Using Docker’s Commit Command | Comprehensive Guide with Examples

Using Docker’s Commit Command | Comprehensive Guide with Examples

Working with Docker containers often involves making adjustments and tweaks. However, a common challenge is that these changes vanish once the container is stopped. This issue can be addressed using the docker commit command.

Using docker commit might seem complex due to its nuances and best practices. This blog post aims to simplify the docker commit command, highlighting its applications and demonstrating how to efficiently use it in various scenarios.

Whether you’re an experienced Docker user or a beginner, this post is designed to enhance your Docker experience.

TL;DR: How do I save changes in Docker containers?

The docker commit command allows you to save changes made in a Docker container. It creates a new Docker image from a container’s changes. For example, docker commit <container_id> <new_image_name>. Be sure to read the entire article for more advanced methods, background information, tips, and tricks.

docker commit <container_id> <new_image_name>

Understanding Docker Commit

To fully leverage the docker commit command’s potential, we must first comprehend Docker’s core principle – immutability. Docker containers are designed to be immutable, implying that once a container is created, it should not be altered.

Instead, when changes are required, a new container is created from an image that incorporates those changes. This principle aligns with Docker’s ‘build once, run anywhere’ philosophy.

However, there are instances where committing changes to a Docker container proves beneficial. For example, you might be debugging a running container and need to save your changes for additional testing.

Or, you might have made modifications to the container’s environment that you want to replicate in future containers. In these instances, the docker commit command comes in handy.

Docker Commit for testing and development

The docker commit command also proves useful in situations where rapid testing and deployment of changes are required.

Consider a scenario where you’re working in a development environment, and you’ve just rectified a bug in your application.

You need to test your fix in a containerized environment that mirrors production. With docker commit, you can implement your changes, commit them to a new image, and launch a new container within minutes.

Advantages of docker commitDisadvantages of docker commit
Allows saving changes made in a Docker containerCan lead to an overwhelming number of images and containers
Useful for debugging a running containerCan violate Docker’s immutability principle
Enables rapid testing and deployment of changesAny data not in a volume will be lost when the container is deleted

Downsides to Overusing Docker Commit

It’s crucial to maintain a balance between Docker’s immutability principle and the necessity to commit changes. Excessive use of the docker commit command can lead to an overwhelming number of images and containers, which can be challenging to manage.

Additionally, Docker’s stateless nature implies that any data stored in the container that’s not in a volume will be lost when the container is deleted. Therefore, while docker commit can be a potent tool, it’s essential to use it wisely.

Ultimately, the strategic advantage of docker commit lies in its ability to expedite testing and deployment. It enables teams to quickly iterate and deploy changes, thereby reducing the development cycle and accelerating the delivery of value to users.

Committing Changes: A Simple Image

Having understood the circumstances and reasons for using docker commit, we can delve into its operation. The docker commit command enables the creation of a new Docker image from the changes of a container. Executing docker commit <container_id> <new_image_name> creates a new image named <new_image_name> from the container specified by <container_id>, preserving any modifications made to the container.

docker commit <container_id> <new_image_name>

So, how does Docker manage this commit operation? When changes are committed, Docker takes a snapshot of the container’s current state and saves it as a new image layer. This new layer is added atop the existing image layers to create a new image. This image can then be used to initiate new containers with the committed changes.


However, using docker commit comes with certain risks and precautions. One significant risk is that committing changes to a container without verifying the modifications might result in an image that doesn’t function as expected. Thus, it’s vital to test and verify your changes before committing them.

To better understand this, consider the concept of Docker containers’ read-only images and read-write layer. A Docker container consists of a stack of read-only images (the image layers) and a top read-write layer. Changes made to a running container are written to the read-write layer. When these changes are committed, Docker takes a snapshot of the read-write layer and saves it as a new read-only image layer.

Labeling for Organization

Lastly, the significance of proper labeling in Docker image management cannot be overstated. When committing changes to a new image, it’s good practice to assign the new image a meaningful name and tag.

This practice simplifies the identification and management of your images, particularly when dealing with a large number of images. Remember, a well-organized Docker environment is a productive Docker environment.

Practical Application of Docker Commit

Now that we’re familiar with the concept and precautions of docker commit, let’s delve into its practical application. Committing changes to a new Docker container image is quite straightforward. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

The Step-by-step Guide

  1. Launch a Docker container from an existing image using the docker run command.
  2. Implement the necessary changes to the running container.
  3. Verify the changes.
  4. Commit the changes using the docker commit command.
  5. Confirm the creation of the new image using the docker images command.
docker run <existing_image_name>
# Make necessary changes
docker commit <container_id> <new_image_name>
docker images

The docker commit command proves particularly useful in several scenarios.

Use Case Scenarios

Container Development and Testing: You can modify a running container, commit those changes, and then test the new image. This process allows for rapid iteration and testing.

Bug Fixing in Production Images: If a bug is discovered in a production container, you can pull the image, run it locally, fix the bug, commit the changes, and then push the updated image back to the repository.

