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How to view status of service (e.g. whether it's running) in a format similar to Linux systemctl using macOS launchctl?

I want to view the status of a service in macOS using launchctl in a format similar to Linux systemctl, e.g: systemctl status sshd.service

I attempt this using the below launchctl list commands. It's not obvious whether Apache is running, and I've read that - in the first column in the latter command should mean that the service isn't running.

Any ideas?

Nicolass-MacBook-Pro:Documents nlykkei$ sudo launchctl list org.apache.httpd
{
        "LimitLoadToSessionType" = "System";
        "Label" = "org.apache.httpd";
        "TimeOut" = 30;
        "OnDemand" = false;
        "LastExitStatus" = 0;
        "Program" = "/usr/sbin/httpd-wrapper";
        "ProgramArguments" = (
                "/usr/sbin/httpd-wrapper";
                "-D";
                "FOREGROUND";
        );
};
Nicolass-MacBook-Pro:Documents nlykkei$ sudo launchctl list | grep apache
-       0       org.apache.httpd
3

I want to view the status of a service in macOS using launchctl

Hi,

to view the status, use print: launchctl print system/org.apache.httpd

Syntax is: launchctl print <domain>/<item>

Domain can be:

 `system/<service>`
 `user/<UID>`
 `pid/<PID>`
 `session/<asid>`

Various combinations and examples below:

Use: launchctl list to list all services. Simple listing of known services, not detailed.

Sample output:

$ launchctl list

PID Status  Label
659 0   com.apple.trustd.agent
-   0   com.apple.MailServiceAgent
-   0   com.apple.mdworker.mail
99270   0   com.apple.mdworker.shared.0E000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000
-   0   com.apple.mdworker.shared.04000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000
-   0   com.apple.appkit.xpc.ColorSampler
652 0   com.apple.cfprefsd.xpc.agent
-   0   com.apple.coreimportd
770 0   com.apple.TrustedPeersHelper
-   0   com.apple.SafariHistoryServiceAgent
1236    0   com.apple.progressd
3111    0   com.apple.cloudphotod
758 0   com.apple.Finder
693 0   com.apple.homed
-   78  com.ajsoft.a.mail

  • The first column is the process PID
  • The second column is a return code
  • The 3rd column is process label

Itens with - on the first column are NOT running

Itens with - and not 0 on the second column were executed at least once, but are now either sleeping or stopped, example: - 78 com.ajsoft.a.mail


  • Detailed list of all services under the system domain: [all, including enabled and disabled ones]

    • sudo launchctl print system/
  • To get detailed list only of the DISABLED System services:

    • sudo launchctl print-disabled system/
  • To get ALL information about a specific system service

    • launchctl print system/com.vix.cron
sample output:

$ launchctl print system/com.vix.cron

com.vix.cron = {
    active count = 0
    copy count = 0
    one shot = 0
    path = /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.vix.cron.plist
    state = waiting

    program = /usr/sbin/cron
    arguments = {
        /usr/sbin/cron
    }

    default environment = {
        PATH => /usr/bin:/bin:/usr/sbin:/sbin
    }

    environment = {
        XPC_SERVICE_NAME => com.vix.cron
    }

    domain = com.apple.xpc.launchd.domain.system
    domain umask = 22
    minimum runtime = 10
    exit timeout = 5
    runs = 0
    successive crashes = 0
    last exit code = (never exited)
  • To print all services under the domain of the user with UID 501

    • launchctl print user/501
  • Get all information using the service or application PID (returned by the command 'launchctl list`)

    • launchctl print pid/758

sample output:

com.apple.xpc.launchd.domain.pid.Finder.758 = {
    type = process
    handle = 758
    active count = 91
    on-demand count = 1
    service count = 90
    active service count = 2
    activity ratio = 0.02
    originator = /System/Library/CoreServices/Finder.app
    creator = Finder.758
    creator euid = 503
    uniqueid = 758
    external activation count = 0
    security context = {
        uid = 503
        asid = 100008
    }

    bringup time = 20 ms
    death port = 0x52a63

    in-progress bootstraps = 0
    pended requests = 0
    pending requests = {
    }
    subdomains = {
    }
    pending attachments = {
    }

    environment = {
        PATH => /usr/bin:/bin:/usr/sbin:/sbin
        SSH_AUTH_SOCK => /private/tmp/com.apple.launchd.Me9t1KNNjL/Listeners
        TMPDIR => /var/folders/km/w6p6dvwx6qb16nzxdwy5m5080000gq/T/
    }

