machinectl may be used to introspect and control the state of the
systemd(1) virtual machine and container registration manager
machinectl may be used to execute operations on machines and images.
Machines in this sense are considered running instances of:
· Virtual Machines (VMs) that virtualize hardware to run full
operating system (OS) instances (including their kernels) in a
virtualized environment on top of the host OS.
· Containers that share the hardware and OS kernel with the host
OS, in order to run OS userspace instances on top the host OS.
· The host system itself
Machines are identified by names that follow the same rules as UNIX
and DNS host names, for details, see below. Machines are instantiated
from disk or file system images that frequently — but not
necessarily — carry the same name as machines running from them.
Images in this sense are considered:
· Directory trees containing an OS, including its top-level
directories /usr, /etc, and so on.
· btrfs subvolumes containing OS trees, similar to normal directory
· Binary "raw" disk images containing MBR or GPT partition tables
and Linux file system partitions.
· The file system tree of the host OS itself.
The following options are understood:
When showing machine or image properties, limit the output to
certain properties as specified by the argument. If not
specified, all set properties are shown. The argument should be a
property name, such as "Name". If specified more than once, all
properties with the specified names are shown.
When showing machine or image properties, show all properties
regardless of whether they are set or not.
When listing VM or container images, do not suppress images
beginning in a dot character (".").
When cleaning VM or container images, remove all images, not just
When printing properties with show, only print the value, and
skip the property name and "=".
Do not ellipsize process tree entries.
Do not query the user for authentication for privileged
When used with kill, choose which processes to kill. Must be one
of leader, or all to select whether to kill only the leader
process of the machine or all processes of the machine. If
omitted, defaults to all.
When used with kill, choose which signal to send to selected
processes. Must be one of the well-known signal specifiers, such
as SIGTERM, SIGINT or SIGSTOP. If omitted, defaults to SIGTERM.
When used with the shell command, chooses the user ID to open the
interactive shell session as. If this switch is not specified,
defaults to "root". Note that this switch is not supported for
the login command (see below).
-E NAME=VALUE, --setenv=NAME=VALUE
When used with the shell command, sets an environment variable to
pass to the executed shell. Takes an environment variable name
and value, separated by "=". This switch may be used multiple
times to set multiple environment variables. Note that this
switch is not supported for the login command (see below).
When used with bind, creates the destination directory before
applying the bind mount.
When used with bind, applies a read-only bind mount.
When used with clone, import-raw or import-tar a read-only
container or VM image is created.
When used with status, controls the number of journal lines to
show, counting from the most recent ones. Takes a positive
integer argument. Defaults to 10.
When used with status, controls the formatting of the journal
entries that are shown. For the available choices, see
journalctl(1). Defaults to "short".
When downloading a container or VM image, specify whether the
image shall be verified before it is made available. Takes one of
"no", "checksum" and "signature". If "no", no verification is
done. If "checksum" is specified, the download is checked for
integrity after the transfer is complete, but no signatures are
verified. If "signature" is specified, the checksum is verified
and the image's signature is checked against a local keyring of
trustable vendors. It is strongly recommended to set this option
to "signature" if the server and protocol support this. Defaults
When downloading a container or VM image, and a local copy by the
specified local machine name already exists, delete it first and
replace it by the newly downloaded image.
When used with the export-tar or export-raw commands, specifies
the compression format to use for the resulting file. Takes one
of "uncompressed", "xz", "gzip", "bzip2". By default, the format
is determined automatically from the image file name passed.
Execute the operation remotely. Specify a hostname, or a username
and hostname separated by "@", to connect to. The hostname may
optionally be suffixed by a container name, separated by ":",
which connects directly to a specific container on the specified
host. This will use SSH to talk to the remote machine manager
instance. Container names may be enumerated with machinectl -HHOST.
Execute operation on a local container. Specify a container name
to connect to.
Do not pipe output into a pager.
Do not print the legend, i.e. column headers and the footer with
Print a short help text and exit.
Print a short version string and exit.
The following commands are understood:
List currently running (online) virtual machines and containers.
To enumerate machine images that can be started, use list-images
(see below). Note that this command hides the special ".host"
machine by default. Use the --all switch to show it.
