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How to install and use Docker on Windows

Containers are one of the most popular technologies on the market today. If you don't have a Linux machine handy, here are instructions for using Docker Toolbox to get Docker on Windows.

Image: Jack Wallen

So you want to give Docker a go, but you're not really too keen on also having to learn Linux. Although I would highly recommend using Docker on Linux, you might have a good reason why Windows is your only available option. Should that be the case, you're in luck, as Docker has created a tool that makes using their container software on Windows fairly simple.

The software in question is called Docker Toolbox. What this does is install all the necessary components that allow you to run Docker on Windows. Now, before you get too excited, don't think that Docker has actually ported their platform to Windows. They haven't. What Docker Toolbox does is install VirtualBox, Boot2Docker, and a special quick access terminal (that starts up the Boot2Docker virtual machine). Docker Toolbox does an outstanding job of this installation and making it easy for you to fire up Docker on your Windows machine--so it is very much worth the time to install (which, to be honest, isn't much).

With that said, let me walk you through the process of installing and using Docker Toolbox.


The simplicity of Docker Toolbox starts with the installation. As you might expect, this is Windows, so installing the tool is no more than a download and double-click away. Download the executable file and then double-click it to start the installation wizard.

The install wizard is quite typical. It will walk you through the following screens:

  • Where to install Docker Toolbox
  • Which components to install (Figure A)
  • Select additional tasks (Create a desktop shortcut, Add docker binaries to PATH, Upgrade Boot2Docker VM, Install VirtualBox with NDISS driver--leave the default settings)
  • Review and start the installation

Figure A

Selecting the components you want to install for using Docker Toolbox.

During the installation, you will be prompted to Install a device software; this is so that Oracle VirtualBox can gain access to the USB subsystem. Go ahead and install that (by clicking Install, when prompted). Once the device software installation is complete, the wizard will finish the process and you're ready to go.


On your desktop, you should now see three new icons:

  • Docker Quickstart Terminal
  • Oracle VM VirtualBox
  • Kitematic

In order to start up Docker Toolbox, double-click on the Docker Quickstart Terminal. Running this will automatically check to make sure the latest version of Boot2Docker is being used, start the necessary components, and land you on the Boot2Docker prompt, where you can begin using Docker (Figure B).

Figure B

Docker is ready to go.

At this point, you can do anything with Docker you could do on a Linux machine. Pull down images, deploy containers, develop containers, and so much more, all within your Windows machine.

Docker for everyone

Docker Toolbox is available (free) for both Windows and Mac. At this point, no one has an excuse to not give this amazing technology a try. Even if you do not have the skills to setup and run a Linux server, you can gain access to the power of Docker.

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