Alpine Linux in a chroot

From Alpine Linux

Inside the chroot environment, you can build, debug, and run Alpine packages or develop things. It's the most known way to do so without replacing your system or using a Virtual Machine. This document explains how to set up an Alpine build environment in a chroot under a host Linux distro, that can also be used to install Alpine Linux from a non-Alpine Linux system or live environment.

Tip: You can use the alpine-chroot-install script to do all these steps for you.


  • Working Linux instalation where to perform all the process
  • Linux kernel 2.6.22, with curl and chroot binary installed
  • target media with at least 100M, 900MB for more complete solution as minimum
  • internet connection


The variables below:

  • ${chroot_dir} = Should point to the new root directory
  • ${mirror} = Should be replaced with one of the available Alpine Linux mirrors.
  • ${arch} = Should be the cpu architecture like x86 (i386) or amd64(x86_64)..

Set up APK

Download the latest apk static package (replace ${version} with actual version):

curl -LO ${mirror}/latest-stable/main/${arch}/apk-tools-static-${version}.apk

.apk packages are just gzipped tarballs, you can unpack them using:

tar -xzf apk-tools-static-*.apk

Install the alpine base installation onto the chroot

./sbin/apk.static -X ${mirror}/latest-stable/main -U --allow-untrusted -p ${chroot_dir} --initdb add alpine-base

Seting up the chroot

Before you change root to the new directory, you need to create the required devices

Method 1.a Simple way: Using the host's /dev

mount -o bind /dev ${chroot_dir}/dev

Note: Bind mounts can be made read-only which would limit the chroot from writing to the devices
Method 1.b Manual way: Creating needed nodes
Warning: Manually creating devices will only provide the ones that have been created

mknod -m 666 ${chroot_dir}/dev/full c 1 7 mknod -m 666 ${chroot_dir}/dev/ptmx c 5 2 mknod -m 644 ${chroot_dir}/dev/random c 1 8 mknod -m 644 ${chroot_dir}/dev/urandom c 1 9 mknod -m 666 ${chroot_dir}/dev/zero c 1 5 mknod -m 666 ${chroot_dir}/dev/tty c 5 0

If you need SCSI disc access you can create the device nodes like this:

Note: Every device can have 15 sub-nodes, you should always increment by 16 for every new device

mknod -m 666 ${chroot_dir}/dev/sda b 8 0 mknod -m 666 ${chroot_dir}/dev/sda1 b 8 1 mknod -m 666 ${chroot_dir}/dev/sda2 b 8 2 mknod -m 666 ${chroot_dir}/dev/sda3 b 8 3 mknod -m 666 ${chroot_dir}/dev/sdb b 8 16 mknod -m 666 ${chroot_dir}/dev/sdb1 b 8 17

Make the process fs and /sys fs available

mount -t proc none ${chroot_dir}/proc mount -o bind /sys ${chroot_dir}/sys

Set up name resolution

A resolv.conf is needed for name resolution:

You can either copy your host's resolv.conf:

cp -L /etc/resolv.conf ${chroot_dir}/etc/

or instead you can create a new one (this example uses OpenDNS):

echo -e 'nameserver\nnameserver 2620:0:ccc::2' > ${chroot_dir}/etc/resolv.conf

Prepare the APK repositories

Set up APK main repository (replace ${branch} with the latest stable branch name, e.g. v3.3):

mkdir -p ${chroot_dir}/etc/apk echo "${mirror}/${branch}/main" > ${chroot_dir}/etc/apk/repositories

Warning: The chroot methods are commonly used to have Alpine installed in a existing system. Because of this, the steps for preparing a bootloader are not included.

Entering your chroot

You then can enter your chroot by running this command as the root user (UID 0).

chroot ${chroot_dir} /bin/ash -l

Preparing init services

If you plan to use your chroot with a init system or setup a new system on another device you should add these services:

rc-update add devfs sysinit rc-update add dmesg sysinit rc-update add mdev sysinit rc-update add hwclock boot rc-update add modules boot rc-update add sysctl boot rc-update add hostname boot rc-update add bootmisc boot rc-update add syslog boot rc-update add mount-ro shutdown rc-update add killprocs shutdown rc-update add savecache shutdown


Hardened kernels or alpine as chroot host

If you are using Alpine as a native build system you will have to make sure that you can run chmod from a chroot. Add the following to /etc/sysctl.conf

kernel.grsecurity.chroot_deny_chmod = 0

Then reload the sysctl configuration

sysctl -p

chroot: cannot run command ' ... Exec format error

This usually indicates that you booted with one architecture (e.g. armf) and are trying to chroot into another (e.g. x86_64). The binaries must be built for the architecture that the host runs!

Note that with one exception you can run 32 bit x86 chroot in x86_64, but not viceversa!

WARNING: Ignoring APKINDEX.xxxx.tar.gz

Make sure ${chroot_dir}/etc/apk/repositories is valid and run:

apk update

External links