Show runtime status information about one or more virtual
machines and containers, followed by the most recent log data
from the journal. This function is intended to generate
human-readable output. If you are looking for computer-parsable
output, use show instead. Note that the log data shown is
reported by the virtual machine or container manager, and
frequently contains console output of the machine, but not
necessarily journal contents of the machine itself.
Show properties of one or more registered virtual machines or
containers or the manager itself. If no argument is specified,
properties of the manager will be shown. If a NAME is specified,
properties of this virtual machine or container are shown. By
default, empty properties are suppressed. Use --all to show those
too. To select specific properties to show, use --property=. This
command is intended to be used whenever computer-parsable output
is required, and does not print the cgroup tree or journal
entries. Use status if you are looking for formatted
Start a container as a system service, using systemd-nspawn(1).
This starts systemd-nspawn@.service, instantiated for the
specified machine name, similar to the effect of systemctl start
on the service name. systemd-nspawn looks for a container image
by the specified name in /var/lib/machines/ (and other search
paths, see below) and runs it. Use list-images (see below) for
listing available container images to start.
Note that systemd-machined.service(8) also interfaces with a
variety of other container and VM managers, systemd-nspawn is
just one implementation of it. Most of the commands available in
machinectl may be used on containers or VMs controlled by other
managers, not just systemd-nspawn. Starting VMs and container
images on those managers requires manager-specific tools.
To interactively start a container on the command line with full
access to the container's console, please invoke systemd-nspawn
directly. To stop a running container use machinectl poweroff.
Open an interactive terminal login session in a container or on
the local host. If an argument is supplied, it refers to the
container machine to connect to. If none is specified, or the
container name is specified as the empty string, or the special
machine name ".host" (see below) is specified, the connection is
made to the local host instead. This will create a TTY connection
to a specific container or the local host and asks for the
execution of a getty on it. Note that this is only supported for
containers running systemd(1) as init system.
This command will open a full login prompt on the container or
the local host, which then asks for username and password. Use
shell (see below) or systemd-run(1) with the --machine= switch to
directly invoke a single command, either interactively or in the
shell [[NAME@]NAME [PATH [ARGUMENTS...]]]
Open an interactive shell session in a container or on the local
host. The first argument refers to the container machine to
connect to. If none is specified, or the machine name is
specified as the empty string, or the special machine name
".host" (see below) is specified, the connection is made to the
local host instead. This works similar to login but immediately
invokes a user process. This command runs the specified
executable with the specified arguments, or /bin/sh if none is
specified. By default, opens a "root" shell, but by using --uid=,
or by prefixing the machine name with a username and an "@"
character, a different user may be selected. Use --setenv= to set
environment variables for the executed process.
When using the shell command without arguments, (thus invoking
the executed shell or command on the local host), it is in many
ways similar to a su(1) session, but, unlike su, completely
isolates the new session from the originating session, so that it
shares no process or session properties, and is in a clean and
well-defined state. It will be tracked in a new utmp, login,
audit, security and keyring session, and will not inherit any
environment variables or resource limits, among other properties.
Note that systemd-run(1) may be used in place of the shell
command, and allows more detailed, low-level configuration of the
invoked unit. However, it is frequently more privileged than the
enable NAME..., disable NAME...
Enable or disable a container as a system service to start at
system boot, using systemd-nspawn(1). This enables or disables
systemd-nspawn@.service, instantiated for the specified machine
name, similar to the effect of systemctl enable or systemctldisable on the service name.
Power off one or more containers. This will trigger a reboot by
sending SIGRTMIN+4 to the container's init process, which causes
systemd-compatible init systems to shut down cleanly. Use stop as
alias for poweroff. This operation does not work on containers
that do not run a systemd(1)-compatible init system, such as
sysvinit. Use terminate (see below) to immediately terminate a
container or VM, without cleanly shutting it down.
Reboot one or more containers. This will trigger a reboot by
sending SIGINT to the container's init process, which is roughly
equivalent to pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del on a non-containerized
system, and is compatible with containers running any system
Immediately terminates a virtual machine or container, without
cleanly shutting it down. This kills all processes of the virtual
machine or container and deallocates all resources attached to
that instance. Use poweroff to issue a clean shutdown request.
