Executing journalctl under a CentOS 7 system just prints messages generated after the last boot.

The command

# journalctl --boot=-1


Failed to look up boot -1: Cannot assign requested address

and exits with status 1.

Comparing it to a current Fedora system I notice that the CentOS 7 does not have /var/log/journal (and journalctl does not provide --list-boots).

Thus my question how to display log messages which were written before the last boot date.

Or, perhaps this functionality has to be enabled on CentOS 7?

(The journalctl man page lists 'systemd 208' as version number.)

up vote 91 down vote accepted


On CentOS 7, you have to enable the persistent storage of log messages:

# mkdir /var/log/journal
# systemd-tmpfiles --create --prefix /var/log/journal
# systemctl restart systemd-journald

Otherwise, the journal log messages are not retained between boots.


Whether journald retains log messages from previous boots is configured via /etc/systemd/journald.conf. The default setting under CentOS 7 is:


Where the journald.conf man page explains auto as:

One of "volatile", "persistent", "auto" and "none". If "volatile", journal log data will be stored only in memory, i.e. below the /run/log/journal hierarchy (which is created if needed). If "persistent", data will be stored preferably on disk, i.e. below the /var/log/journal hierarchy (which is created if needed), with a fallback to /run/log/journal (which is created if needed), during early boot and if the disk is not writable. "auto" is similar to "persistent" but the directory /var/log/journal is not created if needed, so that its existence controls where log data goes.

(emphasize mine)

The systemd-journald.service man page thus states that:

By default, the journal stores log data in /run/log/journal/. Since /run/ is volatile, log data is lost at reboot. To make the data persistent, it is sufficient to create /var/log/journal/ where systemd-journald will then store the data.

Apparently, the default was changed in Fedora 19 (to persitent storage) and since CentOS 7 is derived from Fedora 18 - it is still non-persisent there, by default. Persistency is implemented by default outside of journald via /var/log/messages and the rotated versions /var/log/messages-YYYYMMDD which are written by rsyslogd (which runs by default and gets its input from journald).

Thus, to enable persistent logging with journald under RHEL/CentOS 7 one has to

# mkdir /var/log/journal

and then fix permissions and restart journald, e.g. via

# systemd-tmpfiles --create --prefix /var/log/journal
# systemctl restart systemd-journald
  • 5
    A systemctl restart systemd-journald should do it. So no reboot required. – xx4h Oct 16 '14 at 17:52
  • @xx4h, updated the answer – maxschlepzig Jul 30 '15 at 20:39
  • 6
    In debian this is documented at /usr/share/doc/systemd/README.Debian: install -d -g systemd-journal /var/log/journal. – pevik Aug 12 '15 at 20:13
  • @pevik, I've looked at a CentOS 7 system (where I just used mkdir) and the current permissions are drwxr-sr-x. 3 root systemd-journal - perhaps journald fixes the permissions/ownership during initialization. – maxschlepzig Aug 13 '15 at 6:10
  • 7
    Learned a neat trick: if you send a USR1 signal instead of restarting, you don't lose the current journald contents. killall -USR1 systemd-journald – James B Sep 16 '16 at 12:12
systemctl restart systemd-journald

You can lose your logs: see https://github.com/systemd/systemd/issues/2236

mkdir /var/log/journal

There is a change in v208:

systemd-journald will no longer adjust the group of journal files it creates to the "systemd-journal" group. Instead we rely on the journal directory to be owned by the "systemd-journal" group, and its setgid bit set, so that the kernel file system layer will automatically enforce that journal files inherit this group assignment.

A tmpfiles.d(5) snippet included in systemd will make sure the setgid bit and group are properly set on the journal directory if it exists on every boot.

So, you should run something like systemd-tmpfiles --create --prefix /var/log/journal after mkdir /var/log/journal

See also:

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