Podman can automatically update your containers and hopefully make you’re life easier at the same time. Setting this up for Podman is actually pretty straightforward. Read on to learn how to set this up.


This tutorial will guide you through the steps to configure automatic updates for a Podman container. Specifically, the tutorial will walk through automating updates for a UniFi Controller container using a Kubernetes YAML file. It’s a continuation of the Podman Compose and Translate Docker Compose to Kubernetes With Podman posts. The target system is Ubuntu 18.04. You’ll need to have Podman installed, of course. You should also be familiar with Linux containers, Podman, the command-line, the Kubernetes configuration format, Git, and systemd.

  1. Clone the GitHub repository with the Kubernetes configuration file for the UniFi controller.

    git clone git@github.com:jwillikers/unifi-controller.git ~/Projects/unifi-controller
  2. Inspect the YAML file.

    apiVersion: v1
    kind: Pod
      creationTimestamp: "2021-03-13T17:21:54Z"
        app: unifi-controller
        io.containers.autoupdate: image (1)
      name: unifi-controller
    1 Add the label io.containers.autoupdate and set it to image to enable automatic updates for the containers herein.

    When using the podman create command, the --label or -l flag can be followed by the label, "io.containers.autoupdate=image" to enable auto-updates for the container.

    The image name must be fully qualified for auto-update to update the image.

  3. Provide the generated Kubernetes YAML to podman-play-kube(1) to create and launch the pod.

    podman play kube ~/Projects/unifi-controller/unifi-controller.yml
  4. Check the labels attached to the UniFi Controller container with podman ps.

    podman ps -a --filter name=unifi-controller --format "{{.Names}}  {{.Labels}}"
    unifi-controller_unifi-controller_1  map[PODMAN_SYSTEMD_UNIT:container-unifi-controller_unifi-controller_1.service build_version:Linuxserver.io version:- 6.0.45-ls100 Build-date:- 2021-03-02T04:05:16+00:00 com.docker.compose.container-number:1 com.docker.compose.service:unifi-controller io.containers.autoupdate:image io.podman.compose.config-hash:123 io.podman.compose.project:unifi-controller io.podman.compose.version:0.0.1 maintainer:aptalca]

    There are quite a few labels present, but one of them is the correct label, io.containers.autoupdate:image. This confirms that the container is labelled correctly.

  5. Enable the Podman’s auto-update systemd timer. This tutorial uses the rootless runtime, but the necessary command is provided for enabling the auto-update timer for containers run as root.

    systemctl --user enable --now podman-auto-update.timer
    sudo systemctl enable --now podman-auto-update.timer
  6. When using podman-generate-systemd(1) to create systemd units for a pod, make sure to use the --new flag. This will create, start, and remove containers as part of the systemd units, which is necessary for applying automatic updates to running containers. To learn more about running a pod or container as a systemd service, refer to A Podman Pod as a systemd Service.

  7. It’s also possible to trigger auto-updates manually with podman-auto-update(1).

    podman auto-update
  8. In case you’re interested in accessing the UniFi controller container, the controller’s web console is at

    Other shells

See Also

On Red Hat’s Enable Sysadmin publication, the article Improved systemd integration with Podman 2.0 delves into Podman’s auto-update functionality.


You have learned how to enable automatic updates for Podman containers.