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How to Run Script on Startup in Linux

Sometimes you may want to run your shell script on the system startup or when the user logs in. For example when you need to run any desktop application, change screen resolution settings, start the remote desktop service, etc.

You can do this in a few ways. The first way - use the autostart feature in your desktop environment, for example, GNOME or KDE. The second way - use the Systemd initialization system which is used in most distributions nowadays. In this article I will explain how to run script on startup in Linux.

Creating Script for Autostart

Maybe you already have a script that you want to run on Startup. But if it is not, or you want to practice with another script, it is pretty straightforward to create one. Let's create a script in the /usr/local/bin directory which prints "Hello world" into a file. This directory usually is used for custom binaries, so you can use it for storing your scripts too. In this article I will use the path to the script /usr/local/losst-script.sh:

sudo vi /usr/local/losst-script.sh #!/bin/bash
echo "Hello world" > ~/file

The script creates file with the output in the current user home directory. After saving the script, make it executable using the following command:

sudo chmod ugo+x /usr/local/losst-script.sh

You can run this script and ensure that it works. Now let's have a look at how to add it into the system autostart.

How to Run Script on the System Boot

Systemd does not have any place where you can add scripts that you want to run on the system startup. But you can create a unit file which will run your script. Use the following command to do this:

sudo systemctl edit --force --full script.service

The command will open a text editor. Paste these lines into it:

[Unit] Description=My Script Service After=multi-user.target [Service] Type=idle ExecStart=/usr/local/losst-script.sh [Install] WantedBy=multi-user.target

You should set the path to the script or a required command into the ExecStart parameter. Note that I have used the Idle service type here, which means that the process will not fork. Now, let's add this service to autostart:

sudo systemctl enable srcipt

If Systemd can't find your new service, update information about unit files using this command:

sudo systemctl daemon-reload

After this, the script will be started on the system startup. Reboot the system and find the file with the "Hello world" content in the /root directory to ensure that everything works fine.

If you prefer to use the old approach to autostart custom scripts with rc.local file, you can create the /etc/rc.local file, make it executable, and use the path to the file into the ExecStart parameter in the unit file. After this, you will be able to use this file as well as before Systemd came.

How to Run Script on User Log In

1. GNOME Autostart in GUI

You can configure this using a graphical user interface. Run the Startup Applications utility from the main menu. Also, you can run this utility in the terminal:


Here press the Add button. Then, in a new modal window paste a full path to your script in the Command field. Also, you can choose the path to the script in the filesystem using the Browse button. After this press the Add button at the bottom of the modal window:

The script will be started after GNOME finishes loading. You can reboot the system and ensure that you have the file with the "Hello world" text in your home folder.

2. GNOME Autostart Manually

Everything described in the previous section can be done manually, without the Startup Applications utility. Shortcuts for applications that must be started automatically are located in two directories:

  • /etc/xdg/autostart/ - for all users;
  • ~/.config/autostart/ - for the current user.

Create a new shortcut with the *.desktop extension which will run your script in one of the folders above with the following content:

vi ~/.config/autostart/script.desktop [Desktop Entry] Name=Script Type=Application Exec=/usr/local/losst-script.sh

Here you should paste the path to the script executable into the Exec field. Then paste the name of the shortcut into the Name field and save the changes. After this, your script will be started automatically as well as in the previous section. The Startup Applications can see this shortcut, so you can manage it there too.

3. Autostart using Systemd

The Systemd initialization system can start a dedicated set of services for each user. You can manage these services using the systemctl utility with the --user option. Use this command to create a new user unit file for your script:

systemctl edit --user --force --full script.service [Unit] Description=My Script Service After=default.target [Service] Type=idle ExecStart=/usr/local/losst-script.sh [Install] WantedBy=default.target

The unit file will be created only for the current user. For this case, it will be the /home/sergiy/.config/systemd/user/script.service file. Pay attention, that multi-user.target here is not available, so you should use default.target. Now, add this unit to autostart:

systemctl enable --user script.service

After this, you can reboot the system and ensure that everything works fine.

Wrapping Up

Now, you have learned how to run a script on startup in Linux. It may be difficult for new users, but you also can read the article about Services Autostart in Linux and How to Manage Services in Linux to understand how it works better.

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