Install on a GNU/Linux server


These instructions will work for any of the GNU/Linux distributions where Docker is supported and can be installed.


Only 64 bits distributions are supported. Do not try to install on a 32 bits operating system!



You will need a GNU/Linux server. Because of the use of linux containerization technology, other operating systems (FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and others) are not supported.

If you do not have a server, look at the documentation to rent one: Install in the cloud or opt for a managed (SaaS) solution via Deltablot PRO Hosting.

Be aware that installing eLabFTW means it will need to be maintained, by regularly applying updates, configuring the backups properly, and hardening the host operating system. If you do not have GNU/Linux System Administration knowledge, it is recommended to consider the SaaS offering.


Absolutely required dependencies

A containerization technology such as docker or podman.

A MySQL service is already declared in the default configuration file, so you don’t have to worry about installing MySQL. A container with MySQL will get created from the official MySQL docker image. Do NOT install mysql-server package.

Alternatively, you can use another pre-existing MySQL service on your network. Important, it must be MySQL, not MariaDB. If you do that, make sure to comment out/remove the mysql container from the docker compose configuration file.

The following MySQL modes are known to work fine with eLabFTW codebase:











You can have your normal user in the docker group to execute docker commands without sudo (see documentation). This is generally convenient for development environments and not recommended in production.

Ubuntu users: Docker as a snap is known to cause issues. Uninstall that and install it without snap. See this issue.

Configure eLabFTW


A proper subdomain is required!

We will install elabctl, a tool to help you manage the elabftw installation. It is not required to install it but it is quite handy so it is recommended (also it’s just a bash script, nothing fancy). If you you do not wish to use elabctl and just want a YAML config to edit, see instructions below for advanced users.

Note about TLS certificates

The eLabFTW container can run an HTTP or HTTPS server. Both will run internally on port 443.

Option A: HTTP mode

You can run the container in HTTP mode (internal port 443) only if you have a reverse proxy in front doing TLS termination and sending X-Forwarded-Proto header.

  • Set DISABLE_HTTPS=true.

Reverse proxy configurations examples can be found here.

Option B: HTTPS mode with Let’s Encrypt certificates

In order to request Let’s Encrypt certificates, you need to install certbot and have your server publicly accessible. See official Let’s Encrypt documentation for your system. When requesting a new certificate, make sure that port 80 is open (and also port 443 for eLabFTW if it is the one you want to use). Once certbot is installed, the command to use might look like this: certbot certonly --standalone -d

  • Set DISABLE_HTTPS=false.


  • Uncomment the line - /etc/letsencrypt:/ssl in the volumes: part of the yml config file.

Option C: HTTPS mode with custom certificates

Have the private key and certificate in PEM format in the folder /etc/letsencrypt/live/SERVER_NAME/ where SERVER_NAME matches the SERVER_NAME configuration variable. The files need to be named fullchain.pem and privkey.pem. The webserver in the container expects TLS certificates to be in a particular order and format. Make sure that your fullchain.pem file contains certificates in this order: <certificate> <intermediate ca> <root ca>, with PEM encoding.

  • Set DISABLE_HTTPS=false.


  • Uncomment the line - /etc/letsencrypt:/ssl in the volumes: part of the yml config file.

Option D: HTTPS mode with self-signed certificate

The container can generate its own certificate. Only use this if you have no other choice, as users will see a warning that the certificate is invalid because it is self-signed.

  • Set DISABLE_HTTPS=false.


Using Apache, nginx, HAProxy or traefik as a reverse proxy

Mandatory if you use Option A above (HTTP mode). All the documentation related to such configurations can be found here.

Start eLabFTW

elabctl start

Without elabctl (advanced users)

Get the config with:

curl -so docker-compose.yml ""

Edit this file and docker compose up -d to launch the containers.

Initialize your database

  • Import the database structure with:

elabctl initialize
# same as: docker exec -it elabftw bin/init db:install

Replace elabftw in the command above by the name of the elabftw container if yours is different (for instance if you have several containers running with redis as session handler). You can check this with elabctl status or docker ps.

Register a Sysadmin account

Point your browser to https://<>/register.php

Post install

Don’t forget to setup backup, and subscribe to the newsletter!

The next step is to read the Sysadmin guide.


Inserting locally trusted root Certificate Authority

If you need the eLabFTW container to trust your own CA, you will need to create a custom image and run that instead of the official image.

For this, create a folder, and in that folder, create a Dockerfile with this content:

# Example Dockerfile to include custom trusted Certificate Authority
# we use the "stable" tag so this always work and needs no editing between versions
FROM elabftw/elabimg:stable
# in this example, the file is named "my-cert.pem" and must be present in the same folder is this Dockerfile
# we copy it into this folder so it can be picked up by the following command
COPY my-cert.pem /usr/local/share/ca-certificates/my-cert.crt
RUN update-ca-certificates

Make sure to have your CA cert in the same folder, named my-cert.pem, and build the image:

docker buildx build -t elabftw/elabimg-custom .

And replace the image name (elabftw/elabimg) in the main elabftw configuration YAML file (/etc/elabftw.yml by default) with your custom image name (elabftw/elabimg-custom).