Send a signal to one or more processes of the virtual machine or
container. This means processes as seen by the host, not the
processes inside the virtual machine or container. Use
--kill-who= to select which process to kill. Use --signal= to
select the signal to send.
bind NAME PATH [PATH]
Bind mounts a directory from the host into the specified
container. The first directory argument is the source directory
on the host, the second directory argument is the destination
directory in the container. When the latter is omitted, the
destination path in the container is the same as the source path
on the host. When combined with the --read-only switch, a
ready-only bind mount is created. When combined with the --mkdir
switch, the destination path is first created before the mount is
applied. Note that this option is currently only supported for
copy-to NAME PATH [PATH]
Copies files or directories from the host system into a running
container. Takes a container name, followed by the source path on
the host and the destination path in the container. If the
destination path is omitted, the same as the source path is used.
copy-from NAME PATH [PATH]
Copies files or directories from a container into the host
system. Takes a container name, followed by the source path in
the container the destination path on the host. If the
destination path is omitted, the same as the source path is used.
Show a list of locally installed container and VM images. This
enumerates all raw disk images and container directories and
subvolumes in /var/lib/machines/ (and other search paths, see
below). Use start (see above) to run a container off one of the
listed images. Note that, by default, containers whose name
begins with a dot (".") are not shown. To show these too, specify
--all. Note that a special image ".host" always implicitly exists
and refers to the image the host itself is booted from.
Show terse status information about one or more container or VM
images. This function is intended to generate human-readable
output. Use show-image (see below) to generate computer-parsable
Show properties of one or more registered virtual machine or
container images, or the manager itself. If no argument is
specified, properties of the manager will be shown. If a NAME is
specified, properties of this virtual machine or container image
are shown. By default, empty properties are suppressed. Use --all
to show those too. To select specific properties to show, use
--property=. This command is intended to be used whenever
computer-parsable output is required. Use image-status if you are
looking for formatted human-readable output.
clone NAME NAME
Clones a container or VM image. The arguments specify the name of
the image to clone and the name of the newly cloned image. Note
that plain directory container images are cloned into btrfs
subvolume images with this command, if the underlying file system
supports this. Note that cloning a container or VM image is
optimized for btrfs file systems, and might not be efficient on
others, due to file system limitations.
Note that this command leaves host name, machine ID and all other
settings that could identify the instance unmodified. The
original image and the cloned copy will hence share these
credentials, and it might be necessary to manually change them in
If combined with the --read-only switch a read-only cloned image
rename NAME NAME
Renames a container or VM image. The arguments specify the name
of the image to rename and the new name of the image.
read-only NAME [BOOL]
Marks or (unmarks) a container or VM image read-only. Takes a VM
or container image name, followed by a boolean as arguments. If
the boolean is omitted, positive is implied, i.e. the image is
Removes one or more container or VM images. The special image
".host", which refers to the host's own directory tree, may not
set-limit [NAME] BYTES
Sets the maximum size in bytes that a specific container or VM
image, or all images, may grow up to on disk (disk quota). Takes
either one or two parameters. The first, optional parameter
refers to a container or VM image name. If specified, the size
limit of the specified image is changed. If omitted, the overall
size limit of the sum of all images stored locally is changed.
The final argument specifies the size limit in bytes, possibly
suffixed by the usual K, M, G, T units. If the size limit shall
be disabled, specify "-" as size.
Note that per-container size limits are only supported on btrfs
file systems. Also note that, if set-limit is invoked without an
image parameter, and /var/lib/machines is empty, and the
directory is not located on btrfs, a btrfs loopback file is
implicitly created as /var/lib/machines.raw with the given size,
and mounted to /var/lib/machines. The size of the loopback may
later be readjusted with set-limit, as well. If such a
loopback-mounted /var/lib/machines directory is used, set-limit
without an image name alters both the quota setting within the
file system as well as the loopback file and file system size
Remove hidden VM or container images (or all). This command
removes all hidden machine images from /var/lib/machines, i.e.
those whose name begins with a dot. Use machinectl list-images--all to see a list of all machine images, including the hidden
When combined with the --all switch removes all images, not just
hidden ones. This command effectively empties /var/lib/machines.
Note that commands such as machinectl pull-tar or machinectlpull-raw usually create hidden, read-only, unmodified machine
images from the downloaded image first, before cloning a writable
working copy of it, in order to avoid duplicate downloads in case
of images that are reused multiple times. Use machinectl clean to
remove old, hidden images created this way.
