Software

How to install Rancher Desktop on Linux and macOS

Jack Wallen shows you how to install the Docker Desktop alternative, Rancher Desktop, on both Linux and macOS.

Image: Farknot Architect/Adobe Stock

Docker Desktop is one of the more popular GUI tools for developing and managing Docker containers. However, it’s not alone in the world of Docker GUIs. Although many Docker GUIs have come and gone, some have stood the test of time. One such GUI tool is Rancher Desktop.

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With Rancher Desktop you can enjoy features such as:

  • Kubernetes integration
  • Image management
  • Image vulnerability scanning
  • Image building
  • Troubleshooting
  • And more

One thing I appreciate about Rancher Desktop is that it does an outstanding job of handling tasks like Kubernetes integration automatically. All you have to do is select the runtime environment and Rancher Desktop will do the rest.

You should also know that Rancher Desktop is not a manager for Docker containers but, rather, a Kubernetes container manager. Rancher Desktop uses either containerd or Moby for its runtime engine, so there’s no need to have Docker installed. However, I have found that a Docker installation will not hinder the installation or usage of Rancher Desktop.

I want to show you how to install Rancher Desktop on both Linux and macOS.

What you’ll need to install Rancher Desktop

First off, you’ll need to get Rancher Desktop installed is a running instance of Linux and macOS. I’ll focus primarily on the Linux side of things, using Pop!_OS.

On Linux, you’ll also need:

  • A distribution that can supports .deb or .rpm packages, or AppImages
  • An x86_64 processor with either AMD-V or VT-x
  • Read-write access on /dev/kvm, which can be checked with the command [ -r /dev/kvm ] && [ -w /dev/kvm ] || echo 'insufficient privileges'

On macOS you’ll need:

  • macOS Catalina 10.15 or higher
  • Apple Silicon (M1) or Intel CPU with VT-x

For both instances, you’ll need a minimum of 8 GB of RAM and 4 CPUs.

That’s it: Let’s get to work.

How to install Rancher Desktop on Linux

There is one extra step you must take on Linux, which is the setup of pass. First, install pass with:

sudo apt-get install pass -y

Once pass is installed, create a gpg key with:

gpg --generate-key

Answer the questions and give the new key a strong/unique password. You should see a string of characters in the output that looks something like this:

D9294B1289455DB88C0920DE856A0FC952349B9

Once the key is created, initialize pass with your key using the command:

pass init KEY

Where KEY is the key from the output above.

Next, we can install Rancher Desktop. To do that, first add the Rancher GPG key with:

curl -s https://download.opensuse.org/repositories/isv:/Rancher:/stable/deb/Release.key | gpg --dearmor | sudo dd status=none of=/usr/share/keyrings/isv-rancher-stable-archive-keyring.gpg

Next, add the repository with:

echo 'deb [signed-by=/usr/share/keyrings/isv-rancher-stable-archive-keyring.gpg] https://download.opensuse.org/repositories/isv:/Rancher:/stable/deb/ ./' | sudo dd status=none of=/etc/apt/sources.list.d/isv-rancher-stable.list

Finally, update apt and install Rancher Desktop with:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install rancher-desktop

You should now see the Rancher Desktop launcher in your desktop menu. Open the app and you’ll be greeted by the initial setup tool (Figure A).

Figure A

The Rancher Desktop first-run setup tool.
The Rancher Desktop first-run setup tool.

Make sure to select the latest version of Kubernetes, select containerd as the runtime, and set the PATH configuration to Automatic. Once you’ve done that, click Accept and you should then see the Rancher Desktop main window with a progress bar at the bottom left indicating the download status of Kubernetes (Figure B).

Figure B

The Rancher Desktop main window is busy setting up Kubernetes.
The Rancher Desktop main window is busy setting up Kubernetes.

Once Kubernetes is downloaded and installed, you’re ready to use Rancher Desktop.

How to install Rancher Desktop on macOS

The macOS installation is considerably easier than it is on Linux. All you need to do is download the correct Rancher Desktop binary installer (for x86_64, mac.aarch64, or aarch64) and double-click the file once it’s downloaded. You should see the same GUI windows as you did for the Linux installation.

The only difference on macOS is that you’ll have to give admin access to the network configuration (Figure C).

Figure C

Giving Rancher Desktop admin access.
Giving Rancher Desktop admin access.

Click OK and, when prompted, type your user password. Rancher Desktop will then start downloading the necessary bits for Kubernetes and you’re ready to go.

And that’s all there is to installing Rancher Desktop on both Linux and macOS. Next time we visit this handy GUI, we’ll discover how the tool is used.

Happy container management!

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