Docker is a popular virtualization tool that replicates a specific operating environment on top of a host OS. Each environment is called a container. Managing containers is essential for working in Docker.

A container uses an image of a preconfigured operating system optimized for a specific task. When a Docker image is launched, it exists in a container. For example, multiple containers may run the same image at the same time on a single host operating system.

This guide shows you how to list, stop, and start Docker containers.

How to list, start, or stop Docker containers?


  • A Linux-based operating system
  • Access to a user account with root or sudo privileges
  • A preconfigured Docker installation with images

List Docker Containers

The basic format for using docker is:

docker command [options]

To list all running Docker containers, enter the following into a terminal window:

docker ps

To list all containers, both running and stopped, add –a :

docker ps –a

To list containers by their ID use –aq (quiet):

docker ps –aq

To list the total file size of each container, use –s (size):

docker ps –s

To list the latest created containers, use –l (latest):

docker ps –l

The ps command provides several columns of information:

  • Container ID – a unique alphanumeric number for each container
  • Image – The base operating system image the container is based on
  • Command – The command that launched the container
  • Created – How long ago the container was created
  • Status – Uptime or downtime
  • Ports – Specifies any ports forwarded to the container for networking
  • Name – A memorable name assigned by the Docker software

Note: This guide assumes you already have an existing image. If you don’t, use the following:
docker pull name:tag
For example, enter docker pull ubuntu:14.04 to grab a copy of the Ubuntu 14.04 image.

Start Docker Container

The main command to launch or start a single or multiple stopped Docker containers is docker start:

docker start [options] container_id 

You can specify the container by either using its name or ID (long or short).

To create a new container from an image and start it, use docker run:

docker run [options] image [command] 

If you do not define a name for your newly created container, the deamon will generate a random string name. To define container name, use the ––name option:

docker run ––name:Ubuntu_Test ubuntu:14.04

The abovementioned command will create the Ubuntu_test container based on the ubuntu:14.04 image and start it.

A container may be running, but you may not be able to interact with it. To start the container in interactive mode, use the –i and –t options:

docker run –it ––name:Ubuntu_Test ubuntu:14.04

Instead of using -i or -t options, use the attach command to connect to a running container:

docker attach container_id

Stop Docker Container

Use the docker stop command to stop a container:

docker stop [option] container_id

Replace container_id with the container’s name or ID.

By default, you get a 10 second grace period. The stop command instructs the container to stop services after that period. Use the --time option to define a different grace period expressed in seconds:

docker stop --time:20 container_id

To immediately kill a docker container without waiting for the grace period to end use:

docker kill [option] container_id

To stop all running containers, enter the following:

docker stop $(docker ps –a –q)

The same command could be used with kill. This would stop all containers without giving them a chance to exit.


This tutorial provided options to list, start, and stop, Docker containers.

Docker is used by development teams to ensure consistency across different machines.