Administration QuickStart

This document will cover installation and administration points of Singularity for multi-tenant HPC resources and will not cover usage of the command line tools, container usage, or example use cases.


There are two common ways to install Singularity, from source code and via binary packages. This document will explain the process of installation from source, and it will depend on your build host to have the appropriate development tools and packages installed. For Red Hat and derivatives, you should install the following yum group to ensure you have an appropriately setup build server:

$ sudo yum groupinstall "Development Tools"

Downloading the source

You can download the source code either from the latest stable tarball release or via the GitHub master repository. Here is an example downloading and preparing the latest development code from GitHub:

$ mkdir ~/git

$ cd ~/git

$ git clone

$ cd singularity

$ ./

Once you have downloaded the source, the following installation procedures will assume you are running from the root of the source directory.

Source Installation

The following example demonstrates how to install Singularity into /usr/local. You can install Singularity into any directory of your choosing, but you must ensure that the location you select supports programs running as SUID. It is common for people to disable SUID with the mount option nosuid for various network mounted file systems. To ensure proper support, it is easiest to make sure you install Singularity to a local file system.

Assuming that /usr/local is a local file system:

$ ./configure --prefix=/usr/local --sysconfdir=/etc

$ make

$ sudo make install


The make install above must be run as root to have Singularity properly installed. Failure to install as root will cause Singularity to not function properly or have limited functionality when run by a non-root user.

Also note that when you configure, squashfs-tools is not required, however it is required for full functionality. You will see this message after the configuration:

mksquashfs from squash-tools is required for full functionality

If you choose not to install squashfs-tools, you will hit an error when your users try a pull from Docker Hub, for example.

Prefix in special places (–localstatedir)

As with most autotools-based build scripts, you are able to supply the --prefix argument to the configure script to change where Singularity will be installed. Care must be taken when this path is not a local filesystem or has atypical permissions. The local state directories used by Singularity at runtime will also be placed under the supplied --prefix and this will cause malfunction if the tree is read-only. You may also experience issues if this directory is shared between several hosts/nodes that might run Singularity simultaneously.

In such cases, you should specify the --localstatedir variable in addition to --prefix. This will override the prefix, instead placing the local state directories within the path explicitly provided. Ideally this should be within the local filesystem, specific to only a single host or node. For example, the Makefile contains this variable by default:

CONTAINER_OVERLAY = ${prefix}/var/singularity/mnt/overlay

By supplying the configure argument --localstatedir=/some/other/place Singularity will instead be built with the following. Note that ${prefix}/var that has been replaced by the supplied value:

CONTAINER_OVERLAY = /some/other/place/singularity/mnt/overlay

In the case of cluster nodes, you will need to ensure the following directories are created on all nodes, with root:root ownership and 0755 permissions:






Singularity will fail to execute without these directories. They are normally created by the install make target; when using a local directory for --localstatedir these will only be created on the node make is run on.

Building an RPM directly from the source

Singularity includes all of the necessary bits to properly create an RPM package directly from the source tree, and you can create an RPM by doing the following:

$ ./configure

$ make dist

$ rpmbuild -ta singularity-*.tar.gz

Near the bottom of the build output you will see several lines like:

Wrote: /home/gmk/rpmbuild/SRPMS/singularity-2.3.el7.centos.src.rpm

Wrote: /home/gmk/rpmbuild/RPMS/x86_64/singularity-2.3.el7.centos.x86_64.rpm

Wrote: /home/gmk/rpmbuild/RPMS/x86_64/singularity-devel-2.3.el7.centos.x86_64.rpm

Wrote: /home/gmk/rpmbuild/RPMS/x86_64/singularity-debuginfo-2.3.el7.centos.x86_64.rpm


You will want to identify the appropriate path to the binary RPM that you wish to install, in the above example the package we want to install is singularity-2.3.el7.centos.x86_64.rpm , and you should install it with the following command:

$ sudo yum install /home/gmk/rpmbuild/RPMS/x86_64/singularity-2.3.el7.centos.x86_64.rpm


If you want to have the binary RPM install the files to an alternative location, you should define the environment variable ‘PREFIX’ (below) to suit your needs, and use the following command to build:

$ PREFIX=/opt/singularity

$ rpmbuild -ta --define="_prefix $PREFIX" --define "_sysconfdir $PREFIX/etc" --define "_defaultdocdir $PREFIX/share" singularity-*.tar.gz

We recommend you look at our security admin guide to get further information about container privileges and mounting.