Docker Image vs Docker Container

When working with Docker, two concepts that often come up are "containers" and "images". While both are foundational to understanding Docker, they serve very different roles. In this blog post, we will dive deep into what each of these is, their differences, and how they interact with each other.

Let's first take a look at the important key points of Docker image and container.

Docker Image

Definition: A Docker image is a lightweight, stand-alone, and executable software package that encompasses all the necessary code, runtime, system tools, and system libraries to run an application. It's a blueprint for creating containers. 

Immutability: Docker images are immutable. Once an image is created, it cannot be changed (though you can build new versions of the image). 

Storage: Images are stored in a Docker registry (like Docker Hub) or a private registry, making them easy to share and distribute. 

Versioning: Each modification to a Docker image generates a new version, making it easy to track, rollback, or switch between different versions of an application. 

Creation: Docker images are often created using a Dockerfile, a script containing a series of commands used to build an image. 

Docker Container

Definition: A container is a runtime instance of a Docker image. Think of it as a virtual environment where the application runs in isolation, leveraging the host OS's kernel, but having its file system, its processes, etc. 

Mutability: Unlike images, containers are mutable. They can be started, stopped, deleted, and moved. 

Interaction: Users can interact with containers, either by running a command inside the container or entering the container shell. 

Isolation: Each container runs in isolation, ensuring that the application's execution in one container does not affect another container. 

Lifespan: Containers can be ephemeral. They can be started from an image, perform their function, and then be discarded.

Key Differences


Image: Static, It's a blueprint for creating containers. 

Container: Dynamic, Running instance of an image. 


Image: Immutable (cannot be changed)

Container: Mutable (can be changed).


Image: Stored in a Docker registry. 

Container: Exists as long as it's running or until manually deleted. 


Image: Designed to ensure consistency and reliability across different environments. 

Container: Provides an isolated environment to run applications. 


Image: One image can be used to launch multiple containers. 

Container: Every running container is a separate instance.

Creation Mechanism

Image: Created using Dockerfiles.

Container: Created from Docker images.

Comparison Table


While Docker images and containers might seem similar at first glance, understanding their differences is crucial to harnessing the full potential of Docker. Think of Docker images as the blueprint or the class in object-oriented programming, while Docker containers are the real-world implementation or the objects instantiated from the class. Grasping these concepts is the foundation for effectively using Docker in development, testing, and production environments.