Alpine Linux in a chroot

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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.


  • 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} 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