How to Use systemctl Command to Manage Linux services

Efficient management of services is a cornerstone of effective Linux system administration. The ability to start, stop, and monitor services seamlessly is essential for maintaining a stable and secure system environment. The systemctl command, the principal interface for interacting with systemd, offers a robust solution for these tasks.

This comprehensive guide We will explore the fundamental commands for managing service states, configuring services to start automatically at boot, and accessing detailed logs.

What is Systemd?

Systemd is a modern system and service manager for Linux, designed to improve the overall boot process and manage system states and services efficiently. Introduced to address the limitations of the traditional init system, systemd offers several advanced features and functionalities, making it an integral component of most contemporary Linux distributions.

The Role of Systemctl

Systemctl is the command-line utility used to interact with and control systemd. It provides a unified interface for managing system services, inspecting system states, and performing administrative tasks. With systemctl, administrators can efficiently manage both the running state of the system and the services configured to run at startup.

Basic Syntax of Systemctl Commands

The systemctl command follows a straightforward syntax:

  • OPTIONS: Additional options to modify the behavior of the command (e.g., -now, -no-reload).
  • COMMAND: The action to be performed (e.g., start, stop, status).
  • UNIT: The specific service or target the command applies to (e.g., nginx.service,

How to Use Systemctl

The systemctl command is an indispensable tool for managing services and system states on Linux systems. This section explores the most common uses of systemctl, focusing on starting and stopping services, restarting and reloading services, and enabling and disabling services. By understanding these basic commands, administrators can efficiently control and configure system services.

Checking Service Status

Monitoring the status of services is a crucial aspect of system administration. The status command provides detailed information about a service, including its current state, recent logs, and any error messages.

Using the Status Command

To check the status of a service, use the status command followed by the service name:

systemctl status [service]


systemctl status nginx.service

This command displays the current status of the Nginx service, including whether it is active or inactive, and shows the latest log entries.

Starting and Stopping Services

One of the primary functions of systemctl is to start and stop services. These operations are crucial for managing the availability and functionality of various applications and services on a system.

Starting a Service

To start a service using systemctl, use the start command followed by the service name. This command initiates the specified service and makes it active.

systemctl start [service]


systemctl start nginx.service

This command starts the Nginx web server, making it accessible to users.

Stopping a Service

To stop a service, use the stop command followed by the service name. This command halts the specified service, making it inactive.

systemctl stop [service]


systemctl stop nginx.service

This command stops the Nginx web server, terminating its operations.

Restarting and Reloading Services

Restarting and reloading services are common tasks, especially when updating configurations or troubleshooting issues. These commands help ensure that changes take effect without requiring a full system reboot.

Restarting a Service

The restart command stops and then starts the specified service. This is useful when changes to service configurations need to be applied.

systemctl restart [service]


systemctl restart nginx.service

This command restarts the Nginx web server, applying any changes made to its configuration files.

Reloading a Service

The reload command reloads the configuration of a running service without stopping it. This is particularly useful for applying configuration changes without causing service downtime.

systemctl reload [service]


systemctl reload nginx.service

This command reloads the Nginx web server’s configuration, applying any changes made to its configuration files while keeping the service running.

Enabling and Disabling Services at Boot

Enabling and disabling services control whether they start automatically at boot time. This is essential for managing which services should be available upon system startup.

Enabling a Service at Boot

To enable a service to start automatically at boot, use the enable command followed by the service name. This creates the necessary symlinks so that the service starts when the system boots.

systemctl enable [service]


systemctl enable nginx.service

This command enables the Nginx web server to start automatically at boot time.

Disabling a Service at Boot

To disable a service from starting automatically at boot, use the disable command followed by the service name. This removes the symlinks created by the enable command.

systemctl disable [service]


systemctl disable nginx.service

This command prevents the Nginx web server from starting automatically at boot time.

Listing All Services

To get an overview of all the services on a system, the list-units command is used. This command can be tailored to list units of a specific type, such as services.

To list all service units, use the following command:

systemctl list-units --type=service

This command displays a list of all service units, their statuses, and any relevant details about each service. This is useful for a quick overview of the services running on the system.

Masking and Unmasking Services

Masking a service prevents it from being started, either manually or automatically. This is useful for disabling services that should not be run under any circumstances. Unmasking a service reverses this action.

Masking a Service

To mask a service, use the mask command followed by the service name:

systemctl mask [service]


systemctl mask nginx.service

This command creates a symlink that prevents the Nginx service from being started, even if a start command is issued.

Unmasking a Service

To unmask a service, use the unmask command followed by the service name:

systemctl unmask [service]


systemctl unmask nginx.service

This command removes the symlink created by the mask command, allowing the Nginx service to be started again.

Viewing Logs

Systemd provides comprehensive logging capabilities through the journalctl command. This command allows administrators to view logs for the entire system or for specific services. To view the logs for a specific service, use journalctl with the -u option followed by the service name:

journalctl -u [service]


journalctl -u nginx.service

This command displays the logs for the Nginx service, showing recent entries and providing insights into the service’s operation and any issues.


Mastering the systemctl command is essential for proficient Linux system administration. This powerful utility provides a unified and comprehensive interface for managing system services, offering control over starting, stopping, and monitoring services, as well as enabling or disabling them at boot. Additionally, systemctl facilitates efficient service management through commands for restarting, reloading, masking, and unmasking services, as well as viewing detailed logs.

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