I have an Ubuntu machine with Docker installed. (The Ubuntu version is 20.04, but this also affects 18.04, and possibly non-LTS versions as well.) The upgrade of the docker.io package to the current version from focal-security fails:

Preparing to unpack .../docker.io_20.10.7-0ubuntu1~20.04.1_amd64.deb ...
The aufs storage-driver is no longer supported.
Please ensure that none of your containers are
using the aufs storage driver, remove the directory
/var/lib/docker/aufs and try again.
dpkg: error processing archive /var/cache/apt/archives/docker.io_20.10.7-0ubuntu1~20.04.1_amd64.deb (--unpack):
 new docker.io package pre-installation script subprocess returned error exit status 1
dpkg: error while cleaning up:
 installed docker.io package post-installation script subprocess returned error exit status 1

This is a known bug, but the bug has been marked as “won't fix” based on the Ubuntu Docker packaging policy.

Quoting multiple people here:

This is a breaking change for an update that should not happen on an LTS version.

An upgrade requiring so much manual intervention like this should never happen in an LTS release.

You're correct about this in the general case. Unfortunately Docker is an exception. (…)

So, as an exception for Docker, we update to newer upstream releases without concern for backwards compatibility of the behaviour of Docker itself, instead relying entirely on upstream's decisions. In this case and based solely on the analysis already presented by others here, this means that we don't expect to be patching the aufs storage driver back in to our packaging ourselves. (…)

Following the policy as it stands, this isn't something we expect to fix, and therefore I'm marking this bug Won't Fix.

I find the reasoning baffling — if I'm using a stable distribution, I expect upgrades to be seamless, and I don't expect to have the latest version of programs. If I want a rolling release, I know where to find it, and it won't be called LTS. But this isn't the venue for this discussion.

My question here is, what do I do next? How do I “ensure that none of [my] containers are using the aufs storage driver”? Keeping an older, unmaintained version of Docker is a no-starter. I need to have security updates.

None of my containers use advanced features that would depend on the storage driver. I'm perfectly happy with upgrading or migrating my containers. How do I do that?

  • How about installing Docker from the official repos instead of Canonicals version (docker.io)? I'm doing this, and running latest version with no problems. Aug 31, 2021 at 21:08
  • @ArturMeinild The problem is not running the latest version, it's upgrading the version I currently have. Aug 31, 2021 at 21:24
  • What's the contents of /var/lib/docker/aufs? Sep 1, 2021 at 5:52
  • 1
    @ArturMeinild This page is not helpful to me at all. It explains how storage drivers work, but I don't care about that. I need to upgrade my existing system. I have containers that are currently using aufs. How to I migrate them to overlayfs? Sep 1, 2021 at 7:01
  • 1
    Got hit by this as well now. Can you hold docker.io at the old version? I have a workstation with dozens of containers that aren't trivial to rebuild and can't waste hours doing it either because of an LTS (!) upgrade... :/
    – BjornW
    Sep 6, 2021 at 22:30

2 Answers 2


From the official Docker documentation - how to configure your storage driver to use OverlayFS instead of AUFS.

  1. Stop Docker.

    sudo systemctl stop docker
  2. Copy the contents of /var/lib/docker to a temporary location.

    cp -au /var/lib/docker /var/lib/docker.bk
  3. Edit /etc/docker/daemon.json. If it does not yet exist, create it. Assuming that the file was empty, add the following contents.

       "storage-driver": "overlay2" 

    Docker does not start if the daemon.json file contains badly-formed JSON.

  4. Start Docker.

    sudo systemctl start docker
  5. Verify that the daemon is using the overlay2 storage driver. Use the docker info command and look for Storage Driver and Backing filesystem.

    $ docker info
    Containers: 0
    Images: 0
    Storage Driver: overlay2
     Backing Filesystem: xfs
     Supports d_type: true
     Native Overlay Diff: true

Docker is now using the overlay2 storage driver.

You then need to recreate your containers and fetch all images again with the new storage driver in place. Mapped container data in volumes should be unaltered (this is volumes that point to data outside the Docker filesystem - see here for more info).

After this, you can remove the directory /var/lib/docker/aufs and proceed with upgrading the Docker package.

  • 2
    I'm confused about “You then need to recreate your containers and fetch all images again with the new storage driver in place. Mapped container data in volumes should be unaltered.” I don't know what “mapped container data in volumes” means. What is preserved at this step? I find it weird that I'd be re-downloading the base images, which are not modified by the choice of storage driver, but local modifications would be, even though that's what the storage driver is about? Sep 1, 2021 at 7:14
  • 1
    Now I don't know your complete Docker setup, but hopefully your persistent data is separate from the Docker data. The runtime data that uses the storage driver should "only" be temporary data, everything that you want to be persistent should be mapped elsewhere as volumes (named or direct paths). I'm assuming this, because if that's not the case, migrating your containers will be very difficult. Sep 1, 2021 at 7:20
  • Think of this as creating all your containers from scratch, but with the persistent data in place. Sep 1, 2021 at 7:21
  • Has the aufs driver been removed entirely from the LTS docker.io upgrade? .. or can i temp set the storage backend to "overlay2" and upgrade and just switch back?
    – Brunis
    Sep 16, 2021 at 7:42
  • 1
    I've looked at several image backup/restore and container backup/restore guides and absolutely none of them explain how to restore your containers the way they were so you can just continue where you left off..
    – Brunis
    Sep 16, 2021 at 7:43

Please note that if you should have moved the data directory to a different location (i.e.: via "data-root" option in daemon.json) you need to remove both aufs directories, the one under the new data-root and the one under /var/lib/docker before proceeding with installing the package


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