/etc/subuid and /etc/subgid

Rootless Containers implementations mostly expect /etc/subuid to contain at least 65,536 subuids.

In the following example, 65,536 subuids (100000-165535) are allocated for a user named “user1”.

$ cat /etc/subuid

The same applies to subgids defined in /etc/subgid. See also How it works/User Namespaces.

These subuids and subgids are typically automatically configured by the system.

If subuids and subgids are not configured, you need to edit /etc/subuid and /etc/subgid directly with a text editor:

$ sudo vi /etc/subuid

Pre-generating all possible values for /etc/subuid and /etc/subgid, based on uid and gid, rather than the user and group names, is also possible. This can simplify shared management of shared computing environments using LDAP/AD, while there is no standardized way to store or retrieve subuid and subgid values from those directories.

An example python program to generate the files:

with open("/etc/subuid", "w") as f:
    for uid in range(1000, 65536):
        f.write("%d:%d:65536\n" %(uid,uid*65536))

with open("/etc/subgid", "w") as f:
    for uid in range(1000, 65536):
        f.write("%d:%d:65536\n" %(uid,uid*65536))

When doing this, however, it’s important to note that duplicate entries will be added to the files when adding new local users or groups. Those new entries will be based on user name or group name.

newuidmap and newgidmap

newuidmap and newgidmap needs to be installed on the host. These binaries are typically installed by default.

$ sudo apt-get install -y uidmap
$ sudo dnf install -y shadow-utils

Advanced information

Specific subuid range for systemd-homed users

When the user’s home directory is managed by systemd-homed, the subuid range has to be typically chosen from 524288-1878982656 (i.e., 0x80000-0x6fff0000).

Am I using systemd-homed ?

If you have ~/.identity in your home directory, your home directory is probably managed by systemd-homed.

Otherwise your home directory is not managed by systemd-homed (even if systemd-homed process is running), and you can just skip reading this section.

In 2023, no well-known Linux distribution seems using systemd-homed by default.

The following example allocates 65,536 subuids for 524288-589823 (0x80000-0x8ffff).


To obtain the correct subuid range for systemd-homed users, run userdbctl and see the “begin container users” line and the “end container users” line:

$ userdbctl
   NAME                           DISPOSITION        UID   GID REALNAME                     HOME             SHELL
   root                           intrinsic            0     0 -                            /root            /bin/bash
┌─ ↓ begin container users ↓      container       524288     - First container user         -                -
└─ ↑ end container users ↑        container   1878982656     - Last container user          -                -

The range is decided on the compilation time of systemd.