I want to add a permanent iptables rule to my new VPS, and after brief google search i was surprised that there are two places this rule can be added, that seems like identical: /etc/rc.local and /etc/init.d/rc.local. Maybe someone knows why where is two places for simple startup code to place? Is it linux flavor specific (but ubuntu has both!)? Or one of them is deprecated?


2 Answers 2


/etc/init.d is maintained on ubuntu for backward compatibility with sysvinit stuff. If you actually look at /etc/init.d/rc.local you'll see (also from a 12.04 LTS Server):

#! /bin/sh
# Provides:          rc.local
# Required-Start:    $remote_fs $syslog $all
# Required-Stop:
# Default-Start:     2 3 4 5
# Default-Stop:
# Short-Description: Run /etc/rc.local if it exist

And "Run /etc/rc.local" is exactly what it does. The entirety of /etc/rc.local is:

#!/bin/sh -e
# rc.local
# This script is executed at the end of each multiuser runlevel.
# Make sure that the script will "exit 0" on success or any other
# value on error.
# In order to enable or disable this script just change the execution
# bits.
# By default this script does nothing.

exit 0

I would guess the purpose in doing this is to provide a dead simple place to put shell commands you want run at boot, without having to deal with the stop|start service stuff, which is in /etc/init.d/rc.local.

So it is in fact a service, and can be run as such. I added a echo line to /etc/rc.local and:

»service rc.local start
hello world

However, I do not believe it is referenced by anything in upstart's /etc/init (not init.d!) directory:

»initctl start rc.local
initctl: Unknown job: rc.local

There are a few "rc" services in upstart:

»initctl list | grep rc
rc stop/waiting
rcS stop/waiting
rc-sysinit stop/waiting

But none of those seem to have anything to do with rc.local.


This is more of a distribution specific thing. (like, you will not find different rc.local in CentOS).

Now coming to your actual question, I think adding anything inside /etc/init.d/rc.local makes it to start as a "service" whereas, anything inside /etc/rc.local would simply launch that script at boot time.

I am not really sure on why Ubuntu still maintains both of them? (Perhaps someone else might shed some light over this part !!)

  • What is the difference between command that is executed "as a service" and a code that is "simply launched at boot time"? Is it some security or what?
    – grigoryvp
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 11:40
  • The core difference between the two is essentially of a Service and a process. ;) I guess the basic intent would be security only. You might find this link interesting: unixmen.com/managing-your-services-and-processes-in-linux
    – pragmatic
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 11:54
  • This is incorrect! They are not the same script, but they are one service -- /etc/init.d/rc.local does the stop start stuff on /etc/rc.local (see my answer for more details).
    – goldilocks
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 14:37
  • @goldilocks: Thanks for a very descriptive and thorough answer but I am not clear which part of my answer you referred to be incorrect? Saying one as a service means it can do the "start" and "stop" stuff, while the other as simply a process. Please correct me if I am making no sense here.
    – pragmatic
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 19:58
  • 2
    @pragmatic Because the /etc/rc.local script is the executable process governed by the /etc/initd/rc.local script, just like (eg) /bin/syslog would be the executable process governed by /etc/initd/syslog. You say explicitly that /etc/rc.local is just a boot script, vs. /etc/initd/rc.local being a completely separate run level service.
    – goldilocks
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 23:37

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