How to run systemd service as specific user and group in Linux

Written By - admin

By default most of the systemd services are configured to run by root user but there is also an option to create a custom systemd service unit file and run it as a speciic user or group or both. So in this article we will check and verify the steps to run systemd service as specific user and group using CentOS/RHEL 7/8 Linux environment.

I have installed Oracle VirtualBox on a Linux server, where I will use a Virtual Machine with RHEL/CentOS 7/8 to verify the steps from this article.


Some more articles on similar topic:


Step 1: Overview on systemd

I hope you are already familiar with below topics


Step 2: Create user and Group

Now this is an optional steps assuming you already have your user and group ready for next steps. But if you do not then you can follow this article to create a new user and assign a custom group (primary or secondary) to the respective user.

Here I have already created a user deepak who is part of deepak and admin group

[root@centos-8 ~]# useradd deepak
[root@centos-8 ~]# passwd deepak  <-- Here the screen will prompt to assign a new password

To verify the groups of any user

[root@centos-8 ~]# id deepak
uid=1000(deepak) gid=1000(deepak) groups=1000(deepak),1001(admin)

So we wish to create a systemd service unit file and run systemd service as specific user and group which for us will be deepak user part of admin group


Step 3: Create Sample Script

We will use our startup script from old articles with some tweaks to check and run systemd service as specific user and group in Linux

[root@centos-8 ~]# mkdir -p /opt/golinuxcloud

[root@centos-8 ~]# cat /opt/golinuxcloud/

if [[ `id -nu` != "deepak" ]];then
   echo "Not deepak user, exiting.."
   exit 1

SCRIPT_NAME=$(basename -- "$0")

for i in {1..3}; do
    sleep 1m
    echo "$SCRIPT_NAME: finished minute ${z}" >> /opt/golinuxcloud/file
echo "$SCRIPT_NAME: COMPLETELY FINISHED" >> /opt/golinuxcloud/file

So in this script we have added an explicit check for user, so unless the user executing the script is "deepak", the script will fail to execute. If successful the script will continue to write in /opt/golinuxcloud/file for 3 minutes with 1 minute interval. This will also help us make sure that the script does not exits before completing it's defined task

Change the ownership of the script file to deepak

[root@centos-8 ~]# chown deepak:deepak /opt/golinuxcloud/

Provide executable permission to the script

[root@centos-8 ~]# chmod u+x /opt/golinuxcloud/

[root@centos-8 ~]# ls -l /opt/golinuxcloud/
-r-xr--r-- 1 deepak deepak 304 Jan 17 01:58 /opt/golinuxcloud/

We will execute the script manually to make sure it works as expected

[root@centos-8 ~]# /opt/golinuxcloud/
Not deepak user, exiting..


Step 4: Create unit file to run systemd service as specific user and group

Now as highlighted under step 1, I have already written another article with the steps to create a new systemd unit file. Here we will name our systemd unit file as run-as-user.service under /etc/systemd/system. Below is the content of run-as-user.service

[root@centos-8 ~]# cat /etc/systemd/system/run-as-user.service
Description=Run service as user deepak



Here we have defined User=deepak and Group=admin to make sure the script will be executed only as user deepak which is part of admin group.
You can also use many other directives if required in your environment such as WorkingDirectory, EnvironmentFile etc. For more information check man page of systemd.exec

Refresh the systemd configuration files

[root@centos-8 ~]# systemctl daemon-reload

Next enable the service (if required) to start automatically at boot

[root@centos-8 ~]# systemctl enable run-as-user.service
Created symlink /etc/systemd/system/ → /etc/systemd/system/run-as-user.service.


Step 5: Verify the systemd unit file configuration

Now since we are done with the setting up of systemd. Let us verify our configuration. Before starting I have cleared the content of /opt/golinuxcloud/file which is where our script /opt/golinuxcloud/ will place dummy content every minutes for 3 minutes.

We will only start the run-as-user.service runtime as a reboot is not required to validate the configuration here:

[root@centos-8 ~]# systemctl restart run-as-user.service

Next check the status of the service

[root@centos-8 ~]# systemctl status run-as-user.service
● run-as-user.service - Run service as user deepak
   Loaded: loaded (/etc/systemd/system/run-as-user.service; enabled; vendor preset: disabled)
   Active: active (exited) since Fri 2020-01-17 02:09:32 IST; 2h 31min ago
  Process: 24113 ExecStart=/opt/golinuxcloud/ (code=exited, status=0/SUCCESS)
 Main PID: 24113 (code=exited, status=0/SUCCESS)

Jan 17 02:09:32 systemd[1]: Started Run service as user deepak.

Well looks like everything was good as we were able to run systemd service as specific user and group, you can check the ps status to make sure our script is running using below command:

[root@centos-8 ~]# ps -ef | grep startup
deepak   26877     1  0 04:42 ?        00:00:00 /bin/bash /opt/golinuxcloud/
root     26890  7625  0 04:42 pts/0    00:00:00 grep --color=auto startup

Now you can monitor the content of /opt/golinuxcloud/file for couple of minutes as configured in the script

[root@centos-8 ~]# cat /opt/golinuxcloud/file finished minute 1 finished minute 2 finished minute 3 COMPLETELY FINISHED


Lastly I hope the steps from the article to run systemd service as specific user and group in CentOS/RHEL 7/8 Linux was helpful. So, let me know your suggestions and feedback using the comment section.


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