No need to reboot to fix ‘Docker Desktop has failed to start’ error

If you cannot restart your computer, you still have a way out. Tested on Windows 10.
Published on October 4, 2023 in How-tos
Read time: 1 min

Stop sign photo by Johann Van Der Linde

Sometimes, likewise after a Docker Desktop update, Docker may not be able to start and you could read a Docker has failed to start message. A reboot is (almost) always a working solution, yet not the best option in many cases. But what if you are in the middle of your workflow, can’t close everything and can’t reboot?


The Docker Desktop app is what runs the tray icon. Docker works with WSL and uses a Windows Service to handle things under the hood and let the Docker Desktop application talk with the underlying Docker in WSL. If things broke a reboot may help, but there is no an actual need for it.


This has been tested on Windows 10. It might also work on Windows 11. If you find it to be, please reach out to me, so that I can update this post accordingly.

1. Quit docker desktop

2. In PowerShell Admin, stop WSL:

wsl --shutdown

3. Restart the Docker Desktop Service by going to:

Start menu > Services

as shown in the screenshot below.

Docker Desktop Service

4. In PowerShell Admin, start WSL:


5. Now open the Docker Desktop app.

It should now work again. And you can start your stopped containers.

I hope it helps. Thanks for reading.


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