As a non-root user, I'd like to be able to start a process that will start a bunch of other processes (think of a 'make' session, or the way Google Chrome starts a process for each tab) and have the entire process tree be visible as a unit - for instance, I want to see that this subtree is consuming 200% CPU. I do have sudo access, but would prefer not to use it.

The nearest equivalent I have is systemd-run --scope, but I can't then find the process tree or the scope in systemd-cgls or equivalent. Also, that has to run as root, so I would have to sudo, then drop privileges with a wrapper. Is there a better way to do this? Debian Jessie ideally, or Stretch if I have to. The simpler the solution, the better, as that would let me deploy it to multiple computers without a maintenance hassle.

1 Answer 1


You don't need to be root to start a user-scoped group with systemd-run:

$ systemd-run --user --scope /bin/bash 
  Running scope as unit run-23318.scope.
  $ sleep 999 &
  [1] 23369

You can see the unit:

$ systemctl --user status run-23318.scope
* run-23318.scope - /bin/bash
  Loaded: loaded (/run/user/1000/systemd/user/run-23318.scope; static; 
         vendor preset: enabled)
 Drop-In: /run/user/1000/systemd/user/run-23318.scope.d
  Active: active (running) since Sun 2016-07-17 08:16:51 CEST; 10min ago
  CGroup: /user.slice/user-1000.slice/[email protected]/run-23318.scope
      |-23318 /bin/bash
      `-23369 sleep 999
  Jul 17 08:16:51 home systemd[1056]: Started /bin/bash.
  Jul 17 08:16:51 home systemd[1056]: Starting /bin/bash.

and also with

$ systemd-cgls /user.slice/user-1000.slice/[email protected]/run-23318.scope
   /user.slice/user-1000.slice/[email protected]/run-23318.scope:
   |-23318 /bin/bash
   `-23369 sleep 999
  • Huh, fascinating. Didn't know --user worked like that; for some reason, the new scope doesn't show up in regular 'systemctl status', but does in 'systemctl --user status'. Now I just need to learn how to get systemd-cgtop or something to show me the info I need. But that's a separate question.
    – rosuav
    Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 7:45
  • @rosuav: Have you found a solution? I've asked the same question at unix.stackexchange.com/questions/483948/…
    – cytrinox
    Commented Nov 25, 2018 at 9:51
  • @cytrinox Only the partial one that you see above. It's not everything but it's something.
    – rosuav
    Commented Nov 25, 2018 at 13:04
  • Note that this used to work before systemd implemented unified control groups. As far as I know, it has been broken since. Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 13:35

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