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Start Up Scripts for Raspbian

On older versions of Raspbian I was using LSBInitScripts to start a web server when my Raspberry Pi booted up.

In Debian Jessie, the use of init scripts changed to systemd, so this post covers how to get a script starting on boot.


In Debian Jessie, systemd is the new boss in town and this doc from coreos was probably the most helpful starting off point I found.

Systemd has a specific syntax, so it’s probably easiest just to give you an example systemd config file:

Description=Example Script


ExecStart=/<Full Path>/

ExecStop=/<Full Path>/


Let’s break this down by section.


The unit section allows you to define dependencies of when your service should be started (i.e. you could start your service after networking but before login).

In this example I’m saying that my service must run some time before the user can sign in.



Here is where you define the command(s) you want to run. This is the section you’ll be performing your work, so let’s look at each parameter defined above.

[Service] ExecStart | ExecStop

ExecStart and ExecStop can be used to run shell scripts that do your main work. In actual projects I’ve also defined ExecStartPre and ExecStopPost to alter IPTables, although this could be defined in your shell scripts if you preferred.

ExecStartPre=/sbin/iptables -t nat -A PREROUTING -i eth0 -p tcp --dport 80 -j REDIRECT --to-port 3123

ExecStartPre=/sbin/iptables -t nat -A PREROUTING -i wlan0 -p tcp --dport 80 -j REDIRECT --to-port 3123

ExecStopPost=/sbin/iptables -t nat -D PREROUTING -i eth0 -p tcp --dport 80 -j REDIRECT --to-port 3123

ExecStopPost=/sbin/iptables -t nat -D PREROUTING -i wlan0 -p tcp --dport 80 -j REDIRECT --to-port 3123

The main thing to notice here is that all the executables have full paths. This is a tad annoying but forces you to be specific about what you expect to run.

If you aren’t sure where a command lives, run:

whereis <Name of Command>

That’s how I found out where iptables lives - /sbin/iptables.

[Service] Type

The Type=oneshot is a little bit weird to me, but essentially I had to include this so that the systemctl (the tool that actually runs all the systemd services) would start and fully complete my ExecStart scripts. oneshot basically blocks systemctl from starting another secvice until your service is finished starting. I’m hoping to look into this a little later to see how to start off my service asynchronously rather than block.

[Service] RemainAfterExit

This one is easy. If your service creates a secondary process and finishes its own execution, systemctl will end your service which kills the secondary process you created (at least that’s what happened from what I could tell). Add RemainAfterExit=yes to make systemctl treat your service as thought it is still running, even if the main process has ended.


Not a clue to be honest. systemctl got upset when I didn’t include an install section, but docs seem to suggest it’s optional.

Naming, Enabling and Testing

I saved the above in a file in my home directory and gave it a filename that ended with .service (example.service). It seemed to be convention.

To then enable / add your service to systemd run:

sudo systemctl enable /<Path to Service>/example.service

You can then test whether your service by running:

sudo systemctl start example.service

This will run the ExecStart commands.

If you hit any problems or errors, check out (this command is normally printed to the console if there is an error):

sudo systemctl status example.service -l

Happy Hackin'