USB/IP protocol support for Docker Desktop

Virtual Machines used on Windows for running either Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) or Docker Desktop by default do not support sharing USB devices with the containers. Only those that are identified as storage or COM devices can be bind directly. See microsoft/WSL#5158. That prevents using arbitrary drivers inside the containers. As a result, most container users on Windows do install board programming tools through MSYS2 (see gh:hdl/MINGW-packages).

Nevertheless, USB/IP protocol allows passing USB device(s) from server(s) to client(s) over the network. As explained at, on GNU/Linux, USB/IP is implemented as a few kernel modules with companion userspace tools. However, the default underlying Hyper-V VM machine (based on Alpine Linux) shipped with Docker Desktop (aka docker-for-win/docker-for-mac) does not include the required kernel modules. Fortunately, privileged docker containers allow installing missing kernel modules. The shell script in usbip/ supports customising the native VM in Docker Desktop for adding USB over IP support.

# Build kernel modules: in an unprivileged `alpine` container, retrieve the corresponding
# kernel sources, copy runtime config and enable USB/IP features, build `drivers/usb/usbip`
# and save `*.ko` artifacts to relative subdir `dist` on the host.
./ -m

# Load/insert kernel modules: use a privileged `busybox` container to load kernel modules
# `usbip-core.ko` and `vhci-hcd.ko` from relative subdir `dist` on the host to the
# underlying Hyper-V VM.
./ -l

# Build image `vhcli`, using `busybox` as a base, and including the
# [VirtualHere]( GNU/Linux client for x86_64 along with the
# `*.ko` files built previously through `./ -m`.
./ -v


For manually selecting configuration options, building and inserting modules, see detailed procedure in gw0/docker-alpine-kernel-modules#usage.


Modules will be removed when the Hyper-V VM is restarted (i.e. when the host or Docker Desktop are restarted). For a permanent install, modules need to be copied to /lib/modules in the underlying VM, and /stc/modules needs to be configured accordingly. Use $(command -v winpty) docker run --rm -it --privileged --pid=host alpine nsenter -t 1 -m -u -n -i sh to access a shell with full permissions on the VM.


USB/IP is supported in Renode too. See

Example session

How to connect a Docker Desktop container to VirtualHere USB Server for Windows.

  • Start vhusbdwin64.exe on the host

  • Ensure that the firewall is not blocking it.

# Start container named 'vhclient'
./ -s
# List usb devices available in the container
./ -e lsusb
# LIST hubs/devices found by vhclient
./ -c "LIST"
# Manually add to the client the hub/server running on the host
./ -c "MANUAL HUB ADD,host.docker.internal:7575"

sleep 10

./ -c "LIST"
# Use a remote device in the container

sleep 4

# Check that the device is now available in the container
./ -e lsusb


There is an issue/bug in Docker Desktop (docker/for-win#4548) that prevents the container where the USB device is added from seeing it. The workaround is to execute the board programming tool in a sibling container. For example: docker run --rm --privileged */prog iceprog -t.



Using VirtualHere is the only solution we could successfully use in order to share FTDI devices (iCEstick Evaluation Kit boards) between a Windows 10 host and a Docker Desktop container running on the same host. However, since the USB/IP protocol is open source, we’d like to try any other (preferredly open and free source) server for Windows along with the default GNU/Linux usbip-tools. Should you know about any, please let us know!

We are aware of gh:cezuni/usbip-win. However, it seems to be in very early development state and the install procedure is quite complex yet.

Serial (COM) devices can be shared with open source tools. On the one hand, hub4com from project com0com allows to publish a port through a RFC2217 server. On the other hand, socat can be used to link the network connection to a virtual tty device.

                   HOST                                           CONTAINER
        ---------------------------                 -------------------------------------
USB <-> | COMX <-> RFC2217 server | <-> network <-> | socat <-> /dev/ttySY <-> app/tool |
        ---------------------------                 -------------------------------------
> REM On the Windows host
> com2tcp-rfc2217.bat COM<X> <PORT>
# In the container
socat pty,link=/dev/ttyS<Y> tcp:host.docker.internal:<PORT>

It might be possible to replace hub4com with gh:pyserial/pyserial. However, we did not test it.