Image Transfer Commandspull-tar URL [NAME]
Downloads a .tar container image from the specified URL, and
makes it available under the specified local machine name. The
URL must be of type "http://" or "https://", and must refer to a
.tar, .tar.gz, .tar.xz or .tar.bz2 archive file. If the local
machine name is omitted, it is automatically derived from the
last component of the URL, with its suffix removed.
The image is verified before it is made available, unless
--verify=no is specified. Verification is done via SHA256SUMS and
SHA256SUMS.gpg files that need to be made available on the same
web server, under the same URL as the .tar file, but with the
last component (the filename) of the URL replaced. With
--verify=checksum, only the SHA256 checksum for the file is
verified, based on the SHA256SUMS file. With --verify=signature,
the SHA256SUMS file is first verified with detached GPG signature
file SHA256SUMS.gpg. The public key for this verification step
needs to be available in /usr/lib/systemd/import-pubring.gpg or
The container image will be downloaded and stored in a read-only
subvolume in /var/lib/machines/ that is named after the specified
URL and its HTTP etag. A writable snapshot is then taken from
this subvolume, and named after the specified local name. This
behavior ensures that creating multiple container instances of
the same URL is efficient, as multiple downloads are not
necessary. In order to create only the read-only image, and avoid
creating its writable snapshot, specify "-" as local machine
Note that the read-only subvolume is prefixed with .tar-, and is
thus not shown by list-images, unless --all is passed.
Note that pressing C-c during execution of this command will not
abort the download. Use cancel-transfer, described below.
pull-raw URL [NAME]
Downloads a .raw container or VM disk image from the specified
URL, and makes it available under the specified local machine
name. The URL must be of type "http://" or "https://". The
container image must either be a .qcow2 or raw disk image,
optionally compressed as .gz, .xz, or .bz2. If the local machine
name is omitted, it is automatically derived from the last
component of the URL, with its suffix removed.
Image verification is identical for raw and tar images (see
If the downloaded image is in .qcow2 format it is converted into
a raw image file before it is made available.
Downloaded images of this type will be placed as read-only .raw
file in /var/lib/machines/. A local, writable (reflinked) copy is
then made under the specified local machine name. To omit
creation of the local, writable copy pass "-" as local machine
Similar to the behavior of pull-tar, the read-only image is
prefixed with .raw-, and thus not shown by list-images, unless
--all is passed.
Note that pressing C-c during execution of this command will not
abort the download. Use cancel-transfer, described below.
import-tar FILE [NAME], import-raw FILE [NAME]
Imports a TAR or RAW container or VM image, and places it under
the specified name in /var/lib/machines/. When import-tar is
used, the file specified as the first argument should be a tar
archive, possibly compressed with xz, gzip or bzip2. It will then
be unpacked into its own subvolume in /var/lib/machines. When
import-raw is used, the file should be a qcow2 or raw disk image,
possibly compressed with xz, gzip or bzip2. If the second
argument (the resulting image name) is not specified, it is
automatically derived from the file name. If the file name is
passed as "-", the image is read from standard input, in which
case the second argument is mandatory.
Both pull-tar and pull-raw will resize /var/lib/machines.raw and
the filesystem therein as necessary. Optionally, the --read-only
switch may be used to create a read-only container or VM image.
No cryptographic validation is done when importing the images.
Much like image downloads, ongoing imports may be listed with
list-transfers and aborted with cancel-transfer.
export-tar NAME [FILE], export-raw NAME [FILE]
Exports a TAR or RAW container or VM image and stores it in the
specified file. The first parameter should be a VM or container
image name. The second parameter should be a file path the TAR or
RAW image is written to. If the path ends in ".gz", the file is
compressed with gzip, if it ends in ".xz", with xz, and if it
ends in ".bz2", with bzip2. If the path ends in neither, the file
is left uncompressed. If the second argument is missing, the
image is written to standard output. The compression may also be
explicitly selected with the --format= switch. This is in
particular useful if the second parameter is left unspecified.
Much like image downloads and imports, ongoing exports may be
listed with list-transfers and aborted with cancel-transfer.
Note that, currently, only directory and subvolume images may be
exported as TAR images, and only raw disk images as RAW images.
Shows a list of container or VM image downloads, imports and
exports that are currently in progress.
