Building a Custom OpenVZ Template

This post is quite old, and may not be up-to-date or maintained. Please take the information here with a grain of salt.

One of the things I’ve thought would be handy for much too long was setting up a custom template for my virtual machines. I don’t do anything too crazy, but I use LDAP and some other utilities that I continually have to setup and configure on every machine. The ultimate in convenience would be to create a new virtual machine and have all the environment specific config done, so I can get right into building it out. Creating a template sounds like a headache, but I found it to be actually quite simple. Here’s my take on the template creation process.


I used my Proxmox VE environment to do the creation. This is based on OpenVZ, but Proxmox introduces it own set of quirks if you try to interface with a more vanilla OpenVZ system. I’ll also be basing the template off of a stock standard Debian 8 template, this one from OpenVZ to be specific.

Nitty Gritty

The first step is to setup a container that we’ll modify to meet our needs. This is pretty self explanatory, but most of the options when creating the container are irrelevant. Since we won’t be modifying the script that actually sets up the new containers based on our template, it will still accept the root password and hostname from the creation window like before.

Things You’ll Want To Do

In my case, I wanted a very minimal template since my virtual machines end up doing any number of things. If you’re planning on making a template for a specific type of server then you’ll want to install the common software here. Something to keep in mind is that this is a template after all, so if you install every package you’ll ever use it can become quite large and you might end up spending time removing packages and files, which defeats the purpose of setting up a template!

Some things you’ll probably always want to do:

  • Set Your Timezone: In my case, everything is in one timezone so setting my local timezone makes sense here.
  • Update Your Packages: This seems a little dumb on the surface since the packages will inevitably be out of date when you use your new template. This can’t really hurt anything though, as long as you remember to update the packages again once your virtual machine is setup.
  • Install Remote Monitoring: I use Zabbix to track all of my machines, so installing the Zabbix agent and configuring it to connect to my monitoring server makes sense.
  • Configure Proxies: If you have any local proxies, you can configure them here. In my case, I just have a proxy for apt that every machine uses. If you don’t have some sort of proxy for your package manager, you should probably set one up.
  • Reset rc.local: The default Debian template comes with an rc.local file that finishes some setup on the machine, mainly generating a new set of SSH keys for the server. You’ll want to move the rc.local (which should be mostly blank or comments) to rc.local.orig and create a new rc.local with the file below. Feel free to add in other actions you want your machine to perform on first boot.
rm -f etc/ssh/ssh_host_*
/usr/bin/ssh-keygen -t rsa -N '' -f /etc/ssh/ssh_host_rsa_key
/usr/bin/ssh-keygen -t dsa -N '' -f /etc/ssh/ssh_host_dsa_key
/usr/bin/ssh-keygen -t rsa1 -N '' -f /etc/ssh/ssh_host_key
/usr/bin/ssh-keygen -t ecdsa -N '' -f /etc/ssh/ssh_host_ecdsa_key
/usr/bin/ssh-keygen -t ed25519 -N '' -f /etc/ssh/ssh_host_ed25519_key
service ssh restart

umask 022
mv -f /etc/rc.local.orig /etc/rc.local

I also installed some software specific to my environment like LDAP and fail2ban.

Making The Template

When you’re happy, power down the template using the shutdown command or the OS’s halt command. Once it’s offline, remove any network interface that are setup. Since the wizard that creates machines based off your template will try and add one anyway, removing the initial one here removes potential duplication. You’ll also want to make a note of the VMID, since we’ll need that to select the correct private area.

Then SSH into the PVE Server (the physical machine) and navigate to your container’s private area. On a default installation this is at /var/lib/vz/private, but if you’re using NFS or a RAID array, it might be different. CD into the dir that matches the ID of the machine you want to template. Then tar the machine into a new template:

tar -cvzpf /root/tarname.tar.gz .

Be sure to include the last period! You can name the template anything you want, but Proxmox likes things in the following format:


In our case, our template name is


In my case, I’m putting things into /root so I can download them and install it on each of my PVE machines. You can also put it directly into /var/lib/vz/cache/ to have things ready to go right away.

All Done

When you’re done tarring things, everything is ready to rock! In my case I downloaded the file to install it manually on all my PVE hosts as well has to have a copy for my records. These files aren’t that small, mine turned out to be about 275M, so you could also use SCP to transfer them directly to each host if you want.

To create a new machine based on your template, just create a container like normal and select your new template!

Many thanks to James Coyle for a wonderful walk through of the template creation process.