How do I restart, say for example my httpd or afpd, running any Mac OS X >= 10.5 (Leopard-), without having to use the GUI and go to System Preferences -> Sharing and unchecking/checking "Web Sharing"?

I'm looking for the canonical equivalent to Debian's invoke-rc.d apache2 restart.

EDIT: The question is about launchd controlled services in general, not specifically Apache (-which was simply an example).

  • 1
    From the answers so far, is correct to assume there is no single launchctl command to restart a service?
    – JS.
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 20:09
  • 2
    @JS. According to the manual page, kickstart together with the -k option seems to do the trick. See my answer below ...
    – jochen
    Commented Jan 3, 2019 at 16:08

9 Answers 9


launchctl(8) is your friend. Just keep in mind that some of the services (sshd for example) are disabled in the configuration file so you will need to use the -w switch when loading them. Here is an example - sshd:

$ sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ssh.plist 

You can stop the service using the unload subcommand.

$ sudo launchctl unload /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ssh.plist 

To list the services, as you might have already guessed use the 'list' subcommand ;)

  • 14
    In addition, launchctl list does not complain but does not show everything, sudo launchctl list is needed for that.
    – conny
    Commented Oct 26, 2010 at 16:17
  • 13
    It's not that it doesn't show everything, it shows a completely different list. When you run launchctl as a normal user, it shows/manages LaunchAgents running in your user session; run as root, it shows/manages the system-wide LaunchDaemons. Commented Oct 26, 2010 at 16:32
  • 2
    I can see "com.openssh.sshd" in that list, so I guess that config is "loaded". Now, how come for example sudo launchctl start com.openssh.sshd doesn't do anything, not evan fail with an error message, even less so actually launch anything?
    – conny
    Commented Oct 26, 2010 at 16:39
  • 2
    @conny It might be confusing in the general case, however when you are writing a service and you suspect for example that something nasty is happening on startup, you can load it once and the use 'stop'/'start' to debug the issue.
    – nayden
    Commented Oct 28, 2010 at 21:08
  • 11
    Why no mention of launchctl start <label> or launchctl stop <label>? If it's already started by launchctl there's no need to reload the plist file (unless it changed as well?). It is annoying there is no restart or reload command. Anyone know of a single-command way of making (for example) mongod pick up a config file change? I'm just not satisfied with ... stop ... && ... start ....
    – notbrain
    Commented May 18, 2015 at 17:18

To restart a service, you can use the launchctl kickstart command, together with the -k option. For example, to restart apache, you can use

sudo launchctl kickstart -k system/org.apache.httpd

This information is from the launchctl manual page:

 kickstart [-kp] service-target
          Instructs launchd to run the specified service immediately, regardless of its
          configured launch conditions.

          -k       If the service is already running, kill the running instance before
                   restarting the service.
  • 1
    When I tried this my service had hung, it did not stop after a short wait, "kill" on the pid did not help, doing "kill -9" on the pid killed the process and let kickstart (that had been running in another console while I tried to kill the process) continue and start the service again. I did not wait for very long before starting to kill things manually, so waiting long enough might have been enough to solve the problem. Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 12:06

You could simply do

sudo launchctl stop com.openssh.sshd

If you don't known the full service name, you can do

sudo launchctl list

If you still don't find the service you expected, try to run without the root identity:

launchctl list

And you don't need to unload and load service.

  • 1
    I tried this and now I can't use ssh from my Mac. Rebooting doesn't fix. Replacing stop with start also doesn't fix.
    – P i
    Commented May 25, 2017 at 8:38
  • 1
    I tried this and I still can ssh to my Mac!
    – Michael
    Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 21:57
  • @dmitriy-apollonin It does not work, you must use sudo unload /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ssh.plist instead.
    – SebMa
    Commented Aug 7, 2018 at 9:21
  • 1
    The question is about restarting a service, but I don't think that launchctl stop does restart a service.
    – jochen
    Commented Jan 3, 2019 at 13:50
sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/org.apache.httpd.plist 10char

You are looking for launchctl.

 launchctl [subcommand [arguments ...]]

 launchctl interfaces with launchd to load, unload daemons/agents and gen-
 erally control launchd.  launchctl supports taking subcommands on the
 command line, interactively or even redirected from standard input.
 These commands can be stored in $HOME/.launchd.conf or /etc/launchd.conf
 to be read at the time launchd starts.
  • 2
    But reading the man-page does not tell me what the equivalent of either invoke-rc.d my-little-daemon restart is ... It refers to "job_label" but does not tell me how to list the "job_label"s available.
    – conny
    Commented Oct 26, 2010 at 13:51
  • I think nayden's response has got this covered.
    – eric.s
    Commented Oct 28, 2010 at 13:29

Just in case if you are looking for launchctl reload, you can define shell function in your ~/.bashrc/.zshrc as I did:

function lctl {
    if [ "$COMMAND" = "reload" ] && [ -n "$PLIST_FILE" ]
        echo "reloading ${PLIST_FILE}.."
        launchctl unload ${PLIST_FILE}
        launchctl load ${PLIST_FILE}
        echo "either command not specified or plist file is not defined"

Command execution looks like -> lctl reload <your-plist-name>.plist

sudo apachectl restart

Works with other OSses as well as it is part of Apache.

  • 2
    Even though the topic doesn't mention apache in particular, I should have anticipated this interpretation.... I'm sorry, but that was not what I was looking for :)
    – conny
    Commented Oct 26, 2010 at 13:20
  • Ok, I catched the httpd part, for which using apachectl is the easier variant :)
    – Sven
    Commented Oct 26, 2010 at 14:30

For restarting, I think the easiest way is to kill the process. Assume you have configured keepalive, which most daemon processes do. pkill apache2 will do. Then the process will start again by itself.

  • Find the process ps -ef | grep <servicename> then restart this process with sudo kill -HUP <pid of service>. You can check that the pid has changed. I find this great when working with services that are ported directly from linux that do not show up in launchctl
    – MortenB
    Commented Sep 16, 2022 at 7:49

There is a small & useful app for this named Lingon. Lingon freeware edition is here sometimes restarting a service can be tricky.

syslog -w

reading helps though.

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