I am new to Linux & looking forward to start application (which toggles a led every 10 sec). I have written the application program & it is working fine but now I want to start it automatically on boot.

The documentation here says to copy the startup script to the /etc/init.d directory and make a symbolic link to the copied script in the rc.d directory.

What should be the extension and name of these script files? Can we manually add the symbolic link in rc.d or is there some specific procedure for this?

Any suggestion how to achieve it?

  • The preferred way to add an init script to startup varies by distros. Some are even phasing them out in favor of upstart and systemd. I wouldn't recommend simply using "&" to background, as something like Debian's start-stop-daemon handles it better (although it preferable the program itself daemonizes). What distro are you using? Outside of desktop MIME types, file extensions are meaningless in *nix and its preferred that executables don't have one.
    – jordanm
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 4:54
  • If you are using petalogix, just follow that documentation - no special names required, just do as they say. Did you try it? What problems are you having? (If not, please specify your distro and explain what doesn't work with what you tried.)
    – Mat
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 5:14
  • I am using Debian “wheezy” for RPi.
    – gorge
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 6:12
  • 1
    if you need to do it approximately every 10 seconds (i.e. not 10 seconds sharp), you might want to use cron instead.
    – peterph
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 10:08
  • @peterph: but it sounds like the program toggles the LED every 10 seconds, not a program that is executed every 10 seconds.
    – Zorawar
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 13:47

6 Answers 6


Here's the excerpt from http://www.debian-administration.org/articles/28 which seems to answer your question.

Note: In the example script below just add a call to the "start)" section to actually launch your program. You can test the script's functionality without rebooting the system: call it with the full path and giving it a parameter of "start" or "stop"

Here goes:

Debian uses a Sys-V like init system for executing commands when the system runlevel changes - for example at bootup and shutdown time.

If you wish to add a new service to start when the machine boots you should add the necessary script to the directory /etc/init.d/. Many of the scripts already present in that directory will give you an example of the kind of things that you can do.

Here's a very simple script which is divided into two parts, code which always runs, and code which runs when called with "start" or "stop".

#! /bin/sh
# /etc/init.d/blah

# Some things that run always
touch /var/lock/blah

# Carry out specific functions when asked to by the system
case "$1" in
    echo "Starting script blah "
    echo "Could do more here"
    echo "Stopping script blah"
    echo "Could do more here"
    echo "Usage: /etc/init.d/blah {start|stop}"
    exit 1

exit 0

Once you've saved your file into the correct location make sure that it's executable by running "chmod 755 /etc/init.d/blah".

Then you need to add the appropriate symbolic links to cause the script to be executed when the system goes down, or comes up.

The simplest way of doing this is to use the Debian-specific command update-rc.d:

root@skx:~# update-rc.d blah defaults
 Adding system startup for /etc/init.d/blah ...
   /etc/rc0.d/K20blah -> ../init.d/blah
   /etc/rc1.d/K20blah -> ../init.d/blah
   /etc/rc6.d/K20blah -> ../init.d/blah
   /etc/rc2.d/S20blah -> ../init.d/blah
   /etc/rc3.d/S20blah -> ../init.d/blah
   /etc/rc4.d/S20blah -> ../init.d/blah
   /etc/rc5.d/S20blah -> ../init.d/blah
  • do I have to actually place this script in etc/init.d/ or does the line at the top, # /etc/init.d/blah, indicate a location to the shell?
    – user137717
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 14:54
  • I'm getting "-sh: update-rc.d: command not found"
    – m4l490n
    Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 19:57
  • 3
    Newer systems employ systemd for many things, including for bootup configuration. Use systemctl to control and configure systemd. Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 2:38

Newer versions of linux support systemd (as @AlexanderShcheblikin said). It has more features and is more portable than debian-specific solution.

Please read this really great guide.

Here is a quick reference of the bare minimum needed:

  1. A script (e.g. myscript.sh) with executable permissions.
  2. A Unit file (e.g. myservice.service) with ".service" extension in /etc/systemd/system with 644 permissions that contains the command to execute the script. For example,


Description=Example systemd service.

ExecStart=/bin/bash /path/to/myscript.sh

  1. Run the command sudo systemctl enable myservice to enable it to start on boot.
  • 1
    Good one. Better than Supervisor if it's only to run minimally. thanks. Commented Mar 30, 2020 at 22:55

Using crontab is much easier.

Use crontab -e to edit user's crontab.
Add following line at the end:

@reboot <command>


  • @reboot my_script.sh
  • @reboot python my_script.py arg1 arg2

Finally, use crontab -l to make sure your script was added to the list.


For example, this one liner will add a job that runs script.sh on every reboot:

crontab -l > file; echo "@reboot /home/user/script.sh" >> file; crontab file; rm file;

credit goes to: Gumby The Green Jul 16 '19 at 10:20


  • 4
    I wonder why this answer received downvotes? Seems like a very simple solution, and one that uses crontab - which probably everyone knows and understands already.
    – kolinko
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 16:52
  • 1
    @kolinko Probably the downside of this solution is that the cron itself is a service that might not be run at the system startup.
    – aderchox
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 7:42
  • 1
    @aderchox cron is always started by default. From man cron: The cron utility is launched by launchd(8) when it sees the existence of /etc/crontab or files in /usr/lib/cron/tabs. There should be no need to start it manually. From man launchd: During boot launchd is invoked by the kernel to run as the first process on the system and to further bootstrap the rest of the system. Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 10:15
  • I'm not a pro but I guess some systems like WSL that are not systemd systems might not absolutely follow the exact process as explained in the cron's manual. Of course even if that's the case, it's a fault on WSL. But that's at least how it is (I'm only talking based on my own system though).
    – aderchox
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 14:12

The best way is to check package source of your distribution for a regular system service, e.g. for OpenSSH - you'll see what the good practices are. After all, one of the reasons behind open-source is to be able to learn from the sources.

  • 2
    Excellent advice! Truly wise and relevant, and tuned to all the Distos. (And incidentally answers the "new to Linux" and the "how do I do it" part of the question. I will use this answer to improve my start stop scripts.
    – Bruce0
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 15:48

Use Supervisor, an effective program that manages and logs the startup applications with arguments. Learn more from http://supervisord.org/running.html and (Follow the installation instruction.

Create a conf file at /etc/supervisor/conf.d/{PROGRAM_NAME}.conf and Here is the code,

command=/usr/bin/{PROGRAM_NAME} -arg1 -arg2

Then execute from cmd line:

supervisorctl reload

  • Whereas your answer is fine, I think you should change it to show that "supervisorctl reload " is to be executed from the CLI, not to be inserted in the .conf file
    – dlewin
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 16:45

The other answers will work great for developers. But if you'd like to enable and disable your service within the "Startup Applications" settings GUI on Debian-based desktop OS (Ubuntu|Mint) you can create an App in /etc/xdg/autostart/:


[Desktop Entry]
Name=Blinky LED Service
Comment=Launch a background service (daemon) to blink an LED every 10 seconds.
Exec=nohup bash -c "$HOME/blinky.sh >> $HOME/blinky.log" &

That should create a "Blinky LED Service" app in your settings for Startup Applications:

screenshot of Startup Applications settings applet

Your blinky.sh app can be any executable you like:


#!/usr/bin/env bash
while [ $i -le 2 ] ; do
  echo "$i LED ON"
  sleep .1
  echo "$i LED OFF"
  sleep 9.9

Make sure your app is executable: chmod +x ~/blinky.sh

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