How do I run a docker container with a specific user

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BY default when you run

docker run -it [myimage]


docker attach [mycontainer]

You connect to the terminal as root user, but I would like to connect as a different user. How can you achieve that ?

The solution for docker run as user command line

For docker run as user command

In the command line, you need to run  docker run:

To specify the user simply add the option --user <user> to change to another user when you start the docker container.

docker run -it --user nobody busybox

For docker attach and docker exec

If you really want to attach to the user you want to have, then

  1. start with that user run --user <user> or mention it in your Dockerfile using USER
  2. change the user using `su

For docker attach or docker exec:

Since the command is used to attach/execute into the existing process, therefore it uses the current user there directly.

docker run -it busybox  # CTRL-P/Q to quit
docker attach <container id>  # then you have root user
/ # id
uid=0(root) gid=0(root) groups=10(wheel)

docker run -it --user nobody busybox # CTRL-P/Q to quit
docker attach <container id>  
/ $ id
uid=99(nobody) gid=99(nogroup)

The solution for docker-compose

For docker-compose, you need to edit the  docker-compose.yml.

Add in your service the user .

version: '3'
        image: ...
        user: ${UID:-0}

The value of this parameter is ${UID:-0}. It means that the variable UID is stored in an .env variable.

In .env:


Few use cases on docker with specific user

Connect to the container with apache www-data

If you have an apache container and you don’t want to connect with the root user but rather the www-data.

Execute command as www-data user:

docker exec -t --user www-data container bash -c "ls -la"

Connect to node container with a specific user

You may encounter the error : Compile webpack stuff in nodejs container on Windows running Docker Desktop with WSL2 and have the built assets under your currently logged in user.

To solve it you need to specify the --user or the -u in the docker command line.

docker run -u 1000 -v "$PWD":/build -w /build node:10.23 /bin/sh -c 'npm install && npm run build'

In the command above, the user 1000 is used to run the container. This is probably the root user. You may be interested in checking whether it is suitable for your case to [[2023-04-04-should-a-docker-container-run-as-root-or-user|run the container as the root user]].

Based on the answer by eigenfield. Thank you!

Also this material helped me understand what is going on.

This technique is not only for a node container. You can also apply it to a database container.


You may encounter other cases where the container needs to connect to other containers. Check this post to learn how to solve hostname related issues.

Did you find this blog post useful? Which other tip do you use to change the root user?

Let us know in the comments.

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