Stop, Start & Restart LXD Container?

[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc stop shashi
[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc list
|  NAME  |  STATE  | IPV4 | IPV6 |    TYPE    | SNAPSHOTS |
| shashi | STOPPED |      |      | PERSISTENT | 0         |
[email protected]:~$
[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc start shashi
[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc restart shashi

How to delete a LXD Container?

[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc stop  shashi
[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc delete  shashi
[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc list
[email protected]:~$

How to take snapshot of LXD container and then restore it?

Let’s assume we have pkumar container based on centos7 image, so to take the snapshot use the following,

[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc snapshot pkumar pkumar_snap0

Use below command to verify the snapshot

[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc info  pkumar  | grep -i Snapshots -A2
  pkumar_snap0 (taken at 2019/08/02 19:39 UTC) (stateless)
[email protected]:~$

Use below command to restore the LXD container from their snapshot


$ lxc restore {container_name} {snapshot_name}

[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc restore pkumar pkumar_snap0
[email protected]:~$

How to delete LXD container snapshot?

$ sudo lxc delete <container_name/snapshot_name>

How to set Memory, CPU and Disk Limit on LXD container?

Syntax to set Memory limit:

# lxc config set <container_name> limits.memory <Memory_Size>KB/MB/GB

Syntax to set CPU limit:

# lxc config set <container_name>  limits.cpu {Number_of_CPUs}

Syntax to Set Disk limit:

# lxc config device set <container_name> root size <Size_MB/GB>

Note: To set a disk limit (it requires btrfs or ZFS filesystem)

Let’s set limit on Memory and CPU on container shashi using the following commands,

[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc config set shashi limits.memory 256MB
[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc config set shashi limits.cpu 2

Install and configure LXC container (commands and operations)

To install lxc on your ubuntu system, use the beneath apt command,

[email protected]:~$ sudo apt install lxc -y

In earlier version of LXC, the command “lxc-clone” was used and later it was deprecated. Now, “lxc-copy” command is widely used for cloning operation.

Note: To get “lxc-copy” command working, use the following installation steps,

[email protected]:~$ sudo apt install lxc1 -y

Creating Linux Containers using the templates

LXC provides ready-made templates for easy installation of Linux containers. Templates are usually found in the directory path /usr/share/lxc/templates, but in fresh installation we will not get the templates, so to download the templates in your local system , run the beneath command,

[email protected]:~$ sudo apt install lxc-templates -y

Once the lxc-templates are installed successfully then templates will be available,

[email protected]:~$ sudo ls /usr/share/lxc/templates/
lxc-alpine     lxc-centos    lxc-fedora         lxc-oci           lxc-plamo      lxc-sparclinux    lxc-voidlinux
lxc-altlinux   lxc-cirros    lxc-fedora-legacy  lxc-openmandriva  lxc-pld        lxc-sshd
lxc-archlinux  lxc-debian    lxc-gentoo         lxc-opensuse      lxc-sabayon    lxc-ubuntu
lxc-busybox    lxc-download  lxc-local          lxc-oracle        lxc-slackware  lxc-ubuntu-cloud
[email protected]:~$

Let’s Launch a container using template,

Syntax: lxc-create -n <container_name> lxc -t <template_name>

[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc-create -n shashi_lxc -t ubuntu
invoke-rc.d: could not determine current runlevel
invoke-rc.d: policy-rc.d denied execution of start.
Current default time zone: 'Etc/UTC'
Local time is now:      Fri Aug  2 11:46:42 UTC 2019.
Universal Time is now:  Fri Aug  2 11:46:42 UTC 2019.

# The default user is 'ubuntu' with password 'ubuntu'!
# Use the 'sudo' command to run tasks as root in the container.
[email protected]:~$

Once the complete template is created, we can login into this console using the following steps

[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc-start -n shashi_lxc -d
[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc-console -n shashi_lxc

Connected to tty 1
Type <Ctrl+a q> to exit the console, <Ctrl+a Ctrl+a> to enter Ctrl+a itself

Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS shashi_lxc pts/0

shashi_lxc login: ubuntu
Last login: Fri Aug  2 12:00:35 UTC 2019 on pts/0
Welcome to Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS (GNU/Linux 4.15.0-20-generic x86_64)
To run a command as administrator (user "root"), use "sudo <command>".
See "man sudo_root" for details.

[email protected]_lxc:~$ free -h
              total        used        free      shared  buff/cache   available
Mem:           3.9G         23M        3.8G        112K        8.7M        3.8G
Swap:          1.9G        780K        1.9G
[email protected]_lxc:~$ grep -c processor /proc/cpuinfo
[email protected]_lxc:~$ df -h /
Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/sda1        40G  7.4G   31G  20% /
[email protected]_lxc:~$

Now logout or exit from the container and go back to host machine login window. With the lxc-ls command we can see that shashi-lxc container is created.

[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc-ls
[email protected]:~$

lxc-ls -f” command provides details with ip address of the container and the same is as below,

[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc-ls -f
shashi_lxc RUNNING 0         - -    false
[email protected]:~$

lxc-info -n <container_name>” command provides with all the required details along with State, ip address etc.

