HowTo: systemd on Exherbo

This comes up all too often, so here’s a HowTo for systemd on Exherbo:

  • You have to run a Linux kernel >=2.6.39. The new kernel is only needed at runtime, not for building systemd.
  • You should run a Linux kernel >=3.8. The new kernel is only needed at runtime, not for building systemd.
  • Kernel options for systemd: cf. systemd’s README, here’s an excerpt:

CONFIG_CGROUPS (it’s OK to disable all controllers)

Linux kernel >= 3.8 for Smack support

Udev will fail to work with the legacy layout:

Legacy hotplug slows down the system and confuses udev:

Userspace firmware loading is deprecated, will go away, and
sometimes causes problems:

Some udev rules and virtualization detection relies on it:

Mount and bind mount handling might require it:

Optional but strongly recommended:

For systemd-bootchart a kernel with procfs support and several
proc output options enabled is required:

For UEFI systems:


CONFIG_FANOTIFY=y (only used for readahead stuff which is not enabled by default.)

CONFIG_FANOTIFY_ACCESS_PERMISSIONS=y (only used for readahead stuff which is not enabled by default.)


  • Set the “systemd” option globally in /etc/paludis/options.conf: */* systemd
  • Install systemd: cave resolve -x sys-apps/systemd (Read what cave tells you. If in doubt, read Paludis’ documentation.)
  • Reinstall every package with the new option set: cave resolve world -cx
  • Switch to systemd as your init system: eclectic init set systemd
  • Set the desired hostname in /etc/hostname.
  • Optional: Edit /etc/vconsole.conf to your liking. (If you delete it, empty it or comment out everything, systemd will use the kernel’s defaults.)
  • Optional: Edit /etc/machine-info to your liking.
  • Read Lennart’s blog post about the other configuration files.
  • Install a Linux kernel >=2.6.39. (see above for kernel options, etc.)
  • Reboot.

After that reboot, you’ll be in a console with a minimal set of services started, hopefully ready to log in. Log in as root (the keyboard layout is set to US in vconsole.conf (see above) by default!). Then you can enable whatever services (found in /lib/systemd/system) you like, suggested ones are:

  • dhcpcd.service or NetworkManager.service
  • sshd.socket (it doesn’t start? Missing host keys? man sshd or

As an extremely simple and limited alternative to NetworkManager.service, there’s network.service and network.conf which get installed if you set the “simple-net” option for systemd. network.service only allows for static network setups with IPv4.

Alternatively, you can use dhcpcd.service.

If I were you, I’d not enable your display manager’s service (either kdm.service, gdm.service, xdm.service or slim.service) until your basic system has at least booted properly once and you can reach your system using ssh because in case things go wrong, it’s easier not to have to wrestle with a GUI.

To actually enable a service, run “systemctl enable <foo.service>”. More details can be found in systemd’s man page.

If you need help, it’s available in #exherbo, as usual, but if you didn’t read this before asking, grumpy me will bite your head off unless you prove you read this by saying “I have furuncles on my arse.”. Yes, I’m being serious.


FAQ section:

  • “How/where do you specify extra modules to be loaded?” – You put the module name into /etc/modules-load.d/foo.conf and it will get loaded. Unless systemd-udev has already loaded it for you. Check that first.
  • “My hostname is set to something funny, e. g. ’08’!” – If you’re using NetworkManager, you need to set your hostname in /etc/NetworkManager/NetworkManager.conf, too.
  • “I’m getting messages about failing services, e. g. dev-hugepages.mount or sys-kernel-debug.automount. What’s up with that?” – You can either enable the corresponding kernel options, delete the symlink (e. g. /lib/systemd/system/ or just ignore those messages. They’re harmless.
  • “When sshd.socket is enabled, every closed ssh connection leaves a failed service around, e. g. sshd@192…:55140.service.” – Harmless as well. There are no ressources used by those so ignore them. (This should be fixed anyway.)
  • “Where can I learn more about the usual administration tasks? – Read Lennart’s series of blog posts about systemd for administrators: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8
  • “How do I debug problems with systemd?” – Read this page
  • “I’m completely lost. What do I do?” – Please remember there’s always a friend around. It’s called “man”. ;-)