I have a script that prepares an installation image by running debootstrap, does some modifications on the files and then copies the files to a disk image backed up by a file.

This works under root, but I wanted to be able to run the script without root privileges, as it really shouldn't need any privileged resources. I thought that I'd just run the whole script using fakeroot, but debootstrap fails with

W: Failure trying to run: chroot /tmp/tmp..... mount -t proc proc /proc

Is there a way around that?

3 Answers 3


In general, yes, it is possible to run debootstrap as a non-root user by way of fakeroot, but there are more details to it than that.

The immediate problem you seem to be having is trying to use chroot as a non-root user; you need to use fakechroot instead, in addition to fakeroot. For example:

fakechroot fakeroot debootstrap sid /tmp/sid

Later problems you may run in to include creating loopback mounts or creating disk image partition tables as a non-root user.

Instead of working through all these details one by one, you may find it easier to use a debootstrap variant like polystrap, which also handles cross-compilation (eg, generate an armhf image from x86-64) if you end up wanting that some day.

  • 2
    The problem is that debootstrap itself is calling chroot, and I couldn't find a way how to tell it it needs to use fakechroot.
    – Petr
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 11:08
  • @PetrPudlák Did you try fakerootng instead of fakeroot? They operate differently, so sometimes one works when the other one doesn't. I don't know if fakerootng makes chroot work. Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 22:27
  • @PetrPudlák: the fakechroot man page gives an example invocation as fakechroot fakeroot debootstrap sid /tmp/sid
    – bnewbold
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 0:13
  • @PetrPudlák: --variant=fakechroot should do that. Beyond that: unshare/lxc-userns-exec are a 'better' way to do this in combination with multistrap (i.e. the idea behind polystrap, which was rolled into brickstrap).
    – user268396
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 20:07

debootstrap has an option --variant=fakechroot to do exactly what you are trying to do (see doc).


The chroot(2) syscall requires root privilege, or more exactly & technically the CAP_SYS_CHROOT capability (see capabilities(7))

Hence you can't use just fakeroot on it (you also need fakechroot etc).

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