daemon(7) — Linux manual page


DAEMON(7)                        daemon                        DAEMON(7)

NAME         top

       daemon - Writing and packaging system daemons

DESCRIPTION         top

       A daemon is a service process that runs in the background and
       supervises the system or provides functionality to other
       processes. Traditionally, daemons are implemented following a
       scheme originating in SysV Unix. Modern daemons should follow a
       simpler yet more powerful scheme (here called "new-style"
       daemons), as implemented by systemd(1). This manual page covers
       both schemes, and in particular includes recommendations for
       daemons that shall be included in the systemd init system.

   SysV Daemons
       When a traditional SysV daemon starts, it should execute the
       following steps as part of the initialization. Note that these
       steps are unnecessary for new-style daemons (see below), and
       should only be implemented if compatibility with SysV is

        1. Close all open file descriptors except standard input,
           output, and error (i.e. the first three file descriptors 0,
           1, 2). This ensures that no accidentally passed file
           descriptor stays around in the daemon process. On Linux, this
           is best implemented by iterating through /proc/self/fd, with
           a fallback of iterating from file descriptor 3 to the value
           returned by getrlimit() for RLIMIT_NOFILE.

        2. Reset all signal handlers to their default. This is best done
           by iterating through the available signals up to the limit of
           _NSIG and resetting them to SIG_DFL.

        3. Reset the signal mask using sigprocmask().

        4. Sanitize the environment block, removing or resetting
           environment variables that might negatively impact daemon

        5. Call fork(), to create a background process.

        6. In the child, call setsid() to detach from any terminal and
           create an independent session.

        7. In the child, call fork() again, to ensure that the daemon
           can never re-acquire a terminal again. (This is relevant if
           the program — and all its dependencies — does not carefully
           specify `O_NOCTTY` on each and every single `open()` call
           that might potentially open a TTY device node.)

        8. Call exit() in the first child, so that only the second child
           (the actual daemon process) stays around. This ensures that
           the daemon process is re-parented to init/PID 1, as all
           daemons should be.

        9. In the daemon process, connect /dev/null to standard input,
           output, and error.

       10. In the daemon process, reset the umask to 0, so that the file
           modes passed to open(), mkdir() and suchlike directly control
           the access mode of the created files and directories.

       11. In the daemon process, change the current directory to the
           root directory (/), in order to avoid that the daemon
           involuntarily blocks mount points from being unmounted.

       12. In the daemon process, write the daemon PID (as returned by
           getpid()) to a PID file, for example /run/foobar.pid (for a
           hypothetical daemon "foobar") to ensure that the daemon
           cannot be started more than once. This must be implemented in
           race-free fashion so that the PID file is only updated when
           it is verified at the same time that the PID previously
           stored in the PID file no longer exists or belongs to a
           foreign process.

       13. In the daemon process, drop privileges, if possible and

       14. From the daemon process, notify the original process started
           that initialization is complete. This can be implemented via
           an unnamed pipe or similar communication channel that is
           created before the first fork() and hence available in both
           the original and the daemon process.

       15. Call exit() in the original process. The process that invoked
           the daemon must be able to rely on that this exit() happens
           after initialization is complete and all external
           communication channels are established and accessible.

       The BSD daemon() function should not be used, as it implements
       only a subset of these steps.

       A daemon that needs to provide compatibility with SysV systems
       should implement the scheme pointed out above. However, it is
       recommended to make this behavior optional and configurable via a
       command line argument to ease debugging as well as to simplify
       integration into systems using systemd.

   New-Style Daemons
       Modern services for Linux should be implemented as new-style
       daemons. This makes it easier to supervise and control them at
       runtime and simplifies their implementation.

       For developing a new-style daemon, none of the initialization
       steps recommended for SysV daemons need to be implemented.
       New-style init systems such as systemd make all of them
       redundant. Moreover, since some of these steps interfere with
       process monitoring, file descriptor passing, and other
       functionality of the service manager, it is recommended not to
       execute them when run as new-style service.

       Note that new-style init systems guarantee execution of daemon
       processes in a clean process context: it is guaranteed that the
       environment block is sanitized, that the signal handlers and mask
       is reset and that no left-over file descriptors are passed.
       Daemons will be executed in their own session, with standard
       input connected to /dev/null and standard output/error connected
       to the systemd-journald.service(8) logging service, unless
       otherwise configured. The umask is reset.

       It is recommended for new-style daemons to implement the

        1. If applicable, the daemon should notify the service manager
           about startup completion or status updates via the
           sd_notify(3) interface, in particular READY=1 and STATUS=....

