[Optional] The Singularity cache


Teaching: 10 min
Exercises: 0 min
  • Why does Singularity use a local cache?

  • Where does Singularity store images?

  • Learn about Singularity’s image cache.

  • Learn how to manage Singularity images stored locally.

Singularity’s image cache

Singularity uses a local cache to save downloaded container image files in addition to storing them as the file you specify. As we saw in the previous episode, images are simply .sif files stored on your local disk.

If you delete a local .sif container image that you have pulled from a remote container image repository and then pull it again, if the container image is unchanged from the version you previously pulled, you will be given a copy of the container image file from your local cache rather than the container image being downloaded again from the remote source. This removes unnecessary network transfers and is particularly useful for large container images which may take some time to transfer over the network. To demonstrate this, remove the lolcow.sif file stored in your test directory and then issue the pull command again:

$ rm lolcow.sif
$ singularity pull lolcow.sif docker://ghcr.io/apptainer/lolcow
INFO:    Using cached image

As we can see in the above output, the container image has been returned from the cache and we do not see the output that we saw previously showing the container image being downloaded from the Cloud Library.

How do we know what is stored in the local cache? We can find out using the singularity cache command:

$ singularity cache list
There are 1 container file(s) using 71.54 MiB and 4 oci blob file(s) using 73.00 MiB of space
Total space used: 144.54 MiB

This tells us how many container image files are stored in the cache and how much disk space the cache is using but it doesn’t tell us what is actually being stored. To find out more information we can add the -v verbose flag to the list command:

$ singularity cache list -v
NAME                     DATE CREATED           SIZE             TYPE
16ec32c2132b43494832a0   2023-09-04 07:55:27    27.24 MiB        blob
5ca731fc36c28789c5ddc3   2023-09-04 07:55:28    45.75 MiB        blob
9a3b8e28e0be343c2f8828   2023-09-04 07:55:29    0.50 KiB         blob
fd0daa4d897cbb381c3bad   2023-09-04 07:55:29    1.36 KiB         blob
5b140746df59d5a75498f9   2023-09-04 07:55:34    71.54 MiB        oci-tmp

There are 1 container file(s) using 71.54 MiB and 4 oci blob file(s) using 73.00 MiB of space
Total space used: 144.54 MiB

This provides us with some more useful information about the actual container images stored in the cache. In the TYPE column we can see that our container image type is oci-tmp because it’s a SIF container image that has been created by merging together OCI layers from a Docker container image. We also have each of the original OCI layers pulled from Docker Hub stored in the cache with type blob.

Cleaning the Singularity image cache

We can remove container images from the cache using the singularity cache clean command. Running the command without any options will display a warning and ask you to confirm that you want to remove everything from your cache.

You can also remove specific container images or all container images of a particular type. Look at the output of singularity cache clean --help for more information.

Cache location

By default, Singularity uses $HOME/.singularity/cache as the location for the cache. You can change the location of the cache by setting the SINGULARITY_CACHEDIR environment variable to the cache location you want to use.

Key Points

  • Singularity caches downloaded images so that an unchanged image isn’t downloaded again when it is requested using the singularity pull command.

  • You can free up space in the cache by removing all locally cached images or by specifying individual images to remove.