I'm trying to write a cron job script that will check if my services are running and restart them if they aren't so I don't have to do it manually.

Now, I've looked up online how to check the status of a service in a bash script, and have found basically the following, with a few variations:

ps auxw | grep <service_name> | grep -v grep

if [[ $? != 0 ]]; then
        /etc/init.d/<service_name> start

I did some thinking and thought it might be a bit less hacky and more of a way of using the init script's general functionality to check it this way:

/etc/init.d/<service_name> status

if [[ $? != 0 ]]; then
    /etc/init.d/<service_name> start

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't this always work? Is this a property of init scripts in general, that they return that exit code? Thanks in advance. :)

  • Under what distribution? This is not the case in Debian, but it might be the case in your distribution. Aug 31, 2015 at 0:14
  • Ubuntu 14.04 LTS Server. It seemed to work for the services that I tested it on, but I wasn't sure if it would work for all of them. This is more of a curious question, because I can obviously try this myself, and see if it works. Aug 31, 2015 at 0:15

1 Answer 1


Not 100% of the time. However, it's a very good yardstick.

CFEngine 3 uses this in "services promises" to check if services are running. If the exit code of /etc/init.d/<servicename> status is zero, it assumes the service is running.

I have just run into BitBucket's noncompliance with this convention: /etc/init.d/atlbitbucket status returns 0 even when it's not running. However, I would consider this to be undesirable behavior (a bug) in the init script, that it doesn't follow the convention.

Found a reference for it; the Linux Standard Base Specification states:

If the status action is requested, the init script will return the following exit status codes.

0         program is running or service is OK
1         program is dead and /var/run pid file exists
2         program is dead and /var/lock lock file exists
3         program is not running
4         program or service status is unknown
5-99      reserved for future LSB use
100-149   reserved for distribution use
150-199   reserved for application use
200-254   reserved

So yes, compliant applications can be counted upon to behave in this fashion.


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