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CompTIA Linux+ XK0-005 - 4.5 - Common Problems: Services Not Starting on Time

In this guide, we will specifically focus on issues where services fail to start or experience delays during system startup. We will explore how Systemd manages service startup, discuss potential causes of services not starting on time, and provide troubleshooting steps to help you address these issues. Let's dive in.

Diagnosing and Resolving Services Not Starting on Time

When services fail to start on time, it can cause delays, affect system functionality, or lead to other service dependencies not being met. Let's explore some common causes and troubleshooting steps to address services not starting on time.

Analyzing Service Dependencies

Services in Systemd often have dependencies on other services or system targets. If a service fails to start on time, it could be due to a missing or misconfigured dependency. Follow these steps to analyze service dependencies:

  • Check Service Dependencies: Use the systemctl list-dependencies <service-name> command to view the dependencies of a specific service:

    systemctl list-dependencies <service-name>

    Replace <service-name> with the name of the service you want to inspect. This command displays a list of services or targets that the specified service depends on.

  • Inspect Dependency Status: Check the status of the services or targets that the affected service depends on. Use the systemctl status <dependency-service> command to view detailed information about a specific service:

    systemctl status <dependency-service>

    Replace <dependency-service> with the name of the service you want to inspect. Ensure that the dependency services are active and running without any issues.

  • Resolve Dependency Issues: If you identify any missing or misconfigured dependencies, address them accordingly. This may involve ensuring that the required services are installed and properly configured, modifying service unit files to update dependencies, or resolving any errors or conflicts with the dependency services.

Adjusting Service Startup Order

Systemd determines the startup order of services based on their dependencies and the specified order in the service unit files. If a service needs to start before another service but is experiencing delays, you can adjust the service startup order. Here's how:

  • Inspect Service Unit Files: Use a text editor to open the service unit file for the affected service. The unit files are typically located in the /etc/systemd/system/, /usr/lib/systemd/system or /etc/systemd/system/<service-name>.service.d/ directories.

  • Adjust Wants and After Directives: In the unit file, locate the Wants and After directives. The Wants directive specifies services that the current service wants to start after, and the After directive sets the order in which the services should start.

  • Modify Directives: Update the Wants and After directives as needed to adjust the service startup order. Ensure that the dependencies are correctly specified and reflect the desired order of service startup.

  • Reload Systemd Configuration: After modifying the unit file, reload the Systemd configuration to apply the changes:

    systemctl daemon-reload
  • Restart the Service: Restart the affected service to ensure that the changes take effect:

    systemctl restart <service-name>

Investigating Service Errors and Logs

Services not starting on time can also be due to errors or issues within the service itself. Systemd provides tools to investigate service errors and view relevant logs. Follow these steps to investigate service errors:

  • Check Service Status: Use the systemctl status <service-name> command to check the status of the affected service:

    systemctl status <service-name>

    This command displays detailed information about the service, including its current state, any error messages, and logs related to the service.

  • Review Service Logs: Use the journalctl command to view the logs of the affected service. The logs can provide valuable information about any errors or issues encountered during service startup:

    journalctl -u <service-name>

    Replace <service-name> with the name of the service you want to inspect. This command displays the logs specific to the service.

  • Analyze Error Messages: Analyze any error messages or warnings in the service logs. Look for specific error codes, error descriptions, or any other relevant information that can help identify the cause of the service startup delay.

Optimizing System Boot Performance

In some cases, services not starting on time can be a symptom of overall system boot performance issues. By optimizing the boot process, you can improve service startup times. Consider the following steps:

  • Analyze Boot Performance: Use the systemd-analyze command to analyze the overall system boot performance:


    This command provides information about the time taken by different units during the boot process, including services. Identify any services with long startup times.

  • Identify Performance Bottlenecks: Use the systemd-analyze blame command to identify services or units that contribute significantly to the overall boot time:

    systemd-analyze blame

    This command lists the units and their respective startup times, helping you identify potential performance bottlenecks.

  • Optimize Startup Delays: Based on the information gathered from the previous steps, you can take specific actions to optimize the startup delays. This may involve adjusting service dependencies, removing unnecessary services, optimizing service configurations, or improving system resources (such as disk I/O or network performance).


In this guide, we explored how to use Systemd to diagnose and resolve common problems with services not starting on time in a Linux system. We discussed the importance of analyzing service dependencies, adjusting service startup order, investigating service errors and logs, and optimizing system boot performance.

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