CoreOS Container Linux disk layout

Container Linux is designed to be reliably updated via a continuous stream of updates. The operating system has 9 different disk partitions, utilizing a subset of those to make each update safe and enable a roll-back to a previous version if anything goes wrong.

Partition table

Number Label Description Partition Type
1 EFI-SYSTEM Contains the bootloader VFAT
2 BIOS-BOOT This partition is reserved for future use (none)
3 USR-A One of two active/passive partitions holding Container Linux EXT4
4 USR-B One of two active/passive partitions holding Container Linux (empty on first boot)
5 ROOT-C This partition is reserved for future use (none)
6 OEM Stores configuration data specific to an OEM platform EXT4
7 OEM-CONFIG Optional storage for an OEM (defined by OEM)
8 (unused) This partition is reserved for future use (none)
9 ROOT Stateful partition for storing persistent data EXT4, BTRFS, or XFS

For more information, read more about the disk layout used by Chromium and ChromeOS, which inspired the layout used by Container Linux.

Mounted filesystems

Container Linux is divided into two main filesystems, a read-only /usr and a stateful read/write /.

Read-only /usr

The USR-A or USR-B partitions are interchangeable and one of the two is mounted as a read-only filesystem at /usr. After an update, Container Linux will re-configure the GPT priority attribute, instructing the bootloader to boot from the passive (newly updated) partition. Here's an example of the priority flags set on an Amazon EC2 machine:

$ sudo cgpt show /dev/xvda
       start        size    part  contents
      270336     2097152       3  Label: "USR-A"
                                  Type: Alias for coreos-rootfs
                                  UUID: 7130C94A-213A-4E5A-8E26-6CCE9662F132
                                  Attr: priority=1 tries=0 successful=1

Container Linux images ship with the USR-B partition empty to reduce the image filesize. The first Container Linux update will populate it and start the normal active/passive scheme.

The OEM partition is also mounted as read-only at /usr/share/oem.

Stateful root

All stateful data, including container images, is stored within the read/write filesystem mounted at /. On first boot, the ROOT partition and filesystem will expand to fill any remaining free space at the end of the drive.

The data stored on the root partition isn't manipulated by the update process. In return, we do our best to prevent you from modifying the data in /usr.

Due to the unique disk layout of Container Linux, an rm -rf / is an un-supported but valid operation to do a "factory reset". The machine should boot and operate normally afterwards.