How to run a Linux Program on Startup

Here are the steps to have a program or script start on boot on a linux machine using Systemctl. I’m currently using this start several services on my raspberry pi. DigitalOcean wrote an article that goes into more detail on Systemctl.

  1. Run this command
    sudo nano /etc/systemd/system/YOUR_SERVICE_NAME.service
  2. Paste in the command below. Press ctrl + x then y to save and exit
    Description=GIVE_YOUR_SERVICE_A_DESCRIPTION
    
    Wants=network.target
    After=syslog.target network-online.target
    
    [Service]
    Type=simple
    ExecStart=YOUR_COMMAND_HERE
    Restart=on-failure
    RestartSec=10
    KillMode=process
    
    [Install]
    WantedBy=multi-user.target
  3. Reload services

    sudo systemctl daemon-reload
  4. Enable the service

    sudo systemctl enable YOUR_SERVICE_NAME
  5. Start the service
    sudo systemctl start YOUR_SERVICE_NAME
  6. Check the status of your service
    systemctl status YOUR_SERVICE_NAME
  7. Reboot your device and the program/script should be running. If it crashes it will attempt to restart

35 thoughts to “How to run a Linux Program on Startup”

  1. Thanks for this Tim – your articles helped me getting homebridge working perfectly! I was so lost without these articles – really appreciate it.

    I’m trying to take these learnings and get the alexa > sonos node.js service running explained here

    https://github.com/rgraciano/echo-sonos#get-jishis-node-sonos-http-api-working

    They give not so detailed instructions on how to get it up and running..

    Optional: You probably want to set this up to auto-start in the event it dies. Auto-launch is one of many solutions to make that happen. – https://www.npmjs.com/package/auto-launch

    As you may guess i’m completely lost!

    1. This is what I created – assuming I usually go to the folder home/pi/node_modules/sonos-http-api/
      then just type “npm start” and it starts..

      Description=Sonos Alexa Node Server

      Wants=network.target
      After=syslog.target network-online.target

      [Service]
      Type=simple
      ExecStart=home/pi/node_modules/sonos-http-api/npm start
      Restart=on-failure
      RestartSec=10
      KillMode=process

      [Install]
      WantedBy=multi-user.target

      1. Thanks glad they have helped! I think you would want your command to first change to the directory then run npm start.

        You could also try npm start –prefix path/to/your/app

  2. ExecStart=YOUR_COMMAND_HERE

    What command is this? No one says what this command is supposed to be. Am I supposed to just “know” what goes there?

  3. Thank you for this straight-forward article – it’s exactly what I’ve been searching for. I’ve written a daemon process in C but was having trouble with other complicated instructions in getting it to run as a system process. This worked first time!
    I hope you can understand the simple delight of an engineer of some thirty years experience on seeing a System OK LED start flashing on boot!

    Best regards,
    Peter

  4. This article has made a local hero at my place of work. Thanks a lot.

    Here is mine
    ==========================================
    Description=JBOSS_EAP_7.1.0_startup_service

    Wants=network.target
    After=syslog.target network-online.target

    [Service]
    Type=simple
    ExecStart=/root/EAP-7.1.0/bin/standalone.sh
    Restart=on-failure
    RestartSec=10
    KillMode=process

    [Install]
    WantedBy=multi-user.target

  5. Hi Tim,
    I tried your method on my application program on Debian OS. It is not working for me.
    My program is a GUI based application program, which is located in the folder of /home/linaro/. I run my application from Terminal is as below:
    ./my_app
    It works fine.

    Below is the service file my_app.service, which is stored in the folder of /ect/ststemd/system/
    Description=My_main_app

    Wants=network.target
    After=syslog.target network-online.target

    [Service]
    Type=simple
    ExecStart=/home/linaro/my_app
    Restart=on-failure
    RestartSec=10
    KillMode=process

    [Install]
    WantedBy=multi-user.target

    It failed on start the service.
    The systemctl log is as below:
    [/etc/system/system/my_app.service:1] Assignment outside of section. Ignoring.
    [/etc/system/system/my_app.service:3] Assignment outside of section. Ignoring.
    [/etc/system/system/my_app.service:4] Assignment outside of section. Ignoring.
    [/etc/system/system/my_app.service:6] Unknown section ‘service’. Ignoring.
    my_app.service: Service lacks both ExecStart= and ExecStop= setting. Refusing.