        2. If SIGTERM is received, shut down the daemon and exit
           cleanly. A STOPPING=1 notification should be sent via

        3. If SIGHUP is received, reload the configuration files, if
           this applies. This should be combined with notifications via
           sd_notify(3): RELOADING=1 and READY=1.

        4. Provide a correct exit code from the main daemon process, as
           this is used by the service manager to detect service errors
           and problems. It is recommended to follow the exit code
           scheme as defined in the LSB recommendations for SysV init

        5. If possible and applicable, expose the daemon's control
           interface via the D-Bus IPC system and grab a bus name as
           last step of initialization.

        6. For integration in systemd, provide a .service unit file that
           carries information about starting, stopping and otherwise
           maintaining the daemon. See systemd.service(5) for details.

        7. As much as possible, rely on the service manager's
           functionality to limit the access of the daemon to files,
           services, and other resources, i.e. in the case of systemd,
           rely on systemd's resource limit control instead of
           implementing your own, rely on systemd's privilege dropping
           code instead of implementing it in the daemon, and so on. See
           systemd.exec(5) for the available controls.

        8. If D-Bus is used, make your daemon bus-activatable by
           supplying a D-Bus service activation configuration file. This
           has multiple advantages: your daemon may be started lazily
           on-demand; it may be started in parallel to other daemons
           requiring it — which maximizes parallelization and boot-up
           speed; your daemon can be restarted on failure without losing
           any bus requests, as the bus queues requests for activatable
           services. See below for details.

        9. If your daemon provides services to other local processes or
           remote clients via a socket, it should be made
           socket-activatable following the scheme pointed out below.
           Like D-Bus activation, this enables on-demand starting of
           services as well as it allows improved parallelization of
           service start-up. Also, for state-less protocols (such as
           syslog, DNS), a daemon implementing socket-based activation
           can be restarted without losing a single request. See below
           for details.

       10. If the service opens sockets or other files on it own, and
           those file descriptors shall survive a restart, the daemon
           should store them in the service manager via sd_notify(3)
           with FDSTORE=1.

       11. Instead of using the syslog() call to log directly to the
           system syslog service, a new-style daemon may choose to
           simply log to standard error via fprintf(), which is then
           forwarded to syslog. If log levels are necessary, these can
           be encoded by prefixing individual log lines with strings
           like "<4>" (for log level 4 "WARNING" in the syslog priority
           scheme), following a similar style as the Linux kernel's
           printk() level system. For details, see sd-daemon(3) and

       12. As new-style daemons are invoked without a controlling TTY
           (but as their own session leaders) care should be taken to
           always specify O_NOCTTY on open(2) calls that possibly
           reference a TTY device node, so that no controlling TTY is
           accidentally acquired.

       These recommendations are similar but not identical to the Apple
       MacOS X Daemon Requirements[2].

ACTIVATION         top

       New-style init systems provide multiple additional mechanisms to
       activate services, as detailed below. It is common that services
       are configured to be activated via more than one mechanism at the
       same time. An example for systemd: bluetoothd.service might get
       activated either when Bluetooth hardware is plugged in, or when
       an application accesses its programming interfaces via D-Bus. Or,
       a print server daemon might get activated when traffic arrives at
       an IPP port, or when a printer is plugged in, or when a file is
       queued in the printer spool directory. Even for services that are
       intended to be started on system bootup unconditionally, it is a
       good idea to implement some of the various activation schemes
       outlined below, in order to maximize parallelization. If a daemon
       implements a D-Bus service or listening socket, implementing the
       full bus and socket activation scheme allows starting of the
       daemon with its clients in parallel (which speeds up boot-up),
       since all its communication channels are established already, and
       no request is lost because client requests will be queued by the
       bus system (in case of D-Bus) or the kernel (in case of sockets)
       until the activation is completed.

   Activation on Boot
       Old-style daemons are usually activated exclusively on boot (and
       manually by the administrator) via SysV init scripts, as detailed
       in the LSB Linux Standard Base Core Specification[1]. This method
       of activation is supported ubiquitously on Linux init systems,
       both old-style and new-style systems. Among other issues, SysV
       init scripts have the disadvantage of involving shell scripts in
       the boot process. New-style init systems generally use updated
       versions of activation, both during boot-up and during runtime
       and using more minimal service description files.

       In systemd, if the developer or administrator wants to make sure
       that a service or other unit is activated automatically on boot,
       it is recommended to place a symlink to the unit file in the
       .wants/ directory of either multi-user.target or
       graphical.target, which are normally used as boot targets at
       system startup. See systemd.unit(5) for details about the .wants/
       directories, and systemd.special(7) for details about the two
       boot targets.