Snapshotting: You can take a snapshot of a running container at any point in time, creating a new image. This feature can be useful for debugging, auditing, or rolling back to a previous state.

Exporting and Importing Images

Next, we will discuss exporting and importing Docker images. After committing changes to a new image, you can export it to a tar file using the docker save command. This tar file can then be transferred to another system, where it can be imported using the docker load command. This process makes docker commit a powerful tool for sharing Docker images across different environments.

Slim Containers

Now, consider the advantages of slim containers like Alpine in the context of docker commit. Slim containers have smaller footprints, which means they take up less space and are quicker to commit and transfer. This advantage can significantly speed up your development and deployment process.

Advanced Docker Commit Options

As we delve deeper into the docker commit command, it becomes evident that it offers more than just the basic functionality. There are several additional options that provide greater control and flexibility over the commit process.

Example of using the --pause option during a docker commit operation:

docker commit --pause=true <container_id> <new_image_name>

The --change Parameter

One powerful option is the --change or -c parameter. This parameter enables you to apply Dockerfile instructions to the image being committed. For instance, you can use the --change parameter to set environment variables, add metadata, expose ports, or modify the entry point of the new image. The syntax is docker commit --change='...' <container_id> <new_image_name>.

docker commit --change='...' <container_id> <new_image_name>

The --change parameter supports multiple Dockerfile instructions, including CMD, ENTRYPOINT, ENV, EXPOSE, LABEL, ONBUILD, USER, VOLUME, and WORKDIR. Each of these instructions enables you to alter different aspects of the new image.

Dockerfile InstructionDescription
CMDSets the default command for the new image
ENTRYPOINTSets the default entry point for the new image
ENVSets environment variables
EXPOSEOpens a network port
LABELAdds metadata to the image
ONBUILDAdds a trigger instruction when the image is used as the base for another build
USERSets the default user for the new image
VOLUMECreates a mount point for a volume
WORKDIRSets the working directory for any instructions that follow in the Dockerfile | For example, CMD sets the default command for the new image, ENV sets environment variables, EXPOSE opens a network port, and USER sets the default user for the new image.

The State of the Container

An important consideration when using docker commit is the container’s state at the time of the commit.

By default, Docker does not pause the container during the commit process. This means that if the container is writing to its filesystem at the same time the commit is happening, the new image may capture an inconsistent state, leading to potential data corruption.

To avoid this, you can use the --pause option to pause the container during the commit. However, this will also pause all processes in the container, which may not be desirable in some cases.

Strategic Use of Commit Messages

Finally, let’s highlight the strategic use of commit messages in team collaboration and version control. When you commit changes, you can include a message describing the changes using the -m or --message option.

This message will be stored in the image’s metadata and can be viewed using the docker history command. Commit messages are an excellent way to document your changes, making it easier for your team to understand what each image version includes.

Collaborative Advantages of Docker Commit

The docker commit command extends beyond being a mere tool for managing Docker images; it’s also a catalyst for collaboration and problem-solving. In a team environment, the capability to commit changes to a Docker container and generate a new image can be a transformative asset.

Imagine a situation where a team is developing a complex application that runs in a Docker container. A team member detects a bug in the application and rectifies it in their local container. They can then commit the changes, creating a new image, and push this image to the shared Docker repository. Other team members can pull this image, initiate new containers, and verify the bug fix. This ability to share images swiftly and conveniently can dramatically accelerate the problem-solving process.

Furthermore, docker commit can optimize workflows and boost productivity. By enabling rapid iteration and testing, it minimizes the time spent on establishing and dismantling environments.

Team members can work concurrently, each with their own containers, without interfering with each other’s work. When a feature is complete or a bug is fixed, the changes can be committed and shared with the rest of the team.

This parallel and independent mode of working can significantly expedite the development process.

Example of a team member fixing a bug locally, committing the changes, and pushing the new image:

# Fix the bug locally
docker commit <container_id> <new_image_name>
docker push <new_image_name>


We’ve journeyed deep into the intricacies of the docker commit command, revealing its complexity and immense utility. It’s evident that docker commit is not just a command, but a potent tool within the Docker ecosystem. It empowers us to deviate from the immutability principle when necessary, offering the ability to commit changes to Docker containers by creating new images.

We’ve explored how docker commit can be employed in various scenarios, from debugging and rapid testing to bug fixing and snapshotting. We’ve underscored the importance of proper Docker image management, the strategic advantage of slim containers, and the pivotal role of version tracking.

We’ve delved into the advanced options of docker commit, discussed the --change parameter, and addressed the implications of not pausing a container during commit. We’ve also seen how docker commit can foster collaboration and problem-solving within a team setting.

In conclusion, the docker commit command is a testament to Docker’s flexibility and adaptability. By understanding and effectively leveraging it, we can enrich our Docker experience, streamline our workflows, and render our Docker environments more manageable and productive. So, the next time you find yourself making changes to a Docker container, remember the power of docker commit.