Linux Tactic

Mastering Systemd Services: A Comprehensive Guide to Management and Troubleshooting

Introduction to Systemd Services

System services are an integral part of any Linux workstation or server. They are responsible for managing, monitoring, and controlling various system tasks and functions.

Service management is crucial for ensuring the overall health and stability of the system. To aid in this process, Systemd was introduced as a service management tool for Linux-based operating systems.

In this article, we will explore the importance of service management and how Systemd plays a vital role in keeping our systems in order. We will also discuss the different system locations for installing services and the naming conventions to be followed while creating service files.

Importance of Service Management

Service management is essential for maintaining the stability of any Linux system. It involves running various system services, monitoring their performance, and ensuring that they are always running correctly.

Without service management, it becomes challenging to keep track of the many processes running on a system, leading to instability and other issues. In a Linux environment, there are two types of services: System services and User services.

System services are core services that run at system boot, such as network, logging, and security services. On the other hand, User services are regular processes that run on a particular user’s request.

Systemd’s Role in Service Management

Systemd is a service management tool introduced in recent versions of Linux. It is designed to manage system services, such as network, logging, and security services, among others.

Systemd is an essential part of modern distributions, such as CentOS, Debian, Fedora, and Ubuntu. Systemd is responsible for starting, stopping, and managing various system services.

It provides a centralized point of control for managing system services, with a robust and flexible approach to service management. The tool also allows for the log management of all system services, making it easier to troubleshoot system issues.

Location of Systemd Services

Systemd services are installed in various locations on the Linux file system. The installation location depends on the package manager used, as well as the purpose of the service.

Below are some of the most common locations:

1. /usr/lib/systemd/system – This contains the core system service files installed by the package manager.

2. /usr/local/lib/systemd/system – This contains custom system services installed manually or using third-party tools.

3. /etc/systemd/system – This location contains service files specific to the local system.

They can be created by the system administrators to override some of the default settings.

File Extensions and Naming Conventions for Service Files

When creating service files, it is important to follow a consistent naming convention, and to use the correct file extension. The name of the Systemd service file should contain the name of the service and should end with “.service” extension.

For example, a Systemd service file for the Apache web server would be named “httpd.service”. Besides, the content of a typical Systemd service file starts with a description of the service.

This description includes the name of the service, a brief overview of what it does, and any dependencies that need to be started before the service can run. The file also includes information about how the service should start and stop, how it should be monitored, and what to do in case of failure.

Another key feature of the Systemd service file is the ability to control the various parameters of the service. This includes setting memory limits, CPU scheduling, and security parameters.


In this article, we examined the importance of service management in a Linux environment. We learned how Systemd helps with service management by managing and controlling various system tasks and functions.

Additionally, we explored the various locations where Systemd services can be installed and how to create Systemd service files following the correct naming conventions and file extensions. It is essential to understand and utilize proper service management techniques to maintain a stable and healthy system.

Systemd has made this task more straightforward, providing a powerful and flexible platform for managing services. With this knowledge, you can use Systemd to effectively manage any Linux system you work with.

Writing a Systemd Service File

A Systemd service file is a configuration file that specifies how a service should be managed by the Systemd service management tool. The service file includes information about the service, such as its name, description, start-up options, and so on.

In this section, we will provide an overview of the structure of a Systemd service file and discuss the properties of the [Unit] and [Service] sections.

Overview of Service File Structure

A Systemd service file begins with the [Unit] section, which provides information about the service unit. This section contains properties that define the service, such as the description, the service’s dependencies, and where the service should be started.

The [Service] section contains information specific to the service, such as how it should be started and stopped, the user account it should run under, and so on. Below is an example of a Systemd service file structure:



Description=My Service






In this example, the service is called “My Service,” and it is set to start automatically when the system reaches the multi-user target.

The service is specified in the [Service] section, as shown below. The Properties of [Unit] Section

The [Unit] section of the service file contains several properties that define the service.

Below are the commonly used properties:

1. Description=

This property provides a brief description of the service.

2. Requires=

This property identifies any other Systemd services that need to be started before the service starts.

3. After=

This property identifies any Systemd services that the service depends on.

4. Wants=

This property identifies any of the other services that can be started with the current service if they are present on the system.

5. WantedBy=

This property identifies the Systemd target at which the service should be started.

The Properties of [Service] Section

The [Service] section of the service file contains properties that define how the service should be started and stopped. Below are the commonly used properties:



This property describes the service’s process type. The types can be of two types: `simple` and `forking`.

The `simple` type is used when the service creates a single process while the `forking` type is used when the service creates multiple child processes. 2.


This property specifies the command to be executed when the service starts. 3.


This property defines the service restart policy. The possible values for this property are `always`, `on-abnormal`, `on-failure`, and `no`.

The `always` value indicates that the service should always be restarted, whereas `on-failure` indicates that the service should be restarted only if it fails or exits abnormally.