    services = {
               0      -     com.apple.amp.devicesui
               0      -     com.apple.security.pboxd
               0      -     com.apple.coremedia.videodecoder
               0      -     com.apple.SafariServices
               0      -     com.apple.MediaLibraryService
               0      -     com.apple.coreservices.SharePointManagementService
               0      -     com.apple.managedclient.pds.Exchange
               0      -     com.apple.SystemExtensionsMDM
               0      -     com.apple.LookupViewService
  • To get information using the session id
    • launchctl print session/100008

sample output:

com.apple.xpc.launchd.domain.session.100008 = {
    type = session
    handle = 100008
    active count = 1
    on-demand count = 0
    creator = launchctl.42668
    creator euid = 0
    external activation count = 0
    security context = {
        uid unset
        asid = 100008
    }

    death port = 0x0

Useful commands:

  • This command installs/add a service:

    • launchctl load /Library/LaunchDaemons/com.ServiceExample.plist
  • This command enable a service to auto run after installed:

    • launchctl enable system/com.ServiceExample
  • This command disable a installed service from auto-running:

    • launchctl disable system/com.ServiceExample
  • This command start a service:

    • launchctl start system/com.ServiceExample
  • This command stop a service:

    • launchctl stop system/com.ServiceExample
  • This command remove a service:

    • launchctl unload /Library/LaunchDaemons/com.ServiceExample.plist
  • This command force execution of a recent loaded service:

    • launchctl kickstart -p /Library/LaunchDaemons/com.ServiceExample.plist
  • This command Stops and Disable a running service

    • launchctl bootout system/com.ServiceExample

You can change the above 'system domain' for a 'user domain' process.

  1. Install/add means: include the service on the listing of services that the system knows about. (so you can start and stop it)

  2. remove means: remove the service from the system listing of known services. (it will not be listed anymore if you execute launchctl list)

No files are deleted by removing the service, you just remove its .plist reference from the list of services. Once removed you cannot start/stop it. And it will not show on the launchctl list. Unless you add it again with the load parameter.

2

You can do this by running the command:

launchctl list

In the first column of the output, you'll find the PID. If this is a number, the service is running - if it is listed as "-" it is not running.

Similarly you can check a single daemon like this:

launchctl list <daemon>

it will an output with various information - one of the lines looking like this:

"PID" = 310;

this means that the program is running, and the process ID is 310. If there's no "PID" line, then the daemon is not running.

There's no option to get an output identical to the one you know from systemctl for systemd. I'm not sure why you would want an identical output, or why you think there would be one. It wasn't possible for Apple to provide a compatible output when they released launchctl, as launchd predates systemd by 5 years. So in terms of "compatibility", it should really be the other way around - although I don't see the point in having compatible outputs there.

If you really want a similar output, it is relatively simple to create a small scripts that takes the output from launchctl and outputs it in a format similar to the output from systemctl. However it cannot be precisely the same, as the two utilities have diffent options and different information available to them.

For example the systemctl output usually contains stuff like log output (integrated into systemd, not integrated into launchd), CGroup information (Linux only feature) and pointers to documentation.

Similarly the launchctl output contains stuff like MachServices which is only available for macOS.

Please note that it is possible to setup launchd to start a daemon "on demand". This means that you specify for example that your web server software runs on TCP port 80 - and then launchd monitors that port and starts your daemon only when there's incoming requests. If you use launchctl you wouldn't find a PID for the daemon initially, but if you start sending requests to it - it will be started and have a PID. When requests stop, the daemon will be stopped again after a short while.

  • Thanks, jksoegaard. What makes me confused it that I know Apache is running. I started it using apachectl and can access it on 127.0.0.1. This is why I don't understand that lauchctl's output misses the "Active:" (running) information of systemctl. Do you have any idea why lauchctl's doesn't report a valid PID for Apache (httpd)? – Shuzheng Jul 9 at 5:45
  • @Shuzheng Apache is probably being launched by something other than launchd (or possibly by a different launch daemon item). – Gordon Davisson Jul 9 at 8:17
  • @GordonDavisson - apachectl start is equivalent to /bin/launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/org.apache.httpd.plist by inspecting /usr/bin/apachectl. Isn't that launching through launchd? If not, how would I launch it through launchd? Thanks. – Shuzheng Jul 9 at 9:15
  • @Shuzheng what's the output of "launchctl list org.apache.httpd" on your system? – jksoegaard Jul 9 at 10:44
  • @Shuzheng Also be aware that launchd supports "ondemand" services, which is most probably how you have setup Apache. This means that Apache is not running all the time (i.e. when you run launchctl) - but only when you actually use it (i.e. when you ask your web-browser to request pages from it) – jksoegaard Jul 9 at 10:47

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