VPS running 20.04 LTS with a handful of Docker images that have been around for years.

I just updated the security and, what should be, non-breaking upgrades (apt-get update && apt-get upgrade), but the process broke the Docker install. I've already tried removing and reinstalling, sudo dpkg --configure -a and similar commands, but it won't start. I have avoided purges as I'm not sure I understand what configuration files will be removed.

SystemCtl Status:

● docker.service - Docker Application Container Engine
     Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/docker.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled)
     Active: failed (Result: exit-code) since Mon 2023-02-06 10:06:22 EST; 12s ago
TriggeredBy: ● docker.socket
       Docs: https://docs.docker.com
    Process: 1231 ExecStart=/usr/bin/dockerd -H fd:// --containerd=/run/containerd/containerd.sock (code=exited, status=1/FAILURE)
   Main PID: 1231 (code=exited, status=1/FAILURE)

sudo journalctl -xe doesn't provide anything helpful.

The most obvious message from syslog:

dockerd[1231]: failed to start daemon: error initializing graphdriver: prior storage driver aufs is deprecated and will be removed in a future release; update the the daemon configuration and explicitly choose this storage driver to continue using it; visit https://docs.docker.com/go/storage-driver/ for more information

We know aufs is deprecated and are working on a plan to migrate to overlay2. Had planned to do that in conjunction with a dist-upgrade.

Is my issue indeed related to the deprecation of aufs? Is there a way to recover from this without migrating our images to overlay2 yet?

  • If you've updated your Docker, then there is no way to fix this except to revert your docker packages to an older version. The deprecation of aufs is already complete in Docker - you MUST migrate to overlay2 to use updated docker. That's what their error is indicating.
    – Thomas Ward
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 15:27
  • Doesn't that seem like an odd update for an LTS?
    – tim.rohrer
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 15:37
  • Fun fact, if you installed Docker using Docker's guide which uses Docker's repositories, it doesn't follow LTS rules. Same if you installed Docker via snaps. How did you install Docker to begin with? (Ubuntu 22.04 may be an LTS but if you installed Docker from upstream repositories, you're on Docker's update and deprecation cycles, not Ubuntu LTS cycles)
    – Thomas Ward
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 15:46
  • Good question. As I think about it, Docker might have been reinstalled a number of years ago because of the gaff with them changing the repo urls. But, I thought they were installed using apt but I could be remembering wrong. It was, I'm sure, done before the upgrade from LTS 18 to 20. Luckily this issue is on our test server and so we can take a few to decide which way to proceed. Thank you for your help and insights.
    – tim.rohrer
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 16:20
  • 2
    apt can use external repositories, not just Ubuntu's repos. Check apt policy docker and see what it says for where it's downloading the package from, if it's coming from Docker's upstream repos then it doesn't follow Ubuntu LTS rules.
    – Thomas Ward
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 16:34

1 Answer 1


Starting with the 23.0.0 release, Docker will fail to start if a deprecated storage driver is used : https://docs.docker.com/engine/deprecated/#aufs-storage-driver

Create or edit /etc/docker/daemon.json with the following content to use explicitly the aufs storage driver :

  "storage-driver": "aufs"

Now the Docker service should be able to be started again without any problems with a sudo service docker start command.

  • Boom! Thank you. Worked great. Now we can do our transition more controlled.
    – tim.rohrer
    Commented Feb 7, 2023 at 1:15
  • you are my heros ! THANK YOU !
    – Manuel
    Commented Feb 7, 2023 at 10:52

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