   Socket-Based Activation
       In order to maximize the possible parallelization and robustness
       and simplify configuration and development, it is recommended for
       all new-style daemons that communicate via listening sockets to
       use socket-based activation. In a socket-based activation scheme,
       the creation and binding of the listening socket as primary
       communication channel of daemons to local (and sometimes remote)
       clients is moved out of the daemon code and into the service
       manager. Based on per-daemon configuration, the service manager
       installs the sockets and then hands them off to the spawned
       process as soon as the respective daemon is to be started.
       Optionally, activation of the service can be delayed until the
       first inbound traffic arrives at the socket to implement
       on-demand activation of daemons. However, the primary advantage
       of this scheme is that all providers and all consumers of the
       sockets can be started in parallel as soon as all sockets are
       established. In addition to that, daemons can be restarted with
       losing only a minimal number of client transactions, or even any
       client request at all (the latter is particularly true for
       state-less protocols, such as DNS or syslog), because the socket
       stays bound and accessible during the restart, and all requests
       are queued while the daemon cannot process them.

       New-style daemons which support socket activation must be able to
       receive their sockets from the service manager instead of
       creating and binding them themselves. For details about the
       programming interfaces for this scheme provided by systemd, see
       sd_listen_fds(3) and sd-daemon(3). For details about porting
       existing daemons to socket-based activation, see below. With
       minimal effort, it is possible to implement socket-based
       activation in addition to traditional internal socket creation in
       the same codebase in order to support both new-style and
       old-style init systems from the same daemon binary.

       systemd implements socket-based activation via .socket units,
       which are described in systemd.socket(5). When configuring socket
       units for socket-based activation, it is essential that all
       listening sockets are pulled in by the special target unit
       sockets.target. It is recommended to place a
       WantedBy=sockets.target directive in the [Install] section to
       automatically add such a dependency on installation of a socket
       unit. Unless DefaultDependencies=no is set, the necessary
       ordering dependencies are implicitly created for all socket
       units. For more information about sockets.target, see
       systemd.special(7). It is not necessary or recommended to place
       any additional dependencies on socket units (for example from
       multi-user.target or suchlike) when one is installed in

   Bus-Based Activation
       When the D-Bus IPC system is used for communication with clients,
       new-style daemons should use bus activation so that they are
       automatically activated when a client application accesses their
       IPC interfaces. This is configured in D-Bus service files (not to
       be confused with systemd service unit files!). To ensure that
       D-Bus uses systemd to start-up and maintain the daemon, use the
       SystemdService= directive in these service files to configure the
       matching systemd service for a D-Bus service. e.g.: For a D-Bus
       service whose D-Bus activation file is named
       org.freedesktop.RealtimeKit.service, make sure to set
       SystemdService=rtkit-daemon.service in that file to bind it to
       the systemd service rtkit-daemon.service. This is needed to make
       sure that the daemon is started in a race-free fashion when
       activated via multiple mechanisms simultaneously.

   Device-Based Activation
       Often, daemons that manage a particular type of hardware should
       be activated only when the hardware of the respective kind is
       plugged in or otherwise becomes available. In a new-style init
       system, it is possible to bind activation to hardware plug/unplug
       events. In systemd, kernel devices appearing in the sysfs/udev
       device tree can be exposed as units if they are tagged with the
       string "systemd". Like any other kind of unit, they may then pull
       in other units when activated (i.e. plugged in) and thus
       implement device-based activation. systemd dependencies may be
       encoded in the udev database via the SYSTEMD_WANTS= property. See
       systemd.device(5) for details. Often, it is nicer to pull in
       services from devices only indirectly via dedicated targets.
       Example: Instead of pulling in bluetoothd.service from all the
       various bluetooth dongles and other hardware available, pull in
       bluetooth.target from them and bluetoothd.service from that
       target. This provides for nicer abstraction and gives
       administrators the option to enable bluetoothd.service via
       controlling a bluetooth.target.wants/ symlink uniformly with a
       command like enable of systemctl(1) instead of manipulating the
       udev ruleset.

   Path-Based Activation
       Often, runtime of daemons processing spool files or directories
       (such as a printing system) can be delayed until these file
       system objects change state, or become non-empty. New-style init
       systems provide a way to bind service activation to file system
       changes. systemd implements this scheme via path-based activation
       configured in .path units, as outlined in systemd.path(5).