Aborts a download, import or export of the container or VM image
with the specified ID. To list ongoing transfers and their IDs,
The machinectl tool operates on machines and images whose names must
be chosen following strict rules. Machine names must be suitable for
use as host names following a conservative subset of DNS and
UNIX/Linux semantics. Specifically, they must consist of one or more
non-empty label strings, separated by dots. No leading or trailing
dots are allowed. No sequences of multiple dots are allowed. The
label strings may only consist of alphanumeric characters as well as
the dash and underscore. The maximum length of a machine name is 64
A special machine with the name ".host" refers to the running host
system itself. This is useful for execution operations or inspecting
the host system as well. Note that machinectl list will not show this
special machine unless the --all switch is specified.
Requirements on image names are less strict, however, they must be
valid UTF-8, must be suitable as file names (hence not be the single
or double dot, and not include a slash), and may not contain control
characters. Since many operations search for an image by the name of
a requested machine, it is recommended to name images in the same
strict fashion as machines.
A special image with the name ".host" refers to the image of the
running host system. It hence conceptually maps to the special
".host" machine name described above. Note that machinectllist-images will not show this special image either, unless --all is
Machine images are preferably stored in /var/lib/machines/, but are
also searched for in /usr/local/lib/machines/ and /usr/lib/machines/.
For compatibility reasons, the directory /var/lib/container/ is
searched, too. Note that images stored below /usr are always
considered read-only. It is possible to symlink machines images from
other directories into /var/lib/machines/ to make them available for
control with machinectl.
Note that many image operations are only supported, efficient or
atomic on btrfs file systems. Due to this, if the pull-tar, pull-raw,
import-tar, import-raw and set-limit commands notice that
/var/lib/machines is empty and not located on btrfs, they will
implicitly set up a loopback file /var/lib/machines.raw containing a
btrfs file system that is mounted to /var/lib/machines. The size of
this loopback file may be controlled dynamically with set-limit.
Disk images are understood by systemd-nspawn(1) and machinectl in
· A simple directory tree, containing the files and directories of
the container to boot.
· Subvolumes (on btrfs file systems), which are similar to the
simple directories, described above. However, they have
additional benefits, such as efficient cloning and quota
· "Raw" disk images, i.e. binary images of disks with a GPT or MBR
partition table. Images of this type are regular files with the
See systemd-nspawn(1) for more information on image formats, in
particular its --directory= and --image= options.
Example 1. Download an Ubuntu image and open a shell in it
# machinectl pull-tar https://cloud-images.ubuntu.com/trusty/current/trusty-server-cloudimg-amd64-root.tar.gz
# systemd-nspawn -M trusty-server-cloudimg-amd64-root
This downloads and verifies the specified .tar image, and then uses
systemd-nspawn(1) to open a shell in it.
Example 2. Download a Fedora image, set a root password in it, startit as service
# machinectl pull-raw --verify=no https://dl.fedoraproject.org/pub/fedora/linux/releases/23/Cloud/x86_64/Images/Fedora-Cloud-Base-23-20151030.x86_64.raw.xz
# systemd-nspawn -M Fedora-Cloud-Base-23-20151030
# machinectl start Fedora-Cloud-Base-23-20151030
# machinectl login Fedora-Cloud-Base-23-20151030
This downloads the specified .raw image with verification disabled.
Then, a shell is opened in it and a root password is set. Afterwards
the shell is left, and the machine started as system service. With
the last command a login prompt into the container is requested.
Example 3. Exports a container image as tar file
# machinectl export-tar fedora myfedora.tar.xz
Exports the container "fedora" as an xz-compressed tar file
myfedora.tar.xz into the current directory.
Example 4. Create a new shell session
# machinectl shell --uid=lennart
This creates a new shell session on the local host for the user ID
"lennart", in a su(1)-like fashion.
Pager to use when --no-pager is not given; overrides $PAGER.
Setting this to an empty string or the value "cat" is equivalent
to passing --no-pager.
Override the default options passed to less ("FRSXMK").
This page is part of the systemd (systemd system and service manager)
project. Information about the project can be found at
⟨http://www.freedesktop.org/wiki/Software/systemd⟩. If you have a bug
report for this manual page, see
page was obtained from the project's upstream Git repository
⟨https://github.com/systemd/systemd.git⟩ on 2016-07-16. If you dis‐
cover any rendering problems in this HTML version of the page, or you
believe there is a better or more up-to-date source for the page, or
you have corrections or improvements to the information in this
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systemd 230 MACHINECTL(1)