I'm trying to use the systemctl command in a ubuntu:16.04 docker container. I'm running the following command...

systemctl status ssh

However I'm getting the error...

Failed to connect to bus: No such file or directory

Why is this not working? Is this related to Ubuntu running in a docker container? How can I get systemctl to work correctly?

  • 6
    Use service ssh start
    – Bidyut
    May 8, 2017 at 12:35
  • 3
    For those who have the same problem with sudo systemctl --user ... just remove the sudo !
    – 56ka
    Apr 18, 2020 at 21:59
  • Holy shit. I had systemctl aliased to sudo systemctl --no-pager. Thanks for the tip.
    – Paul
    Sep 22, 2020 at 17:38

8 Answers 8


I assume you start your docker container with something like

docker run -t -i ubuntu:16.04 /bin/bash

The problem now is that your init process PID 1 is /bin/bash, not systemd. Confirm with ps aux.

In addition to that you are missing dbus, which would be the way to communicate. This is where your error message is coming from. But as your PID 1 is not systemd, it will not help to install dbus.

Best would be to re-think the way you plan to use docker. Do not rely on systemd as a process manager but have the docker container run your desired application in the foreground.

  • Services like openssh-server are configured to log to the default syslog facility. How can I get sshd logs without relying on systemctl?
    – Parth Shah
    Oct 4, 2018 at 20:17
  • @ParthShah please check out sshd man page. Mine has the following options: By caling it with -D you can keep it in the foreground. with -e you instruct it to directly print the logs. these can then later be inspected the docker way with docker log.
    – user228505
    Oct 8, 2018 at 14:13
  • [FYI] was getting this error with /sbin/init being PID=1 process. Adding --privileged=true as suggested by @sonjaya sonjaya below solved the isssue.
    – DimG
    Jan 29, 2019 at 15:36
  • beautiful answer!! Jul 22, 2019 at 12:03

Others have reported a similar problem. Start up the terminal and type:

$ env

Do you see an environment variable like this?

XDG_RUNTIME_DIR=/run/user/`id -u`

Where id -u is enclosed in backticks not single quotes. This variable is reinterpreted into a number usually 1000 for regular users and 0 for super user (sudo).

If the environment variable XDG_RUNTIME_DIR does not exist you need to create it. The full discussion is in launchpad systemd answers.

  • 2
    I tried this without success. As my Ubuntu 16.04 instance has the form of a docker container and I have not set up any users I am working as root, so I used the variable XDG_RUNTIME_DIR=/run/root/0, without success. Then I checked the folder /run and found that there is no subfolder /run/root. Is there anyway I can get a more verbose error message? I had a look at systemctl --help but couldn't see a way of getting detailed error messages. Aug 18, 2016 at 15:11
  • 1
    I am having the same issue and this also did not resolve my problem. Did you ever figure this one out @DuncanGravill
    – Roeland
    Sep 29, 2016 at 14:57
  • 3
    @Roeland Yes. I asked a similar question on SO which had a stronger response. Also I recommend watching the Self-Paced tutorials on the Docker website. It is explained (slightly vaguely) in those videos how PID 1 which is usually systemd is replaced in a Docker container with the container Entrypoint. Sep 30, 2016 at 19:06
  • Brilliant, thanks! I needed this to start/manage a user unit from a system unit. May 8, 2018 at 20:31
  • @DuncanGravill that's because the directory should be /run/user/0 and not /run/root/0
    – am70
    Oct 28, 2020 at 16:06

Just start the dbus service:

/etc/init.d/dbus start
  • 1
    I am building a custom container solution and ran into the problem that pihole would not install, complaining about systemd not being used as init system. Manually starting dbus did resolve this :)
    – Tox
    Apr 3, 2023 at 21:07

If you're getting this error in the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), I've found it's because Docker is unsupported. This is due to lack of cgroups and other prerequisites.


Try this:

docker run -ti -d --privileged=true images_docker  "/sbin/init"


docker run -ti -d --privileged=true images_docker

will be same result.

Here I get from the doc of Docker:

By default, Docker containers are “unprivileged” and cannot, for example, run a Docker daemon inside a Docker container. This is because by default a container is not allowed to access any devices, but a “privileged” container is given access to all devices (see the documentation on cgroups devices).

When the operator executes docker run --privileged, Docker will enable access to all devices on the host as well as set some configuration in AppArmor or SELinux to allow the container nearly all the same access to the host as processes running outside containers on the host. Additional information about running with --privileged is available on the Docker Blog.

  • 2
    Could you explain your command and the difference to the accepted question?
    – Melebius
    May 10, 2018 at 9:55
  • Welcome to AskUbuntu! Thank you for trying to help! A quick review of the documentation leads me to believe you may have made an error or 2 in this command. If you would be so kind as to edit it and explain what you are doing and how it solves the problem, ping me and I'll come back and give you an upvote!
    – Elder Geek
    May 10, 2018 at 23:13
  • When you say images_docker, do you mean the vanilla ubuntu:16.04? Or something else?
    – Parth Shah
    Oct 4, 2018 at 20:15

You may not be running systemd, which is the default implementation of init on 16.04. If you upgraded from 14.04, you are most likely still running upstart, and the result of running the systemctl command is the output you got.

See my answer at systemctl : comand not found 16.04 server for more.

  • But this an Ubuntu container, which by default doesn't have systemd and wouldn't have upstart. Aug 30, 2017 at 22:21
  • what? ubuntu has systemd by default
    – knocte
    Jan 30, 2018 at 2:36
  • 1
    Stefan: I believe you are correct in the case of Docker.
    – Hugh Buntu
    Jul 6, 2018 at 21:08
  • knocte: my comment covers the case of upgrading from 14.04 (Upstart) to 16.04 (systemd). When performing the version upgrade, Upstart is not replaced with systemd for understandable reasons (like: not breaking the system). In retrospect, I realize the release upgrade process wouldn't be used in Docker. See the link I called out. I see that a number of answers and comments fail to consider the specific case of Docker, and I'll look for that when answering in the future.
    – Hugh Buntu
    Jul 6, 2018 at 21:17

I was getting the exact same error and then I run it successfully with sudo

sudo systemctl status ssh
  • 1
    you shouldn't need sudo for that. Seems like a coincidence. Can you please re-test?
    – Zanna
    Jan 19, 2018 at 16:54
  • 2
    @Zanna saif@sr-server:~$ systemctl status ssh Failed to connect to bus: No such file or directory saif@sr-server:~$ sudo systemctl status ssh [sudo] password for saif: ● ssh.service - OpenBSD Secure Shell server Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/ssh.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled) Active: active (running) since Fri 2018-01-19 23:38:14 PKT; 4min 4s ago Main PID: 18222 (sshd) Tasks: 15 Memory: 32.7M CPU: 488ms
    – Saif
    Jan 19, 2018 at 18:43
  • Why -1? I just posted what worked for me.
    – Saif
    Jan 19, 2018 at 18:44
  • downvote was not mine...
    – Zanna
    Jan 19, 2018 at 19:37
  • 1
    The question is about getting the systemctl status ssh command to run in the ubuntu:16.04 docker container. SSH is not installed in that container by default. You also don't need sudo to run these commands in a docker container. Normal best practices in permission management are different between docker containers and normal OS's. I assume your answer is for normal Ubuntu installation.
    – Dan
    Jun 22, 2020 at 15:58

Inside docker container, I think you can update-rc.d if you are still struggling with systemd. I tried with update-rd.c and it works.

  • this is for system V not systemd
    – Efren
    Aug 5, 2020 at 1:53

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