6.26. Starting and Stopping Services (rc Scripts)

rc.d scripts are used to start services on system startup, and to give administrators a standard way of stopping, starting and restarting the service. Ports integrate into the system rc.d framework. Details on its usage can be found in the rc.d Handbook chapter. Detailed explanation of the available commands is provided in rc(8) and rc.subr(8). Finally, there is an article on practical aspects of rc.d scripting.

With a mythical port called doorman, which needs to start a doormand daemon. Add the following to the Makefile:

USE_RC_SUBR=	doormand

Multiple scripts may be listed and will be installed. Scripts must be placed in the files subdirectory and a .in suffix must be added to their filename. Standard SUB_LIST expansions will be ran against this file. Use of the %%PREFIX%% and %%LOCALBASE%% expansions is strongly encouraged as well. More on SUB_LIST in the relevant section.

As of FreeBSD 6.1-RELEASE, local rc.d scripts (including those installed by ports) are included in the overall rcorder(8) of the base system.

An example simple rc.d script to start the doormand daemon:


# $FreeBSD$
# PROVIDE: doormand
# KEYWORD: shutdown
# Add these lines to /etc/rc.conf.local or /etc/rc.conf
# to enable this service:
# doormand_enable (bool):	Set to NO by default.
#				Set it to YES to enable doormand.
# doormand_config (path):	Set to %%PREFIX%%/etc/doormand/doormand.cf
#				by default.

. /etc/rc.subr


load_rc_config $name

: ${doormand_enable:="NO"}
: ${doormand_config="%%PREFIX%%/etc/doormand/doormand.cf"}


command_args="-p $pidfile -f $doormand_config"

run_rc_command "$1"

Unless there is a very good reason to start the service earlier, or it runs as a particular user (other than root), all ports scripts must use:


If the startup script launches a daemon that must be shutdown, the following will trigger a stop of the service on system shutdown:

KEYWORD: shutdown

If the script is not starting a persistent service this is not necessary.

For optional configuration elements the "=" style of default variable assignment is preferable to the ":=" style here, since the former sets a default value only if the variable is unset, and the latter sets one if the variable is unset or null. A user might very well include something like:


in their rc.conf.local, and a variable substitution using ":=" would inappropriately override the user's intention. The _enable variable is not optional, and must use the ":" for the default.


Ports must not start and stop their services when installing and deinstalling. Do not abuse the plist keywords described in Section, “@preexec command, @postexec command, @preunexec command, @postunexec command by running commands that modify the currently running system, including starting or stopping services.

6.26.1. Pre-Commit Checklist

Before contributing a port with an rc.d script, and more importantly, before committing one, please consult this checklist to be sure that it is ready.

The devel/rclint port can check for most of these, but it is not a substitute for proper review.

  1. If this is a new file, does it have a .sh extension? If so, that must be changed to just file.in since rc.d files may not end with that extension.

  2. Does the file have a $FreeBSD$ tag?

  3. Do the name of the file (minus .in), the PROVIDE line, and $name all match? The file name matching PROVIDE makes debugging easier, especially for rcorder(8) issues. Matching the file name and $name makes it easier to figure out which variables are relevant in rc.conf[.local]. It is also a policy for all new scripts, including those in the base system.

  4. Is the REQUIRE line set to LOGIN? This is mandatory for scripts that run as a non-root user. If it runs as root, is there a good reason for it to run prior to LOGIN? If not, it must run after so that local scrips can be loosely grouped to a point in rcorder(8) after most everything in the base is already running.

  5. Does the script start a persistent service? If so, it must have KEYWORD: shutdown.

  6. Make sure there is no KEYWORD: FreeBSD present. This has not been necessary nor desirable for years. It is also an indication that the new script was copy/pasted from an old script, so extra caution must be given to the review.

  7. If the script uses an interpreted language like perl, python, or ruby, make certain that command_interpreter is set appropriately, for example, for Perl, by adding PERL=${PERL} to SUB_LIST and using %%PERL%%. Otherwise,

    # service name stop

    will probably not work properly. See service(8) for more information.

  8. Have all occurrences of /usr/local been replaced with %%PREFIX%%?

  9. Do the default variable assignments come after load_rc_config?

  10. Are there default assignments to empty strings? They should be removed, but double-check that the option is documented in the comments at the top of the file.

  11. Are things that are set in variables actually used in the script?

  12. Are options listed in the default name_flags things that are actually mandatory? If so, they must be in command_args. -d is a red flag (pardon the pun) here, since it is usually the option to “daemonize” the process, and therefore is actually mandatory.

  13. name_flags must never be included in command_args (and vice versa, although that error is less common).

  14. Does the script execute any code unconditionally? This is frowned on. Usually these things must be dealt with through a start_precmd.

  15. All boolean tests must use the checkyesno function. No hand-rolled tests for [Yy][Ee][Ss], etc.

  16. If there is a loop (for example, waiting for something to start) does it have a counter to terminate the loop? We do not want the boot to be stuck forever if there is an error.

  17. Does the script create files or directories that need specific permissions, for example, a pid that needs to be owned by the user that runs the process? Rather than the traditional touch(1)/chown(8)/chmod(1) routine, consider using install(1) with the proper command line arguments to do the whole procedure with one step.

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