I want the user service nfancurve.service to start running every time I log in. I previously enabled the service using the command systemctl --user enable nfancurve.service, however, every time I start a new session (including reboots) the service isn't running, although it's enabled, which I verified by running these commands after logging in:

name@machine:~$ systemctl --user is-active nfancurve.service
name@machine:~$ systemctl --user is-enabled nfancurve.service
name@machine:~$ systemctl --user start nfancurve.service
name@machine:~$ systemctl --user is-active nfancurve.service

This is the status log from systemctl --user status nfancurve.service:

● nfancurve.service - Nfancurve service
     Loaded: loaded (/usr/lib/systemd/user/nfancurve.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled)
     Active: inactive (dead)

For full information, the service comes from this repository, which I installed from the AUR. The .service file looks like this:

Description=Nfancurve service

ExecStart=/bin/sh /usr/bin/nfancurve -c /etc/nfancurve.conf


I already tried changing the last line to WantedBy=default.target, but after rebooting and logging in the service still didn't start. My desktop environment is xfce, in case this is relevant considering the graphical-session.target.

How do I make sure it automatically starts up at every login?

  • 1
    What do the logs say? After you boot the system and the service isn't started, what is the output of systemctl status nfancurve? Add all of that to your question. – Nasir Riley Jul 11 '20 at 21:23
  • I added the output of systemctl --user status nfancurve.service, since it's a user service. systemctl status nfancurve outputs Unit nfancurve.service could not be found.. – Wout12345 Jul 12 '20 at 7:21
  • If you systemctl --user cat nfancurve.service, What's in the [Install] section of the unit? – Stewart Jul 12 '20 at 7:41
  • @fra-san It's from that project indeed, I installed it using the AUR and I just verified that /usr/lib/systemd/user/nfancurve.service (the unit file, I assume?) matches nfancurve.service from that repository. I'll add the information about the package and installation to my question. – Wout12345 Jul 12 '20 at 17:19
  • @Stewart It's WantedBy=graphical-session.target. – Wout12345 Jul 12 '20 at 17:21


Change WantedBy=graphical-session.target to WantedBy=default.target.


I suspect your problem is with the [Install] section of your service file. Installing it based on multi-user.target might be quite normal for system units, but the equivalent for user-units is default.target. See the systemd.special(7) manpage for details.

| system target     | near-equivalent user target |
| multi-user.target | default.target              |
| graphical.target  | graphical-session.target    |

Other targets that may also be interesting to you are graphical-session-pre.target or xdg-desktop-autostart.target.

default.target MVCE

Here's a minimal example I just tried on my Debian 11 machine:

The service file:

$ systemctl --user cat simpleuser.service
# /home/stew/.config/systemd/user/simpleuser.service
Description=Simple User Service



I installed it with:

$ systemctl --user enable simpleuser.service
Created symlink /home/stew/.config/systemd/user/default.target.wants/simpleuser.service → /home/stew/.config/systemd/user/simpleuser.service.

I performed a reboot and I can see that the service is active:

$ systemctl --user status simpleuser.service
● simpleuser.service - Simple User Service
     Loaded: loaded (/home/stew/.config/systemd/user/simpleuser.service; enabled; vendor preset: enable>
     Active: active (exited) since Sun 2020-07-12 10:12:54 CEST; 13min left
    Process: 1127 ExecStart=/bin/true (code=exited, status=0/SUCCESS)
   Main PID: 1127 (code=exited, status=0/SUCCESS)

Jul 12 10:12:54 stewbian systemd[1106]: Starting Simple User Service...
Jul 12 10:12:54 stewbian systemd[1106]: Finished Simple User Service.

If you're wondering about the (exited) substate: If you use something like Type=simple and ExecStart=/bin/sleep infinity, then you'll get (running) instead.

graphical-session.target problems

I found your question in the form of a bug report on github.

If you're installing based on graphical-session.target, then it's possible that isn't starting. I just ran this on my KDE/i3 setup and reproduced on a vanilla Gnome3 setup.

