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(howto) Install Docker and test that it works

Geraldine_VdAuweraGeraldine_VdAuwera Cambridge, MAMember, Administrator, Broadie admin
edited March 2018 in Tutorials

This document explains how to install the Docker software on your local machine. For a primer on what Docker containers are for and related terminology, see this Dictionary entry.


  1. Get and install the software
  2. Test that the program runs
  3. Identify yourself
  4. Get an image and run a container
  5. Troubleshooting

1. Get and install the software

Follow the relevant link below depending on your computer system; on Mac and Windows, select the "Stable channel" download. Run through the installation instructions and initial setup page; they are very straightforward and should only take you a few minutes (not counting download time).
We have included instructions below for all steps after that first page, so you shouldn't need to go to any other pages in the Docker documentation. Frankly their docs are targeted at people who want to do things like run web applications on the cloud and can be quite frustrating to deal with.

Click here for Mac

Click here for Windows

Full list of supported systems and their install pages

On Mac, the installation adds a menu bar item that looks like a whale/container-ship, which conveniently shows you the status of the Docker "daemon" (= program that runs in the background) and gives you GUI access to various Docker-related functionalities. But you can also just use it from the command-line, which is what we'll do in the rest of this tutorial.

2. Test that the program runs

So now, open a terminal window and invoke the docker program directly. Checking the version is always a good way to test that a program will run without investing too much effort into finding a command that will work, so let's do:

docker --version

This should return something like "Docker version 17.06.0-ce, build 02c1d87". That means the base software is installed on your machine.

3. Identify yourself

These instructions assume you will use Dockerhub, so you'll need to create an account there in order to pull down images and publish your own. Then, run this command to authenticate your Dockerhub account:

docker login

That should prompt you for your password and authenticate you for as long as your docker program stays running (including running in the background).

4. Get an image and run a container

Now let's see if you can actually retrieve an image and run a container, using an example docker image that we published in DockerHub. So, download the image with this command:

docker pull vdauwera/tutorial_example:picard-2.9.0

Then run this one to spin up the container:

docker run -it vdauwera/tutorial_example:picard-2.9.0

If that all works without any obvious errors, you should be all set. See our other documentation on building your own container and storing your image in other repositories to proceed from here.

5. Troubleshooting

If you run into trouble, you may need to run one or more of the following commands:

docker-machine restart default
docker-machine regenerate-certs
docker-machine env

We don't currently have more detailed instructions than that but would be happy to take suggestions on what we should cover additionally.

Note that we have had reports that Docker is not compatible with some other virtual machine software; if you run into that problem you may need to uninstall other software. Or, uh, install Docker in a virtual machine? Ahhhh, too many layers! Let's just assume your Docker install worked fine.

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