Run GitLab Runner in a container

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This is how you can run GitLab Runner inside a Docker container.

Docker Engine version compatibility

In general, the version of Docker Engine and the version of the GitLab Runner container image do not have to match. The GitLab Runner images should be backwards and forwards compatible. However, to ensure you have the latest features and security updates, you should always use the latest stable Docker Engine version.

General GitLab Runner Docker image usage

GitLab Runner Docker images (based on Ubuntu or Alpine Linux) are designed as wrappers around the standard gitlab-runner command, like if GitLab Runner was installed directly on the host.

The general rule is that every GitLab Runner command that normally would be executed as:

gitlab-runner <runner command and options...>

can be executed with:

docker run <chosen docker options...> gitlab/gitlab-runner <runner command and options...>

For example, getting the top-level help information for GitLab Runner command could be executed as:

docker run --rm -t -i gitlab/gitlab-runner --help

   gitlab-runner - a GitLab Runner

   gitlab-runner [global options] command [command options] [arguments...]

   16.5.0 (853330f9)


In short, the gitlab-runner part of the command is replaced with docker run [docker options] gitlab/gitlab-runner, while the rest of the command stays as it is described in the register documentation. The only difference is that the gitlab-runner command is executed inside of a Docker container.

Install the Docker image and start the container

Before you begin, ensure Docker is installed.

To run gitlab-runner inside a Docker container, you need to make sure that the configuration is not lost when the container is restarted. To do this, there are two options, which are described below.

Make sure that you read the FAQ section which describes some of the most common problems with GitLab Runner.

  • If you are using a session_server, you also need to expose port 8093 by adding -p 8093:8093 to your docker run command.
  • If you want to use the Docker Machine executor for autoscaling feature, you also need to mount Docker Machine storage path: /root/.docker/machine:

    • by adding -v /srv/gitlab-runner/docker-machine-config:/root/.docker/machine for system volume mounts
    • by adding -v docker-machine-config:/root/.docker/machine for Docker named volumes
This setup delegates full control over the Docker daemon to each GitLab Runner container. The effect is that isolation guarantees break if you run GitLab Runner inside a Docker daemon that also runs other payloads.

Option 1: Use local system volume mounts to start the Runner container

This example uses the local system for the configuration volume that is mounted into the gitlab-runner container. This volume is used for configs and other resources.

docker run -d --name gitlab-runner --restart always \
  -v /srv/gitlab-runner/config:/etc/gitlab-runner \
  -v /var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock \
On macOS, /srv does not exist by default. You can create /private/srv or use another private directory.

Option 2: Use Docker volumes to start the Runner container

In this example, you can use a configuration container to mount your custom data volume.

  1. Create the Docker volume:

    docker volume create gitlab-runner-config
  2. Start the GitLab Runner container using the volume we just created:

    docker run -d --name gitlab-runner --restart always \
        -v /var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock \
        -v gitlab-runner-config:/etc/gitlab-runner \
To set the container’s timezone, in the docker run command, use the flag --env TZ=<TIMEZONE>. View a list of available time zones.
For a FIPS compliant GitLab Runner image, based on redhat/ubi8-minimal, use the gitlab/gitlab-runner:ubi-fips tags.

Register the runner

The final step is to register a new runner. The GitLab Runner container doesn’t pick up any jobs until it’s registered.

Update configuration

If you change the configuration in config.toml, you might need to restart the runner to apply the change. The config.toml is the configuration file that you use to configure runners, and is created when you register a runner.

You should restart the whole container instead of using gitlab-runner restart:

docker restart gitlab-runner

Upgrade version

Pull the latest version (or a specific tag):

docker pull gitlab/gitlab-runner:latest

Stop and remove the existing container:

docker stop gitlab-runner && docker rm gitlab-runner

Start the container as you did originally:

docker run -d --name gitlab-runner --restart always \
  -v /var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock \
  -v /srv/gitlab-runner/config:/etc/gitlab-runner \
You need to use the same method for mounting your data volume as you did originally (-v /srv/gitlab-runner/config:/etc/gitlab-runner or --volumes-from gitlab-runner-config).

Reading GitLab Runner logs

When GitLab Runner is started as a foreground task (whether it’s a locally installed binary or inside of a Docker Container), the logs are printed to the standard output. When GitLab Runner is started as a system service (for example, with Systemd), the logs are in most cases logged through Syslog or other system logging mechanism.

With GitLab Runner started as a Docker based service, since the gitlab-runner ... command is the main process of the container, the logs can be read using the docker logs command.

For example, if GitLab Runner was started with the following command:

docker run -d --name gitlab-runner --restart always \
  -v /var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock \
  -v /srv/gitlab-runner/config:/etc/gitlab-runner \

you may get the logs with:

docker logs gitlab-runner

where gitlab-runner is the name of the container, set with --name gitlab-runner by the first command.

You may find more information about handling container logs at the Docker documentation page.

Installing trusted SSL server certificates

If your GitLab CI server is using self-signed SSL certificates then you should make sure the GitLab CI server certificate is trusted by the GitLab Runner container for them to be able to talk to each other.

The gitlab/gitlab-runner image is configured to look for the trusted SSL certificates at /etc/gitlab-runner/certs/ca.crt, this can however be changed using the -e "CA_CERTIFICATES_PATH=/DIR/CERT" configuration option.

Copy the ca.crt file into the certs directory on the data volume (or container). The ca.crt file should contain the root certificates of all the servers you want GitLab Runner to trust. The GitLab Runner container imports the ca.crt file on startup so if your container is already running you may need to restart it for the changes to take effect.

Docker images

The following multi-platform Docker images are available:

  • gitlab/gitlab-runner:latest based on Ubuntu.
  • gitlab/gitlab-runner:alpine based on Alpine with much a smaller footprint (750 MB Ubuntu vs 340 MB Alpine decompressed).

See GitLab Runner source for possible build instructions for both Ubuntu and Alpine images.

Creating a GitLab Runner Docker image

As of GitLab Runner 16.1, the GitLab Runner Docker image based on Alpine uses Alpine 3.18. However, you can upgrade the image’s OS before it is available in the GitLab repositories.

To build a gitlab-runner Docker image for the latest Alpine version:

  1. Create alpine-upgrade/Dockerfile.

    RUN apk update
    RUN apk upgrade
  2. Create an upgraded gitlab-runner image.

  3. Create an upgraded gitlab-runner-helper image.

The IBM Z image does not contain the docker-machine dependency, as it is not yet maintained for the Linux s390x or Linux ppc64le platforms. See issue for current status.


Some distributions (CentOS, Red Hat, Fedora) use SELinux by default to enhance the security of the underlying system.

Special care must be taken when dealing with such a configuration.

  1. If you want to use the Docker executor to run builds in containers, you need access to /var/run/docker.sock. However, if SELinux is in enforcing mode, you see a Permission denied error when you’re accessing /var/run/docker.sock. Install selinux-dockersock to resolve this issue.
  2. Make sure that a persistent directory is created on host: mkdir -p /srv/gitlab-runner/config.
  3. Run Docker with :Z on volumes:
docker run -d --name gitlab-runner --restart always \
  -v /var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock \
  -v /srv/gitlab-runner/config:/etc/gitlab-runner:Z \