My unit file looks like this (already attempted to escape spaces as \x20 like the docs say):

Description=My Service



but when attempting to start it, it fails with the following message:

Failed at step CHDIR spawning /home/cobra/my service/start.sh: No such file or directory
myservice.service: main process exited, code=exited, status=200/CHDIR

Giving the path from this error message to stat returns:

  File: ‘/home/cobra/my service/start.sh’
  Size: 280             Blocks: 8          IO Block: 4096   regular file
Device: 903h/2307d      Inode: 4718912     Links: 1
Access: (0754/-rwxr-xr--)  Uid: ( 1000/   cobra)   Gid: ( 1000/   cobra)
Access: 2015-05-24 22:42:12.702657594 +0200
Modify: 2015-03-27 22:28:05.682531000 +0100
Change: 2015-05-24 22:40:58.830298787 +0200
 Birth: -

I cannot remove the spaces from the file name as the service I'm attempting to run requires them for some reason.

Where am I going wrong?

  • Have you tried backslash space ("\ ") like the shell? – hookenz May 24 '15 at 23:19
  • @Matt Yes, same error as above, except the backslash is visible in the path presented in the errormessage. – Cobra_Fast May 24 '15 at 23:21
  • It seems that spaces are used as a way of separating arguments. And googling this returns some ugly workarounds. Can you change the path? otherwise what about trying a non-space separated symbolic link as the path name which points to the real directory? – hookenz May 24 '15 at 23:27
  • 1
    Well I did find a tool called systemd-escape which allows you to create paths. It seems / gets changed to dash. – hookenz Jun 4 '15 at 2:17
  • Did you figure out how to get WorkingDirectory to work with spaces? Nothing is working for me. – leetNightshade Jul 16 '20 at 2:08

The correct way to generate paths in systemd is to use systemd-escape.


~$ systemd-escape --path "/home/cobra/my service/start.sh"

Yes / gets replaced with -


The obvious thing to do is to use double quotes.

ExecStart="/home/cobra/my service/start.sh"

You also should get rid of the start.sh script and move any necessary logic into the unit.

  • Putting quotes around it like you suggested makes the service fail completely: Failed to start myservice.service: Unit myservice.service failed to load: Invalid argument. – Cobra_Fast May 24 '15 at 23:07
  • The underlying error message seems to be Executable path is not absolute, ignoring: "/home/cobra..." myserivce.service lacks ExecStart setting. Refusing. – Cobra_Fast May 24 '15 at 23:19
  • Turns out quoting the executable path is supported since systemd version 218-147 (2014-12-19) and debian jessie is still sitting on 215-17. I just wrote the debian people a bugreport, we'll see what comes of it. – Cobra_Fast May 25 '15 at 0:21
  • 1
    @Cobra_Fast Good luck with that. Of course I would never advise using Debian at all, but that's another discussion... – Michael Hampton May 25 '15 at 0:22

For spaces in ExecStart, there is an open bug report.[1] The workaround is to use /usr/bin/env followed by the path in quotes. Example:

ExecStart=/usr/bin/env "/path/with spaces/executable"

The canonical —but not so nice— solution is to use systemd-escape.

systemd-escape --path "/path/with spaces/executable"

[1] https://github.com/systemd/systemd/issues/2132

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.