    Would you please let me know what’s wrong with it?
    Thanks.

  6. Unfortunetly, this doesn’t work for me. I have the following service setup:
    Description=xbindkeys packege

    Wants=network.target
    After=syslog.target network-online.target

    [Service]
    Type=simple
    ExecStart=/usr/bin/xbindkeys
    Restart=on-failure
    RestartSec=10
    KillMode=process

    [Install]
    WantedBy=multi-user.target

    But at boot nothing happens.

  7. Hi Tim,
    so if my Server.js file is in home/ubuntu/backend/Server.js my EXECSTART should be home/ubuntu/backend/node Server.js?

  8. Hi Tim,
    i want to run a startup code for ZED board how could i do because in zed board there is no system and bashrc

  9. Hi Tim – Been trying this method to get HomeBridge to launch on start vs. your prior post. I keep getting an error message when I start the service:

    [email protected]:~ $ sudo systemctl start home
    Failed to start home.service: Unit home.service is not loaded properly: Invalid argument.
    See system logs and ‘systemctl status home.service’ for details.

    When I go into the Log this is what I see:
    ● home.service
    Loaded: error (Reason: Invalid argument)
    Active: inactive (dead)

    Jun 17 08:37:15 raspberrypi systemd[1]: [/etc/systemd/system/home.service:1] Assignment outside of section. Ignoring.
    Jun 17 08:37:15 raspberrypi systemd[1]: [/etc/systemd/system/home.service:3] Assignment outside of section. Ignoring.
    Jun 17 08:37:15 raspberrypi systemd[1]: [/etc/systemd/system/home.service:4] Assignment outside of section. Ignoring.
    Jun 17 08:37:15 raspberrypi systemd[1]: [/etc/systemd/system/home.service:8] Executable path is not absolute, ignoring: homebridge
    Jun 17 08:37:15 raspberrypi systemd[1]: home.service: Service lacks both ExecStart= and ExecStop= setting. Refusing.

    The command is as follows:

    Description=Home

    Wants=network.target
    After=syslog.target network-online.target

    [Service]
    Type=simple
    ExecStart=homebridge
    Restart=on-failure
    RestartSec=10
    KillMode=process

    [Install]
    WantedBy=multi-user.target

      1. Thanks. That sort of worked… It launches Homebridge on start. But it seems like its launches a different instance / config file than I setup in my user (pi). Do I fix that by changing the revised path (/usr/bin/homebridge)?

          1. Sorry for the stupid questions, but this is all new to me. If the user is “pi”, how would I update the path? the path “/usr/bin/homebridge” launched a version of Homebridge that didn’t have my config file.

  10. Hello Tim, I tried setting up pCloud on Ubuntu 16.04 with the walkthrough a few days ago, but something’s wrong and I don’t understand what it’s trying to tell me. Just to be clear, it has not been able to launch pCloud once since I set it up like this. I just didn’t find the time to post about it here. “ultra” is the name of my system.

    “`
    $ systemctl status pcloud

    ● pcloud.service
    Loaded: loaded (/etc/systemd/system/pcloud.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled)
    Active: activating (auto-restart) (Result: exit-code) since Sam 2019-06-22 11:48:12 CEST; 1s ago
    Process: 8534 ExecStart=/home/thymaro/opt/pcloud/pcloud (code=exited, status=1/FAILURE)
    Main PID: 8534 (code=exited, status=1/FAILURE)
    CGroup: /system.slice/pcloud.service

    Jun 22 11:48:12 ultra systemd[1]: pcloud.service: Unit entered failed state.
    Jun 22 11:48:12 ultra systemd[1]: pcloud.service: Failed with result ‘exit-code’.
    ~
    ~
    ~
    “`

    1. First, how do you format code in this reply box?

      Maybe this helps identifying the problem:

      *************************************
      Description=Starts the pCloud service on startup.

      Wants=network.target
      After=syslog.target network-online.target

      [Service]
      Type=simple
      ExecStart=/home/thymaro/opt/pcloud/pcloud
      Restart=on-failure
      RestartSec=10
      KillMode=process

      [Install]
      WantedBy=multi-user.target
      *************************************

  11. Hi Tim,

    I’m new to linux, python3 & Raspberry Pi. My forte is Windows & Visual Basic. I’m
    having problems setting up a service for the following.

