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22.1 chroot: Run a command with a different root directory

chroot runs a command with a specified root directory. On many systems, only the super-user can do this.(4) Synopses:

chroot newroot [command [args]…]
chroot option

Ordinarily, file names are looked up starting at the root of the directory structure, i.e., ‘/’. chroot changes the root to the directory newroot (which must exist) and then runs command with optional args. If command is not specified, the default is the value of the SHELL environment variable or /bin/sh if not set, invoked with the ‘-i’ option. command must not be a special built-in utility (see section Special built-in utilities).

The only options are ‘--help’ and ‘--version’. See section Common options. Options must precede operands.

Here are a few tips to help avoid common problems in using chroot. To start with a simple example, make command refer to a statically linked binary. If you were to use a dynamically linked executable, then you'd have to arrange to have the shared libraries in the right place under your new root directory.

For example, if you create a statically linked ls executable, and put it in ‘/tmp/empty’, you can run this command as root:

$ chroot /tmp/empty /ls -Rl /

Then you'll see output like this:

total 1023
-rwxr-xr-x 1 0 0 1041745 Aug 16 11:17 ls

If you want to use a dynamically linked executable, say bash, then first run ‘ldd bash’ to see what shared objects it needs. Then, in addition to copying the actual binary, also copy the listed files to the required positions under your intended new root directory. Finally, if the executable requires any other files (e.g., data, state, device files), copy them into place, too.

Exit status:

1   if chroot itself fails
126 if command is found but cannot be invoked
127 if command cannot be found
the exit status of command otherwise

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