$ systemctl --user status graphical-session.target
● graphical-session.target - Current graphical user session
     Loaded: loaded (/usr/lib/systemd/user/graphical-session.target; static; vendor preset: disabled)
     Active: inactive (dead)
       Docs: man:systemd.special(7)

It sounds like DEs don't really implement this target per its design. In that case, you may be better-off using WantedBy=default.target. Your script doesn't look GUI-based so I bet default.target would be fine. Otherwise, you could consider using After=graphical.target in your [Unit] section.

According to systemd.special(7) manpage, graphical-session.target should be BoundBy= the DE (i.e. {gnome,kde,xfce}-session.target). This way, when Gnome starts, it will raise graphical-session.target. When I inspect the dbus objects I clearly see no relationships with any target which would raise it.

$ busctl introspect --user org.freedesktop.systemd1 \
    /org/freedesktop/systemd1/unit/graphical_2dsession_2etarget \
NAME                             TYPE      SIGNATURE RESULT/VALUE                             FLAGS
.ActiveState                     property  s         "inactive"                               emits-change
.After                           property  as        2 "simpleuser.service" "basic.target"    const
.Before                          property  as        1 "shutdown.target"                      const
.BindsTo                         property  as        0                                        const
.BoundBy                         property  as        0                                        const
.Conflicts                       property  as        1 "shutdown.target"                      const
.ConsistsOf                      property  as        2 "gnome-terminal-server.service" "duns… const
.Description                     property  s         "Current graphical user session"         const
.Documentation                   property  as        1 "man:systemd.special(7)"               const
.LoadState                       property  s         "loaded"                                 const
.Names                           property  as        1 "graphical-session.target"             const
.PartOf                          property  as        0                                        const
.RequiredBy                      property  as        0                                        const
.Requires                        property  as        1 "basic.target"                         const
.SubState                        property  s         "dead"                                   emits-change
.UnitFilePreset                  property  s         "disabled"                               -
.UnitFileState                   property  s         "static"                                 -
.WantedBy                        property  as        0                                        const
.Wants                           property  as        1 "simpleuser.service"                   const

I did some digging into the mailing lists and found that {gnome,kde,xfce}-session.target was proposed only four years ago with the intention that gnome, kde, xfce would ship the *.target files. It hasn't happened (yet). Therefore, even though it's documented, it's incomplete. Therefore you shouldn't use graphical-session.target yet.

  • Thanks for the extensive answer. I changed the [Install] section following your suggestion, but the problem persists. However, I also found the lines After=graphical-session.target and Requires=graphical-session.target in the [Unit] section, should these be modified too? – Wout12345 Jul 12 '20 at 17:44
  • Yes, Though, I think you can delete Requires=. Also, I think you can change After=graphical-session.target to After=graphical.target if you really want to prevent the script from running before the desktop environment starts. – Stewart Jul 12 '20 at 20:20

Your .service file should look like this:

Description=Spark service



Now, take a few more steps to enable and use the .service file:

  1. Place it in /etc/systemd/system folder with say a name of myfirst.service
  2. Make sure that your script executable with:
chmod u+x /path/to/spark/sbin/start-all.sh
  3. Start it:
sudo systemctl start myfirst
  4. Enable it to run at boot:
sudo systemctl enable myfirst
  5. Stop it:
sudo systemctl stop myfirst
  • multi-user.target is only applicable for system-wide services. OP is specifically asking about user services. – Stewart Jul 12 '20 at 17:13

I finally found a solution (thanks to Stewart and others). I changed the original service file:

Description=Nfancurve service

ExecStart=/bin/sh /usr/bin/nfancurve -c /etc/nfancurve.conf


by removing the Requires-line and replacing all instances of graphical-session.target by default.target(both the After and WantedBy lines). This leads to my current service file:

Description=Nfancurve service

ExecStart=/bin/sh /usr/bin/nfancurve -c /etc/nfancurve.conf


Now the service is active when I start my machine and log in.

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