Rootless vs Rootfull

In the Podman world, non-privileged users can run containers on their own: those are the so-called rootless containers. In NethServer 8, we borrow the same word from Podman and use it in the context of modules, together with its opposite, rootfull.

To inspect and modify a rootless module start Bash with the runagent command to properly initialize the Systemd runtime environment. For instance, to check if Traefik is running:

runagent -m traefik1
systemctl --user status traefik

As alternative use SSH:

ssh traefik1@localhost
systemctl --user status traefik

Let’s see the differences of rootless modules vs rootfull modules.

Unix user

The main difference between rootless and rootfull modules, as suggested by the adjective, is the Unix user running the module processes and its system privileges.

Rootfull: module containers run as root (EUID 0).

Rootless: module containers run as a normal Unix user. The Unix user account is created by the node agent when the module instance is added. It has session lingering enabled: it automatically starts a persistent Systemd user manager instance at system boot.

To check if a module is rootless or not, in Python write:

import os
if os.geteuid() == 0:

Same thing, in Bash:

if [[ $EUID == 0 ]]; then
    echo ROOTFULL
    echo ROOTLESS

As alternative print the effective user ID with

id -u

Filesystem paths

The two types of modules have a similar filesystem structure. Rootless modules are installed to /home/<module_id>/.config, whilst rootfull are installed to /var/lib/nethserver/<module_id>.

Systemd units

Rootless modules also have Systemd user units installed under ~/.config/systemd/user. Recall that some system-wide user units are installed by the core under /etc/systemd/user. When running the systemctl command, add the --user flag. Eg.

systemctl --user status traefik

Rootfull modules share the system-wide Systemd directories. Their units are installed under /etc/systemd/system. As they share the same directory, unit files must be named as <module_id> or they must use the <module_id>- prefix to avoid naming clashes with other instances of the same module. Eg:

cat /etc/systemd/system/samba1.service
systemctl start samba1


Rootfull modules share the same Podman volumes namspace. As consequence, rootfull modules must use the <module_id>- prefix for their volume names to avoid volume naming clashes. Eg.


Rootless modules can use any volume name because the Podman volume namespace is private for the module.

This command prints out the filesystem path where Podman stores volumes data:

podman system info --format='{{.Store.VolumePath}}'