The manifest file is the primary way to interact with bootstrap-vz. Every configuration and customization of a Debian installation is specified in this file.

The manifest format is YAML or JSON. It is near impossible to run the bootstrapper with an invalid configuration, since every part of the framework supplies a json-schema that specifies exactly which configuration settings are valid in different situations.

Manifest variables

Many of the settings in the example manifests use strings like debian-{system.release}-{system.architecture}-{{"{%y"}}}{{"{%m"}}}{{"{%d"}}}. These strings make use of manifest variables, which can cross reference other settings in the manifest or specific values supplied by the bootstrapper (e.g. all python date formatting variables are available).

Any reference uses dots to specify a path to the desired manifest setting. Not all settings support this though, to see whether embedding a manifest variable in a setting is possible, look for the manifest vars label.

To insert a literal {foo} use double braces, that is {{foo}}. For example in a shell command where you may want to use the expression ${foo}, use ${{foo}} instead.


The manifest is split into 7 sections.


Single string property that specifies the name of the image.

  • name: The name of the resulting image. When bootstrapping cloud images, this would be the name visible in the interface when booting up new instances. When bootstrapping for VirtualBox or kvm, it’s the filename of the image. required manifest vars


name: debian-{system.release}-{system.architecture}-{%Y}-{%m}-{%d}-ebs


The provider section contains all provider specific settings and the name of the provider itself.

  • name: target virtualization platform of the installation required

Consult the providers section of the documentation for a list of valid values.


  name: ec2


This section concerns the bootstrapper itself and its behavior. There are 4 possible settings:

  • workspace: Path to where the bootstrapper should place images and intermediate files. Any volumes will be mounted under that path. required
  • tarball: debootstrap has the option to download all the software and pack it up in a tarball. When starting the actual bootstrapping process, debootstrap can then be pointed at that tarball and use it instead of downloading anything from the internet. If you plan on running the bootstrapper multiple times, this option can save you a lot of bandwidth and time. This option just specifies whether it should create a new tarball or not. It will search for and use an available tarball if it already exists, regardless of this setting. optional Valid values: true, false Default: false
  • mirror: The mirror debootstrap should download software from. It is advisable to specify a mirror close to your location (or the location of the host you are bootstrapping on), to decrease latency and improve bandwidth. If not specified, the configured aptitude mirror URL is used. optional
  • include_packages: Extra packages to be installed during bootstrap. Accepts a list of package names. optional
  • exclude_packages: Packages to exclude during bootstrap phase. Accepts a list of package names. optional
  • variant: Debian variant to install. The only supported value is minbase and should only be used in conjunction with the Docker provider. Not specifying this option will result in a normal Debian variant being bootstrapped.


  workspace: /target
  tarball: true
     - whois
     - psmisc
     - isc-dhcp-client
     - isc-dhcp-common
  variant: minbase


This section defines anything that pertains directly to the bootstrapped system and does not fit under any other section.

  • architecture: The architecture of the system. Valid values: i386, amd64 required
  • bootloader: The bootloader for the system. Depending on the bootmethod of the virtualization platform, the options may be restricted. Valid values: grub, extlinux, pv-grub required
  • charmap: The default charmap of the system. Valid values: Any valid charmap like UTF-8, ISO-8859- or GBK. required
  • hostname: hostname to preconfigure the system with. optional
  • locale: The default locale of the system. Valid values: Any locale mentioned in /etc/locale.gen required
  • release: Defines which debian release should be bootstrapped. Valid values: squeeze, wheezy, jessie, sid, oldstable, stable, testing, unstable required
  • timezone: Timezone of the system. Valid values: Any filename from /usr/share/zoneinfo required


  release: jessie
  architecture: amd64
  bootloader: extlinux
  charmap: UTF-8
  hostname: jessie x86_64
  locale: en_US
  timezone: UTC


The packages section allows you to install custom packages from a variety of sources.

