Systemd: Service File Examples

Most Linux distributions use systemd as a system and service manager.

The systemctl is the main command in systemd, used to control services.

In this tutorial i will show how to create a systemd service file that will allow you to control your service using the systemctl command, how to restart systemd without reboot to reload unit files and how to enable your new service.

I will also show and describe the most important systemd service file options with the live examples of the systemd service files.

Create Systemd Service File

Create a systemd service file /etc/systemd/system/foo-daemon.service (replace the foo-daemon with your service name):

$ sudo touch /etc/systemd/system/foo-daemon.service
$ sudo chmod 664 /etc/systemd/system/foo-daemon.service

Open the foo-daemon.service file and add the minimal service configuration options that allow this service to be controlled via systemctl:




Path To Daemon: If you don’t know the full path to a daemon, try which foo-daemon.

Once the service file is changed, it needs to reload systemd configuration:

$ sudo systemctl daemon-reload

Now you should be able to start, stop, restart and check the service status

$ sudo systemctl start foo-daemon
$ sudo systemctl stop foo-daemon
$ sudo systemctl restart foo-daemon
$ systemctl status foo-daemon

To configure a service to start automatically on boot, you need to enable it:

$ sudo systemctl enable foo-daemon

To check the service logs, run:

$ journalctl -u foo-daemon

Systemd Service File Options

Systemd service files typically consist of three sections.

The common configuration items are configured in the generic [Unit] and [Install] sections.

The service specific configuration options are configured in the [Service] section.

Important [Unit] Section Options

Option Description
Description A short description of the unit.
Documentation A list of URIs referencing documentation.
Before, After The order in which units are started.
Requires If this unit gets activated, the units listed here will be activated as well. If one of the other units gets deactivated or fails, this unit will be deactivated.
Wants Configures weaker dependencies than Requires. If any of the listed units does not start successfully, it has no impact on the unit activation. This is the recommended way to establish custom unit dependencies.
Conflicts If a unit has a Conflicts setting on another unit, starting the former will stop the latter and vice versa.

A complete list of [Unit] section options:

$ man systemd.unit

Important [Install] Section Options

Option Description
Alias A space-separated list of additional names for the unit. Most systemctl commands, excluding systemctl enable, can use aliases instead of the actual unit name.
RequiredBy, WantedBy The current service will be started when the listed services are started. See the description of Wants and Requires in the [Unit] section for details.
Also Specifies a list of units to be enabled or disabled along with this unit when a user runs systemctl enable or systemctl disable.

A complete list of [Install] section options:

$ man systemd.unit

Important [Service] Section Options

Option Description
Type Configures the process start-up type. One of:
simple (default) – starts the service immediately. It is expected that the main process of the service is defined in ExecStart.
forking – considers the service started up once the process forks and the parent has exited.
oneshot – similar to simple, but it is expected that the process has to exit before systemd starts follow-up units (useful for scripts that do a single job and then exit). You may want to set RemainAfterExit=yes as well so that systemd still considers the service as active after the process has exited.
dbus – similar to simple, but considers the service started up when the main process gains a D-Bus name.
notify – similar to simple, but considers the service started up only after it sends a special signal to systemd.
idle – similar to simple, but the actual execution of the service binary is delayed until all jobs are finished.
ExecStart Commands with arguments to execute when the service is started. Type=oneshot enables specifying multiple custom commands that are then executed sequentially. ExecStartPre and ExecStartPost specify custom commands to be executed before and after ExecStart.
ExecStop Commands to execute to stop the service started via ExecStart.
ExecReload Commands to execute to trigger a configuration reload in the service.
Restart With this option enabled, the service shall be restarted when the service process exits, is killed, or a timeout is reached with the exception of a normal stop by the systemctl stop command.
RemainAfterExit If set to True, the service is considered active even when all its processes exited. Useful with Type=oneshot. Default value is False.

A complete list of [Service] section options:

$ man systemd.service

Systemd Service File Examples

Description=The NGINX HTTP and reverse proxy server

ExecStartPre=/usr/sbin/nginx -t
ExecReload=/bin/kill -s HUP $MAINPID
ExecStop=/bin/kill -s QUIT $MAINPID

Description=The Apache HTTP Server

ExecStart=/usr/sbin/httpd $OPTIONS -DFOREGROUND
ExecReload=/usr/sbin/httpd $OPTIONS -k graceful
ExecStop=/bin/kill -WINCH ${MAINPID}

Description=Redis persistent key-value database

ExecStart=/usr/bin/redis-server /etc/redis.conf --daemonize no


For more examples, check the systemd.service and systemd.unit man pages.

10 Replies to “Systemd: Service File Examples”

  1. Thank you excellent explanation ..

      1. Alvan Rahimli says: Reply

        Bəli 😀

  2. Good~ !!
    Thank you~

  3. On my box (Debian) it seems all the Systemd Service Files are created in /lib/systemd/system/.
    Can/should you not create your System Service file there instead?
    If your service-file is located in /etc/systemd/system/ your cannot reload/reactivate it, if you have unload/deactivated the service, as the service-file is deleted completely in /etc/systemd/system/.
    The service-file doesn’t seem to be deleted in /lib/systemd/system/ when you unload/deactivate the service, ie. you are able to reload/reactivate it.
    I must admit I haven’t read up on this, it just my experience, so I might be wrong.

    1. MrCal, you are right. The .service file should be created in /lib/systemd/system/.
      When the service is enabled, systemctl creates a symlink in a sub-directory of /etc/systemd/system, and the link is deleted when the service is disabled.
      The sub-directory depends on the ‘[Install] WantedBy’ entry.
      I suppose these details were too much for an introductory article like this one has been.

  4. Akbar Ghasemi says: Reply

    not good enough because it doesn’t describe available options for example ,Restart has several possible values like always

    1. those examples are a good start point, if you don’t like go and make YOURS ,don’t complain and read the man pages

    2. Sebi Thomas says: Reply

      RTFM man

  5. This is a great tutorial. You let me know that the content in the original some.service file is a service under systemd.*. Very useful to me, thank you very much 🙂 !

Leave a Reply