I have installed the pimd service by means of apt. This comes with an upstream systemd unit file (/lib/systemd/system/pimd.service).

I want the service to be restarted when for some reason it gets killed, hence I wish to add the line Restart = always in the unit file.

However, I don’t want to modify the upstream unit file.

Is there any workaround for this?


3 Answers 3


You have two options:

  • Copy the unit file from /lib/systemd/system/ to /etc/systemd/system/.
    And then make your modifications in /etc/systemd/system/pimd.service to completely override the unit file(s) supplied by the package maintainer.

    The command systemctl edit --full <service-name> automates this for you.

  • You can alter or add specific configuration settings for a unit, without having to modify unit files by creating .conf files in a drop-in directory /etc/systemd/system/<unit-name>.<unit-type>.d/
    i.e. create a /etc/systemd/system/pimd.service.d/restart.conf

    The command systemctl edit <service-name> performs these steps for you.

See man systemd.unit

  • 24
    The second option can be made easier by using systemctl edit <service-name>
    – muru
    Mar 29, 2017 at 8:18
  • 15
    And the first one by using systemctl edit --full <service-name>. Mar 29, 2017 at 9:50
  • 2
    Please restructure this answer so that the system edit commands come first in each section. It is much better to use the tools to avoid typos and misconfigurations.
    – null
    May 26, 2020 at 13:52
  • It is better to use .include instead of copying entire file. Aug 9, 2023 at 18:18

The RHEL documentation recommends two ways:

  1. Extend the default unit file by creating a configuration directory and file under /etc/systemd/system/[name-goes-here].service.d/config_name.conf

In this case the file would need to contain something like this:


This is what systemctl edit [name-goes-here] does, it creates that directory and override.conf within it.

  1. Create a copy of the original unit file /usr/lib/systemd/system/ in /etc/systemd/system/ and make changes there.

I would try option one but they are both viable options. Either way remember to run systemctl daemon-reload after making the changes.

RHEL documentation on Creating and Modifying systemd Unit Files


Consider using a script to read the upstream configuration, modify it, and spit it out to drop-in file.

For example, I use Chef and here's a piece of ruby (library) that parses marathon systemd unit file to get original ExecStart from it

require 'inifile'

module Dcos
  def get_execstart_from_unit_file
    marathon_systemd_unit_file = 
    return marathon_systemd_unit_file['Service']['ExecStart']

Then in the recipe, I create the drop-in file to append an option to ExecStart

chef_gem 'inifile'

exec_start_orig = get_execstart_from_unit_file

systemd_service_drop_in 'dcos-marathon' do
  override 'dcos-marathon.service'
  precursor 'Service' => { 'ExecStart' => nil }
  service do
    exec_start exec_start_orig + ' --env_vars_prefix "DCOS_MARATHON_"'
  • 1
    Excellent, I'm also trying to achieve that with Chef! Thank you.
    – ZedTuX
    May 8, 2020 at 7:03
  • Looks like this systemd_service_drop_in method is not part Chef. Are you using the github.com/nathwill/chef-systemd cookbook? If that's the case, please tell it in your answer.
    – ZedTuX
    May 8, 2020 at 7:07

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