  • install: A list of strings that specify which packages should be installed. Valid values: Package names optionally followed by a /target or paths to local .deb files. Note that packages are installed in the order they are listed. The installer invocations are bundled by package type (remote or local), meaning if you install two local packages, then two remote packages and then another local package, there will be two calls to dpkg -i ... and a single call to apt-get install ....
  • install_standard: Defines if the packages of the "Standard System Utilities" option of the Debian installer, provided by tasksel, should be installed or not. The problem is that with just debootstrap, the system ends up with very basic commands. This is not a problem for a machine that will not be used interactively, but otherwise it is nice to have at hand tools like bash-completion, less, locate, etc. optional Valid values: true, false Default: false
  • mirror: The default aptitude mirror. optional Default:
  • sources: A map of additional sources that should be added to the aptitude sources list. The key becomes the filename in /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ (with .list appended to it), except for main, which designates /etc/apt/sources.list. The value is an array with each entry being a line. optional
  • components: A list of components that should be added to the default apt sources. For example contrib or non-free optional Default: ['main']
  • trusted-keys: List of paths (relative to the manifest) to .gpg keyrings that should be added to the aptitude keyring of trusted signatures for repositories. optional
  • apt.conf.d: A map of apt.conf(5) configuration snippets. The key become the filename in /etc/apt/apt.conf.d, except main which designates /etc/apt/apt.conf. The value is a string in the apt.conf(5) syntax. optional
  • preferences: Allows you to pin packages through apt preferences. The setting is an object where the key is the preference filename in /etc/apt/preferences.d/. The key main is special and refers to the file /etc/apt/preferences, which will be overwritten if specified. optional The values are objects with three keys:
    • package: The package to pin (wildcards allowed)
    • pin: The release to pin the package to.
    • pin-priority: The priority of this pin.


    - /root/packages/custom_app.deb
    - puppet
  install_standard: true
      - deb wheezy main dependencies
    - contrib
    - non-free
    - /root/keys/puppet.gpg
    00InstallRecommends: >-
      APT::Install-Recommends "false";
      APT::Install-Suggests   "false";
    00IPv4: 'Acquire::ForceIPv4 "false";'
      - package: *
        pin: release o=Debian, n=wheezy
        pin-priority: 800
      - package: *
        pin: release o=Debian Backports, a=wheezy-backports, n=wheezy-backports
        pin-priority: 760
      - package: puppet puppet-common
        pin: version 2.7.25-1puppetlabs1
        pin-priority: 840


bootstrap-vz allows a wide range of options for configuring the disk layout of the system. It can create unpartitioned as well as partitioned volumes using either the gpt or msdos scheme. At most, there are only three partitions with predefined roles configurable though. They are boot, root and swap.

  • backing: Specifies the volume backing. This setting is very provider specific. Valid values: ebs, s3, vmdk, vdi, raw, qcow2, lvm required

  • partitions: A map of the partitions that should be created on the volume.

  • type: The partitioning scheme to use. When using none, only root can be specified as a partition. Valid values: none, gpt, msdos required

  • root: Configuration of the root partition. required

    • size: The size of the partition. Valid values: Any datasize specification up to TB (e.g. 5KiB, 1MB, 6TB). required
    • filesystem: The filesystem of the partition. When choosing xfs, the xfsprogs package will need to be installed. Valid values: ext2, ext3, ext4, xfs required
    • format_command: Command to format the partition with. This optional setting overrides the command bootstrap-vz would normally use to format the partition. The command is specified as a string array where each option/argument is an item in that array (much like the commands plugin). optional The following variables are available:
    • {fs}: The filesystem of the partition.
    • {device_path}: The device path of the partition.
    • {size}: The size of the partition.
    • {mount_opts}: Options to mount the partition with. This optional setting overwrites the default option list bootstrap-vz would normally use to mount the partiton (defaults). The List is specified as a string array where each option/argument is an item in that array. optional Here some examples:
    • nodev
    • nosuid
    • noexec
    • journal_ioprio=3

    The default command used by bootstrap-vz is ['mkfs.{fs}', '{device_path}'].

    • boot: Configuration of the boot partition. All settings equal those of the root partition. optional
    • swap: Configuration of the swap partition. Since the swap partition has its own filesystem you can only specify the size for this partition. optional
    • additional_path: Configuration of additional partitions. (e.g. /var/tmp) All settings equal those of the root partition.


  backing: vdi
    type: msdos
      filesystem: ext2
      size: 32MiB
      filesystem: ext4
      size: 864MiB
      size: 128MiB


The plugins section is a map of plugin names to whatever configuration a plugin requires. Go to the plugin section of the documentation, to see the configuration for a specific plugin.


    zerofree: true
    shrink: true