   Timer-Based Activation
       Some daemons that implement clean-up jobs that are intended to be
       executed in regular intervals benefit from timer-based
       activation. In systemd, this is implemented via .timer units, as
       described in systemd.timer(5).

   Other Forms of Activation
       Other forms of activation have been suggested and implemented in
       some systems. However, there are often simpler or better
       alternatives, or they can be put together of combinations of the
       schemes above. Example: Sometimes, it appears useful to start
       daemons or .socket units when a specific IP address is configured
       on a network interface, because network sockets shall be bound to
       the address. However, an alternative to implement this is by
       utilizing the Linux IP_FREEBIND/IPV6_FREEBIND socket option, as
       accessible via FreeBind=yes in systemd socket files (see
       systemd.socket(5) for details). This option, when enabled, allows
       sockets to be bound to a non-local, not configured IP address,
       and hence allows bindings to a particular IP address before it
       actually becomes available, making such an explicit dependency to
       the configured address redundant. Another often suggested trigger
       for service activation is low system load. However, here too, a
       more convincing approach might be to make proper use of features
       of the operating system, in particular, the CPU or I/O scheduler
       of Linux. Instead of scheduling jobs from userspace based on
       monitoring the OS scheduler, it is advisable to leave the
       scheduling of processes to the OS scheduler itself. systemd
       provides fine-grained access to the CPU and I/O schedulers. If a
       process executed by the service manager shall not negatively
       impact the amount of CPU or I/O bandwidth available to other
       processes, it should be configured with CPUSchedulingPolicy=idle
       and/or IOSchedulingClass=idle. Optionally, this may be combined
       with timer-based activation to schedule background jobs during
       runtime and with minimal impact on the system, and remove it from
       the boot phase itself.


   Writing systemd Unit Files
       When writing systemd unit files, it is recommended to consider
       the following suggestions:

        1. If possible, do not use the Type=forking setting in service
           files. But if you do, make sure to set the PID file path
           using PIDFile=. See systemd.service(5) for details.

        2. If your daemon registers a D-Bus name on the bus, make sure
           to use Type=dbus in the service file if possible.

        3. Make sure to set a good human-readable description string
           with Description=.

        4. Do not disable DefaultDependencies=, unless you really know
           what you do and your unit is involved in early boot or late
           system shutdown.

        5. Normally, little if any dependencies should need to be
           defined explicitly. However, if you do configure explicit
           dependencies, only refer to unit names listed on
           systemd.special(7) or names introduced by your own package to
           keep the unit file operating system-independent.

        6. Make sure to include an [Install] section including
           installation information for the unit file. See
           systemd.unit(5) for details. To activate your service on
           boot, make sure to add a WantedBy=multi-user.target or
           WantedBy=graphical.target directive. To activate your socket
           on boot, make sure to add WantedBy=sockets.target. Usually,
           you also want to make sure that when your service is
           installed, your socket is installed too, hence add
           Also=foo.socket in your service file foo.service, for a
           hypothetical program foo.

   Installing systemd Service Files
       At the build installation time (e.g.  make install during package
       build), packages are recommended to install their systemd unit
       files in the directory returned by pkg-config systemd
       --variable=systemdsystemunitdir (for system services) or
       pkg-config systemd --variable=systemduserunitdir (for user
       services). This will make the services available in the system on
       explicit request but not activate them automatically during boot.
       Optionally, during package installation (e.g.  rpm -i by the
       administrator), symlinks should be created in the systemd
       configuration directories via the enable command of the
       systemctl(1) tool to activate them automatically on boot.

       Packages using autoconf(1) are recommended to use a configure
       script excerpt like the following to determine the unit
       installation path during source configuration:

                [AS_HELP_STRING([--with-systemdsystemunitdir=DIR], [Directory for systemd service files])],,
           AS_IF([test "x$with_systemdsystemunitdir" = "xyes" -o "x$with_systemdsystemunitdir" = "xauto"], [
                def_systemdsystemunitdir=$($PKG_CONFIG --variable=systemdsystemunitdir systemd)

                AS_IF([test "x$def_systemdsystemunitdir" = "x"],
              [AS_IF([test "x$with_systemdsystemunitdir" = "xyes"],
               [AC_MSG_ERROR([systemd support requested but pkg-config unable to query systemd package])])
           AS_IF([test "x$with_systemdsystemunitdir" != "xno"],
                 [AC_SUBST([systemdsystemunitdir], [$with_systemdsystemunitdir])])
           AM_CONDITIONAL([HAVE_SYSTEMD], [test "x$with_systemdsystemunitdir" != "xno"])

       This snippet allows automatic installation of the unit files on
       systemd machines, and optionally allows their installation even
       on machines lacking systemd. (Modification of this snippet for
       the user unit directory is left as an exercise for the reader.)

