For a long time I had this problem that I did not know how to solve:

When you run Docker on a linux host, mount an external folder, all the files created in the docker will be owned by user root on the host file-system.

Finally I think I understood how this works and found a solution. At least a partial solution for Ubuntu and CentOS-based images.

The Problem

Here is the problem again:

I run docker and mount the current folder as /opt inside the container:

$ docker run -it --rm -w /opt -v$(pwd):/opt ubuntu:23.04 bash

When inside the container I create a file and then exit the container:

# touch hello
# exit

If I look at the ownership of the file on my host computer (which is also Ubuntu):

$ ls -l hello

I get:

-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 0 Apr 26 20:35 hello

The file is now owned by user root.


Add the --user ubuntu parameter to the command:

$ docker run -it --rm -w /opt -v$(pwd):/opt --user ubuntu ubuntu:23.04 bash

Inside the container create a file and exit:

$ touch world
$ exit

Outside, on the host, check the ownership:

$ ls -l world
-rw-r--r-- 1 gabor gabor 0 Apr 26 20:38 world

It is now owned by gabor which is my regular user.


In Linux each user has a user id. The user root has the id 0 on every Linux machine and I guess also on macOS, but I have not checked it. So both on my host computer and inside the Docker container the user root has the same id.

When I ran docker in the first example (without passing the --user parameter), inside the container I became user root. Any file I created then got the userID 0 as its owner. This is also the user root outside, so that's why the file is owned by root on the host system.

The first real user on Ubuntu (and I think in general on every Linux and Unix system) will get the id 1000. So the user ID of my user "gabor" on my host computer has the ID 1000. I could verify this by running the id command on my computer.

The Docker image 23.04 also comes with a default real user account which is called ubuntu and it also has the ID 1000. When in the 2nd example I used the --user ubuntu flag I entered the container as user ubuntu. If I ran the id command there I'd see:

$ id
uid=1000(ubuntu) gid=1000(ubuntu) groups=1000(ubuntu),4(adm),20(dialout),24(cdrom),25(floppy),27(sudo),29(audio),30(dip),44(video),46(plugdev)

showing that this user in the container also has the ID 1000.

I found out about this by listing all the users using the cat /etc/passwd command. It is the last row.

So when I created a file on the mounted volume the file was created as user ubuntu (id 1000) inside the container. However on my host machine that id belongs to my regular user, so my computer sees that file as own by user gabor (id 1000).

Just as if I created it as my regular user on the host computer.

This solves the problem.

Notes and warnings

If on the host system your ID is not 1000, then this will not work, but you can create a user in the container with the ID you have and use that username. (See below for CentOs.)

Now that inside the container I am user ubuntu I don't have the privileges of user root so I cannot make changes to any of the system files. In particular I cannot install any extra software using apt. However, there are at least two ways to solve that. See Docker as both a regular user and as root (with and without sudo).


After a little pause I though I'll try CentOS as well.

I ran

$ docker run -it --rm -w /opt -v$(pwd):/opt  centos:7 bash

and then inside the container

# cat /etc/passwd

This showed that all the user IDs are below 1000, they are all system-related users. So I need to create a user.

I created a Dockerfile with the following content:

FROM centos:7
RUN useradd centos

That RUN command will create a user with the username centos:

Built my own images:

$ docker build -t mycentos .

Ran docker using that images:

$ docker run -it --rm -w /opt -v$(pwd):/opt --user centos mycentos bash

Inside the containe I first checked the id then created a file, then exited:

$ id
$ cat /etc/passwd
$ exit

Outside I checked:

$ ls -l cent
-rw-rw-r-- 1 gabor gabor 0 Apr 26 22:26 cent

It looks fine.


On Ubuntu there is already a user called ubuntu, on CentOS there is no user, but we can create one easily. I assume on any other image you would either already had a user or you could create one.