    “/home/pi/test” – This is the script I want to run after the Raspberry Pi boots.
    It ensures the current directory is ‘/home/pi’ (for system data logging), then
    starts a terminal and runs a python3 program that monitors home system status
    (Network & AC power). The scripts are executable and work from a terminal and
    the GUI, and I’ve tried it both ways below:

    *********************************************************************

    #!/bin/sh
    #
    chdir /home/pi
    /usr/bin/x-terminal-emulator -e /usr/bin/python3 /home/pi/HomeStat.py

    *********************************************************************

    #!/bin/sh
    #
    cd /home/pi
    x-terminal-emulator -e python3 HomeStat.py

    **********************************************************************

    “HomeStat.service” – The following is the service I set up per your instructions

    **********************************************************************

    Description=Home_Status_Monitor

    Wants=network.target
    After=syslog.target network-online.target

    [Service]
    Type=simple
    ExecStart=/home/pi/test
    Restart=on-failure
    RestartSec=10
    KillMode=process

    [Install]
    WantedBy=multi-user.target

    *************************************************************************

    This is the status message I received

    *************************************************************************

    ● HomeStat.service
    Loaded: loaded (/etc/systemd/system/HomeStat.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled)
    Active: activating (auto-restart) (Result: exit-code) since Thu 2019-07-18 19:18:23 EDT; 9s ago
    Process: 1587 ExecStart=/home/pi/test (code=exited, status=1/FAILURE)
    Main PID: 1587 (code=exited, status=1/FAILURE)

    Jul 18 19:18:23 raspberrypi systemd[1]: HomeStat.service: Unit entered failed state.
    Jul 18 19:18:23 raspberrypi systemd[1]: HomeStat.service: Failed with result ‘exit-code’.

    *************************************************************************

    I don’t understand what the status message is saying! Where do I find out information on these
    status messages? What is status=1/FAILURE? Is there a listing of these error
    codes with a breakdown or synopsis of the failure. Any help would be appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Joe

  12. Hi Tim,

    chdir & cd both change the working directory in Linux and MSDOS. One command both systems agree on, but the path separators are different (ie. ‘/’ or ‘\’). As a note, I went looking for the man page for cd & chdir, and found that there is one for chdir, but there isn’t one (at least it wasn’t on my copy of Raspbian, ver. 4.14, stretch) for cd. However, both work. Missing documentation or Magic?

    I went looking for a full path on both chdir & cd, but found no routine in any Linux directory (to add this to the command in my ‘test’ script). They must be internal commands. I’ve run out of things to try. Still looking…

    By the way, where did they hide information on these error codes?

    Thanks,
    Joe

  13. Hi Tim,

    Just to check myself, I just now cranked up my Pi and tested cd and chdir. I was half right and half wrong. cd works to change directories, chdir does not! However, there IS a man page for chdir & fchdir (change the working directory), but NONE for cd? It must be spam…

    Now just as a note, my original script used cd instead of chdir. The results were as displayed in my original email. I actually changed the script to read chdir just before I sent in the email, because I found a man page for chdir. I did run the script with both cd & chdir and got failures, however the status message above was from the original test (using cd). Sorry for the confusion (mostly mine). After I changed the script to chdir, I ran the script from the GUI (click & ‘execute’) and it ran! So I figured both cd & chdir were the same. I was wrong.

    Thanks,
    Joe

  14. Hi Tim,

    I found out what caused the failure while trying to set up the systemd.service. While scouring through the technical documents found on the Internet, I found that to set up a systemd unit, the script that you want to run must not be interactive (found on Red Hat). Since I was trying to start a terminal to display current status (Home Status), systemd didn’t like that. I had to remove the terminal from my startup script, and add data-logging to my Home Status program. It now works fine.

    Thanks,
    Joe

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