       Additionally, to ensure that make distcheck continues to work, it
       is recommended to add the following to the top-level Makefile.am
       file in automake(1)-based projects:


       Finally, unit files should be installed in the system with an
       automake excerpt like the following:

           if HAVE_SYSTEMD
           systemdsystemunit_DATA = \
             foobar.socket \

       In the rpm(8) .spec file, use snippets like the following to
       enable/disable the service during installation/deinstallation.
       This makes use of the RPM macros shipped along systemd. Consult
       the packaging guidelines of your distribution for details and the
       equivalent for other package managers.

       At the top of the file:

           BuildRequires: systemd

       And as scriptlets, further down:

           %systemd_post foobar.service foobar.socket

           %systemd_preun foobar.service foobar.socket


       If the service shall be restarted during upgrades, replace the
       "%postun" scriptlet above with the following:

           %systemd_postun_with_restart foobar.service

       Note that "%systemd_post" and "%systemd_preun" expect the names
       of all units that are installed/removed as arguments, separated
       by spaces.  "%systemd_postun" expects no arguments.
       "%systemd_postun_with_restart" expects the units to restart as

       To facilitate upgrades from a package version that shipped only
       SysV init scripts to a package version that ships both a SysV
       init script and a native systemd service file, use a fragment
       like the following:

           %triggerun -- foobar < 0.47.11-1
           if /sbin/chkconfig --level 5 foobar ; then
             /bin/systemctl --no-reload enable foobar.service foobar.socket >/dev/null 2>&1 || :

       Where 0.47.11-1 is the first package version that includes the
       native unit file. This fragment will ensure that the first time
       the unit file is installed, it will be enabled if and only if the
       SysV init script is enabled, thus making sure that the enable
       status is not changed. Note that chkconfig is a command specific
       to Fedora which can be used to check whether a SysV init script
       is enabled. Other operating systems will have to use different
       commands here.


       Since new-style init systems such as systemd are compatible with
       traditional SysV init systems, it is not strictly necessary to
       port existing daemons to the new style. However, doing so offers
       additional functionality to the daemons as well as simplifying
       integration into new-style init systems.

       To port an existing SysV compatible daemon, the following steps
       are recommended:

        1. If not already implemented, add an optional command line
           switch to the daemon to disable daemonization. This is useful
           not only for using the daemon in new-style init systems, but
           also to ease debugging.

        2. If the daemon offers interfaces to other software running on
           the local system via local AF_UNIX sockets, consider
           implementing socket-based activation (see above). Usually, a
           minimal patch is sufficient to implement this: Extend the
           socket creation in the daemon code so that sd_listen_fds(3)
           is checked for already passed sockets first. If sockets are
           passed (i.e. when sd_listen_fds() returns a positive value),
           skip the socket creation step and use the passed sockets.
           Secondly, ensure that the file system socket nodes for local
           AF_UNIX sockets used in the socket-based activation are not
           removed when the daemon shuts down, if sockets have been
           passed. Third, if the daemon normally closes all remaining
           open file descriptors as part of its initialization, the
           sockets passed from the service manager must be spared. Since
           new-style init systems guarantee that no left-over file
           descriptors are passed to executed processes, it might be a
           good choice to simply skip the closing of all remaining open
           file descriptors if sockets are passed.

        3. Write and install a systemd unit file for the service (and
           the sockets if socket-based activation is used, as well as a
           path unit file, if the daemon processes a spool directory),
           see above for details.

        4. If the daemon exposes interfaces via D-Bus, write and install
           a D-Bus activation file for the service, see above for


       It is recommended to follow the general guidelines for placing
       package files, as discussed in file-hierarchy(7).

SEE ALSO         top

       systemd(1), sd-daemon(3), sd_listen_fds(3), sd_notify(3),
       daemon(3), systemd.service(5), file-hierarchy(7)

NOTES         top

        1. LSB recommendations for SysV init scripts

        2. Apple MacOS X Daemon Requirements

COLOPHON         top

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       This page was obtained from the project's upstream Git repository
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systemd 257~devel                                              DAEMON(7)

Pages that refer to this page: systemd(1)daemon(3)sd-daemon(3)sd_listen_fds(3)sd_notify(3)sd_watchdog_enabled(3)systemd.preset(5)systemd.directives(7)systemd.index(7)