Configuring Systemd Services

Systemd provides several properties that allow system administrators to configure services to meet their specific needs. This section discusses some of the critical properties that can be used to configure Systemd services.

1. How to configure the Type= property

The Type= property describes the type of process used by the service.

The two possible values for this property are `simple` or `forking`. The `simple` type is used when the service creates a single process, which Systemd should wait for.

The `forking` type, on the other hand, is used when the service creates multiple child processes. In this case, Systemd first waits for the parent process, and then it waits for all of the child processes.

2. Exploring the ExecStart= and Restart= properties

The ExecStart= property specifies the command or script that needs to run when the service starts.

This command could execute a binary file, start a script, or start a bash script that sets up the environment. The Restart= property defines the service restart policy.

The possible values for this property are `always`, `on-abnormal`, `on-failure`, and `no`. The `always` value indicates that the service should always be restarted, whereas `on-failure` indicates that the service should be restarted only if it fails or exits abnormally.

3. Other important properties: WorkingDirectory=, User=, Group=, EnvironmentFile=

There are four additional properties that can be used to configure Systemd services:



This property specifies the working directory of the service. b.


This property specifies the user account that the service should run as. If no user is specified, the service will run as the root user.

c. Group=

This property specifies the group that the service should run as.

d. EnvironmentFile=

This property specifies the file containing environment variable definitions that the service requires.


In conclusion, Systemd service files allow system administrators to define how Systemd services are managed. The service file is constructed using two sections: [Unit] and [Service].

The [Unit] section of the service file contains properties that describe the service, whereas the [Service] section contains properties that define how to start and stop the service. Several properties are available to configure Systemd services, including Type=, ExecStart=, Restart=, WorkingDirectory=, User=, Group=, and EnvironmentFile=.

By utilizing the many features available in Systemd, you can effectively manage Systemd services to meet the specific requirements of your system.

Saving and Starting Systemd Services

After creating a Systemd service file, the next step is to save it and start the service. This section outlines the steps for copying a service file to the system directory, starting the service, and enabling automatic start of the service on system startup.

Copying Service File to System Directory and Reloading Systemd

To make our Systemd service file available to the Systemd service management tool, we need to copy it to the Systemd system directory and reload the Systemd daemon. The Systemd system directory for service files is `/etc/systemd/system`, whereas the user directory for service files is `~/.config/systemd/user`.

After copying the service file to the appropriate directory, we need to tell Systemd to reload itself and scan for new or changed service files. This is done by running the `systemctl daemon-reload` command as the root user:


sudo cp /path/to/my-service-file.service /etc/systemd/system/

sudo systemctl daemon-reload


Starting the Service Using Systemctl Command

To start the service, we use the `systemctl start ` command. For example, if the service is named “my-service”, the command would be:


sudo systemctl start my-service


Enabling Automatic Start of Service on System Startup

To configure the service to start automatically on system startup, we use the `systemctl enable ` command. The service must specify a valid target in the “WantedBy” property.

For example, if we want to start our service when the multi-user target is reached, the line `` should be in the [Unit] section of the service file. “`

sudo systemctl enable my-service


This command creates a symbolic link from `/etc/systemd/system/.service` to the appropriate target in `/etc/systemd/system/`.

Checking Systemd Service Status

To check the status of a Systemd service, we use the `systemctl status ` command. This command provides a detailed summary of the current status of the service, including whether it is running, the status of any dependencies, and any error messages.


sudo systemctl status my-service


Troubleshooting Service Start Errors

If there are errors starting a Systemd service, the `systemctl status ` command is usually the first tool used to diagnose the problem. Common errors include specifying the wrong path to the executable or script, permission issues, or syntax errors in the service file.

If the `systemctl status ` command shows the error “Unit not found”, check to see if the service file has been copied to the correct directory and that the filename ends with `.service`.

Background Running of Systemd Services

When a Systemd service is started using the `systemctl start ` command, it runs in the foreground, and its status is printed to the console. If you want to run the service in the background, use the `systemctl start .service &` command.

If you want to monitor the service’s output, use the `journalctl -u ` command. This command displays the service’s current log output, as well as previous log entries.


Systemd service files are an essential tool for managing services in a Linux environment. They provide a flexible and powerful mechanism for defining how services should be started and managed.

In this article, we discussed how to save and start Systemd services, and how to check their status and troubleshoot any errors. By understanding these concepts, you can effectively manage Systemd services on your Linux system.

In conclusion, Systemd services play a crucial role in managing and monitoring various tasks and functions in a Linux environment. Through the use of Systemd service files, administrators can define how services should start, stop, and behave.

By properly configuring and starting Systemd services, users can ensure the stability and efficiency of their Linux systems. It is important to understand the structure and properties of service files, as well as the commands for starting and enabling services.

Additionally, checking the status of services and troubleshooting errors using Systemd commands is essential for maintaining a reliable system. With a solid understanding of Systemd services, administrators can effectively manage their Linux systems and optimize their performance.

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