chroot - Linux


The chroot command in Linux changes the root directory for the currently running process and its children. A process that is run in such a modified environment cannot access files outside the designated directory tree. This is primarily used to create a contained environment separate from the main operating system, suitable for testing new packages, isolating program execution, and enhancing system security.


The basic syntax of the chroot command is:

  • NEWROOT specifies the path to the new root directory.
  • COMMAND [ARG...] is the command that will be run in the new root environment. If no command is specified, the default is to run /bin/sh.


chroot has few options, reflecting its straightforward functionality:

  • --help: Display a help message and exit.
  • --version: Output version information and exit.
  • --userspec=USER:GROUP: Specifies the user and group (or UID:GID) to set when running the chroot. This option is useful when you need to execute processes as non-root users within the chroot environment.
  • --groups=G_LIST: Set additional supplementary groups when running the chroot.


  1. Simple chroot:

    sudo chroot /path/to/newroot

    This command runs the default shell within the new root directory /path/to/newroot.

  2. Running a specific command:

    sudo chroot /path/to/newroot /usr/bin/env

    This will execute the env command within the chrooted environment, listing the environment variables there.

  3. Specifying a user and group:

    sudo chroot --userspec=1000:1000 /path/to/newroot /bin/bash

    Runs /bin/bash within the chroot as the user with UID 1000 and GID 1000.

Common Issues

  • Permission Errors: Trying to chroot into a directory without proper permissions will result in errors. Ensure the user has the appropriate rights to access the new root directory.
  • Missing binaries/libraries: If you enter a chroot environment and certain commands or programs don’t work, it could be due to missing binaries or libraries. Make sure all necessary files are copied into the chroot environment.


chroot can be combined with other commands for script automation or security tasks. For example:

sudo chroot /path/to/newroot /usr/bin/updatedb

This command could be part of a script to update the database of files in an isolated environment using updatedb.

  • docker: A tool that uses containers to create, deploy, and run applications in isolated environments.
  • unshare: This command allows running a program with some namespaces unshared from the parent.
  • systemd-nspawn: Provides a namespace container for a light isolation environment to run command or boot an OS.

Additional resources to learn more about chroot and its uses include the man page (man chroot), and numerous online Linux administration guides and tutorials.