postgrails   >   20211205-not-paying-for-docker-desktop  

Not Paying for Docker Desktop

published 2021-12-05

I use Docker with Compose for local development. I work on a Windows system, use VS Code, and develop in both the Windows CMD terminal and under WSL 2.

The policy

Docker now has a policy of requiring developers working in an organization with more than a certain number of employees (250) or annual revenue ($10M) to pay for a subscription.


I work (a) in large-scale enterprise organizations, but (b) on small independent teams within those organizations. Because of (a), I don't qualify for the free Docker Desktop license in these contexts. But, because of (b), I am being put in a position to pay for my own subscription and then submit an expense report. Maybe that's what I should do, but I don't want to.

Meanwhile, I've noticed that I don't really need or use the features of Docker Desktop: The commandline client and system daemon are enough for me. So that brings me to a couple of solutions.

Solution 1: Install Docker on WSL 2 Ubuntu

  1. Install WSL 2 - see

    tldr; Run Powershell as an administrator:

    wsl --install
    wsl --update
  2. Install Ubuntu

    In a CMD or Powershell terminal:

    wsl --install -d Ubuntu
    wsl --set-default Ubuntu
    wsl --set-version Ubuntu 2
  3. Install Docker - see

    tldr; Open an Ubuntu terminal:

    sudo apt-get update \
    sudo apt-get install \
        ca-certificates \
        curl \
        gnupg \
        lsb-release \
    curl -fsSL \
      | sudo gpg --dearmor -o /usr/share/keyrings/docker-archive-keyring.gpg
    echo \
        "deb [arch=$(dpkg --print-architecture) \
            signed-by=/usr/share/keyrings/docker-archive-keyring.gpg] \
            $(lsb_release -cs) stable" \
        | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/docker.list \
        > /dev/null
    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get install docker-ce docker-ce-cli

    This is pretty standard for installing Docker on Linux. Digital Ocean also has a nice blog post covering the process:

  4. Startup Docker automatically - see

    Since WSL 2 doesn't use systemd, the dockerd doesn't start automatically on system boot. So instead, you can just start it when you log into Ubuntu by adding the following to your ~/.bashrc file:

    # Start Docker daemon automatically when logging in if not running.
    DOCKER_RUNNING=$(ps aux | grep dockerd | grep -v grep)
    if [ -z "$DOCKER_RUNNING" ]; then
        sudo dockerd > /dev/null 2>&1 &

    There might be less "hacky" ways to operate, but it works. When you log in again, you can:

    $ docker --version
    Docker version 20.10.11, build dea9396

    (If you need to daemonize docker at the system level, you'll probably dig into creating a Windows service. I don't need that for my use case, but I'm sure it wouldn't be too difficult for the determined: See

Solution 2: Install Docker using Scoop

  1. Install scoop: See

  2. Install Docker with scoop.

    Open a CMD or Powershell terminal:

    > scoop install docker

That's it.

  • Advantage: Super easy, Docker is now running in the background.
  • Disadvantage: The Docker version is (at this writing) somewhat out of date:
    > docker --version
    Docker version 19.03.1, build 74b1e89e8a


I've just done this on my local system, so I don't yet know how well it will work in daily use. However, since I typically have an open terminal with docker compose up running for the current app, I expect that this will work just fine with either installed versions of Docker (Windows via scoop or Ubuntu).