I'm trying to convert an old init script into a systemd unit file.

My init script sources a configuration file and depending on some of the variables, some arguments are added to the daemon.

The init script does something similar to this:

## My daemon

## These arguments are fixed:
DAEMON_ARGS="-a -b -c"

# Called on 'service my_service start'
do_start() {
    ## Source config file
    . /etc/me/config_file

    ## If FOO is defined, add -x $FOO to arguments
    if [ -n "$FOO" ]; then

    ## Start the daemon
    start-stop-daemon --start --quiet --exec $DAEMON -- $DAEMON_ARGS

How can I achieve the same effect with a unit file?

Edit 1:

Here's a skeleton unit file:

Description=My service

ExecStart=/usr/bin/my_daemon -a -b -c


I want to pass the argument -x $FOO to the daemon in ExecStart, but ONLY if $FOO is defined in some configuration file (let's say, /etc/me/config_file).

I know I can read an EnvironmentFile, so I could do:

ExecStart=/usr/bin/my_daemon -a -b -c -x $FOO

But FOO might not be defined, so the -x argument will have no value... and an error will happen.

$FOO is an option that is read by other services, so it is not viable to make FOO=-x <value>.

  • 1
    I would start by looking at some existing unit file, maybe in `/usr/lib/systemd/system', and the systemd.unit manual page. From there you might figure it out or at least be able to put together a skeleton of your unit file for everyone to look at and possibly help you out from there. – airhuff Jan 20 '17 at 20:53
  • I edited my question. I have looked at other unit files. Maybe I missed something, but I didn't see a way to do what I want. And sorry if I didn't explain myself clearly. – user5728855 Jan 20 '17 at 21:11
  • Just put all of your options into /etc/me/config_file like OPTIONS="-a -b -c -x <foo>" and use ExecStart=/usr/bin/my_daemon ${OPTIONS} to start the service. – Thomas Jan 21 '17 at 11:11
  • 1
    I've been fighting this for almost a week now and I can't find any solution other than either hard coding the daemon arguments as suggested by Thomas or just giving up and using a shell script. It seems strange that the relatively common pattern of appending arguments to a variable like $DAEMON_ARGS above isn't supported by systemd. A shame really. My first real contact with systemd did not impress me. – user5728855 Jan 26 '17 at 18:26
  • 1
    I've been frusted by similar limitations of systemd. My suggestion is to modify my_daemon (it is yours, right?) to accept -x= or -x=$FOO style options, so your service can read ExecStart=/usr/bin/my_daemon -a -b -c -x=$FOO. – Mark Lakata Jul 29 '17 at 2:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.