Setting up a WireGuard VPN using Docker

In this tutorial, we will show you an easy way to set up a WireGuard VPN using Docker.

WireGuard Docker

WireGuard is a popular alternative to OpenVPN, known for being incredibly fast yet super secure. Thanks to its significantly smaller code base, it has a much smaller attack surface than its competing protocols.

A VPN is a virtual private network that operates over a secure encrypted tunnel. Someone needs the encryption keys to snoop on the data within this tunnel while it’s in transit. There is a wide variety of uses for a VPN like WireGuard, such as accessing your home network when you are traveling.

Traditionally, setting up WireGuard can be a bit of a messy experience. Luckily, Docker makes this significantly simpler.

To improve the experience further, we will use a container called WG-Easy. This Docker container comes with WireGuard and a neat web interface that makes managing your VPN a breeze.

Additionally, WG-Easy is a great choice since it contains full support for both X64 and ARM operating systems. So, you could even follow these guides on your Raspberry Pi if you wanted.

Installing WireGuard VPN using a Docker Container

In the following sections, we will show how to run the WireGuard VPN using a Docker container.

We will achieve this by writing a Compose file that utilizes the WG-Easy image. This image is an excellent choice as it makes setting up and controlling WireGuard straightforward.

Installing Docker to your Machine

1. To run WireGuard using Docker, you will need to have Docker installed on your machine. You can skip to step 4 if you already have Docker.

If you are using a Linux-based operating system you can use the following command within the terminal.

curl -sSL https://get.docker.com | sh

2. Once you have Docker installed, you will want to add your current user to the “docker” group. Adding your user to this group will allow you to stop and start the WireGuard Docker container without having to utilize the super user.

You can make this change by using the command below.

sudo usermod -aG docker $USER

3. Changes to users on Linux require you to log out and back in.

If you are using SSH to connect to your machine, you can easily log out using the following command.

logout

Alternatively, you can restart your machine by running the command below.

sudo reboot

Preparing for WireGuard

4. Since you are setting up a VPN, you must have your device accessible from outside your network.

This likely means you must port forward on a home network and ensure your device has a static IP address.

To access your WireGuard VPN from outside your network, you will want to open port “51820“. If you need to specify the protocol, then use “UDP“.

We won’t be covering how to port forward as routers drastically differ.

5. Our next step is to create a directory to store the Compose file for running WireGuard using Docker.

It is also the same location we will be storing all of the configuration files for Wireguard. You can create a directory at “/opt/stacks/wireguard” by using the mkdir command.

sudo mkdir -p /opt/stacks/wireguard

By using the “-p” option we are ensuring this command will create the entire path, rather than just attempt to make the ending path.

6. After creating the directory, we will need to change into the folder by using the command below.

For the rest of the tutorial, we expect that you are within this folder.

cd /opt/stacks/wireguard

Writing a Docker Compose File for Wireguard

7. We are finally at the point where we can write the Docker Compose file for our WireGuard VPN. A Compose file is like a set of instructions that Docker will use to manage and run your WireGuard VPN.

By running the following command, you can begin writing this file using the nano text editor.

sudo nano compose.yaml

8. Within this file, you will want to type in the following lines.

  • : Replace this value with a secure password. You will use this password to log in to the WG-Easy web interface.

    This web interface is what you will be using to create and manage clients for your WireGuard VPN easily.

  • : Next, specify the IP address or domain name where your VPN can be accessed.

    The IP address must be your external one and not local. Additionally, if you use a domain name, you will want to ensure that it is pointed to where your WireGuard VPN is hosted.

version: "3.8"

services:
  wg-easy:
    container_name: wg-easy
    image: ghcr.io/wg-easy/wg-easy

    environment:
      - PASSWORD=
      - WG_HOST=

    volumes:
      - ./config:/etc/wireguard
      - /lib/modules:/lib/modules
    ports:
      - "51820:51820/udp"
      - "51821:51821/tcp"
    restart: unless-stopped
    cap_add:
      - NET_ADMIN
      - SYS_MODULE
    sysctls:
      - net.ipv4.ip_forward=1
      - net.ipv4.conf.all.src_valid_mark=1

9. After typing out the above lines, you can save and quit by pressing CTRL + X, Y, and finally, the ENTER key.

Starting up your Wireguard Docker Stack

10. With the Compose file written, starting WireGuard using Docker is incredibly simple.

To get our VPN up and running, we need to use the command below.

docker compose up -d

By using the “-d” option, we are telling Docker to detach from the terminal once it has started our WireGuard container.

Accessing your Wireguard Docker Container Web Interface

11. Before you can start using your new VPN, you will need to create a new client. Typically, this can be a bit of a pain, but the container we are using comes with a super easy-to-use web interface.

To access this web interface, you will want to know the local IP address of your device. You can get this IP easily by using the hostname command.

hostname -I

12. Once you know your IP address, you can go to the following address to access the WG-Easy web interface.

http://:51821

Using WG-Easy to Manage your Wireguard Docker Container

13. You should now see the following screen asking you to log in to the WG-Easy web interface.

First, you must type in the password you set earlier in this guide (1.).

After typing in your password, simply click the “Sign In” button (2.) to access the web interface.

Login to WG-Easy web Interface

14. Once you are logged in, you can create your first client for your WireGuard VPN Docker container.

To begin this process, click the “+ NEW” or “+ New Client” button.

Open New Client Screen

15. On this screen, you will now want to give a name to your new client (1.). Name this something so you know where this client is being utilized.

After typing a name, click the “Create” button (2.).

Create new WireGuard Docker Client

16. At this point, you finally have WireGuard up and running using a Docker container. You can now download your client details and connect to your VPN.

The WG-Easy web interface we are using allows you to generate a QR code (2.) for easy adding of your client.

You can also download the config files if your client doesn’t support scanning QR codes (3.).

If you want to stop a client from accessing your WireGuard VPN, you can click the toggle (1.).

Get WireGuard Docker Client Details

Updating your WireGuard Docker Container

One of the advantages of running your WireGuard VPN using Docker is that you can easily update to the latest available version with ease.

Over the following steps, we will show you just how easy it is to update to a newer version.

1. Your first step is to change to the directory where we wrote the Compose file for WireGuard earlier on in this guide.

Changing to this directory is as easy as typing in the following command.

cd /opt/stacks/wireguard

2. Once you are in the correct place, you will want to tell Docker to pull the new version of all images specified within the compose file.

You can download the latest version of WG-easy and WireGuard by using the command below.

docker compose pull

3. Even though Docker downloaded a new version of WireGuard, you will need to get it to actually use it.

Luckily, you can start your Compose file again, and Docker will automatically power down your VPN and start it again using the new image.

docker compose up -d

Conclusion

Hopefully, at this point in the guide, you will now have your WireGuard Docker container up and running.

Using Docker to run WireGuard allows you to quickly get your VPN up and running while also making it super easy to update and restart. If your VPN crashes, Docker will automatically restart the software.

Please feel free to comment below if you have any questions about running WireGuard through a Docker Container.

If you found this tutorial to be helpful, we highly recommend checking out our many other guides.

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