[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc-info -n shashi_lxc
Name:           shashi_lxc
State:          RUNNING
PID:            6732
CPU use:        2.38 seconds
BlkIO use:      240.00 KiB
Memory use:     27.75 MiB
KMem use:       5.04 MiB
Link:           vethQ7BVGU
 TX bytes:      2.01 KiB
 RX bytes:      9.52 KiB
 Total bytes:   11.53 KiB
[email protected]:~$

How to Start, Stop, Restart and Delete LXC containers

$ lxc-start -n <container_name>
$ lxc-stop -n <container_name>
$ lxc-destroy -n <container_name>

LXC Cloning operation

Now the main cloning operation to be performed on the LXC container. The following steps are followed

As described earlier LXC offers a feature of cloning a container from the existing container, by running the following command to clone an existing “shashi_lxc” container to a new container “shashi_lxc_clone”.

Note: We have to make sure that before starting the cloning operation, first we have to stop the existing container using the “lxc-stop” command.

[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc-stop -n shashi_lxc
[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc-copy -n shashi_lxc -N shashi_lxc_clone
[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc-ls
shashi_lxc       shashi_lxc_clone
[email protected]:~$

Now start the cloned container

[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc-start -n shashi_lxc_clone
[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc-ls -f
shashi_lxc       STOPPED 0         -      -          -    false
shashi_lxc_clone RUNNING 0         - -    false
[email protected]:~$

With the above set of commands, cloning operation is done and the new clone “shashi_lxc_clone” got created. We can login into this lxc container console with below steps,

[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc-console -n shashi_lxc_clone

Connected to tty 1
Type <Ctrl+a q> to exit the console, <Ctrl+a Ctrl+a> to enter Ctrl+a itself
Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS shashi_lxc pts/0

shashi_lxc login:

LXC Network configuration and commands

We can attach to the newly created container, but to remotely login into this container using SSH or any other means, we have to do some minimal configuration changes as explained below,

[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc-attach -n shashi_lxc_clone
[email protected]_lxc:/#
[email protected]_lxc:/# useradd -m shashi
[email protected]_lxc:/# passwd shashi
Enter new UNIX password:
Retype new UNIX password:
passwd: password updated successfully
[email protected]_lxc:/#

First install the ssh server using the following command so that smooth “ssh” connect can be established.

[email protected]_lxc:/# apt install openssh-server -y

Now get the IP address of the existing lxc container using the following command,

[email protected]_lxc:/# ip addr show eth0|grep inet
    inet brd scope global dynamic eth0
    inet6 fe80::216:3eff:fe82:e251/64 scope link
[email protected]_lxc:/#

From the host machine with a new console window, use the following command to connect to this container over ssh

[email protected]:~$ ssh
[email protected]'s password:

Now, we have logged in a container using ssh session.

LXC process related commands

[email protected]:~$ ps aux|grep lxc|grep -v grep


LXC snapshot operation

Snapshotting is one of the main operations which will help in taking point in time snapshot of the lxc container images. These same snapshot images can be used later for further use.

[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc-stop -n shashi_lxc
[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc-snapshot -n shashi_lxc
[email protected]:~$

The snapshot path can be located using the following command.

[email protected]:~$ sudo lxc-snapshot -L -n shashi_lxc
snap0 (/var/lib/lxc/shashi_lxc/snaps) 2019:08:02 20:28:49
[email protected]:~$


LXC, LinuX containers is one of the early container technologies. Understanding the concepts and learning about LXC will help in deeper understanding of any other containers like Docker Containers. This article has provided deeper insights on Cgroup and Namespaces which are also very much required concepts for better understanding of Containers and like. Many of the LXC operations like cloning, snapshotting, network operation etc are covered with command line examples.

10 thoughts on “Learn how to Install LXD / LXC Containers in Ubuntu”

  1. So, what if Ubuntu is NOT your distribution of choice? How do you do each of these things for Debian, or Fedora, or Q4OS?

    • For Debian and Fedora distributions, LXD is installed via snapd, steps are listed below:

      Debian :

      $ sudo apt install snapd
      $ sudo snap install lxd
      $ sudo lxd init

      Fedora :

      $ sudo dnf install snapd
      $ sudo snap install lxd
      $ sudo snap enable lxd
      $ sudo snap services lxd
      $ sudo lxd init

  2. This is fairly clear, but what if I need to expose the containers to my network? Say I do not want to use NAT and I want to be able to access each container from the lan, I cannot find useful/updated information about that for LXC, seems like everyone is happy with nat, but for my purposes is useless, I need them to get an IP adress from my existing DHCP server on my LAN and to access them without accessing the host

  3. Simple, eg:
    For bare metal Ubuntu host, you would create a br0 interface referencing your parent ethernet interface.
    Then apply to your LXC profile.

  4. lxc profile copy default lanprofile && lxc profile device set lanprofile eth0 nictype macvlan && lxc profile device set lanprofile eth0 parent “ETH PORT”

    lxc profile show lanprofile
    To start your first container, try: lxc launch ubuntu:18.04

    config: {}
    description: Default LXD profile
    name: eth0
    nictype: macvlan
    parent: enp3s0f0
    type: nic
    path: /
    pool: default
    type: disk
    name: lanprofile


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