Finit is an alternative to SysV init and systemd, originally reverse engineered from the EeePC fastinit by Claudio Matsuoka — “gaps filled with frog DNA …”

Latest release available on GitHub


  • Runlevels, defined per service
  • One-shot tasks, services (daemons), or SysV init start/stop scripts
  • Runparts and /etc/rc.local support
  • Process supervision similar to systemd
  • Sourcing environment files
  • Conditions for network/process/custom dependencies
  • Pre/Post script actions
  • Tooling to enable/disable services
  • Optional built-in getty
  • Optional built-in watchdog, with support for hand-over to watchdogd
  • Built-in support for Debian/BusyBox /etc/network/interfaces, automatically calls ifup/ifdown
  • Cgroups v2, both configuration and monitoring in initctl top
  • Plugin support for customization
  • Proper rescue mode with bundled sulogin for protected maintenance shell (optional)

Blog Posts

Some of these feature are presented below, for more, see the online documentation and the following blog posts:


The GitHub finit/contrib/ section, also part of the release tarball, include sample configurations for Debian, Void, and Alpine Linux.

Alpine Linux v3.19 with Finit v4.7

Alpine Linux v3.19 with Finit v4.7

The following Buildroot derivatives provide examples of how to boot embedded systems with Finit:

There’s even a br2-external demo available, with a downloadable image, which may be more accessible to beginners.


This example /etc/finit.conf is for Alpine Linux. The release tarball contains the recommended (and fairly up to date) “split layout” in the contrib/alpine section. A split layout is where each service, or set of related services, are defined in their own foo.conf file in the /etc/finit.d directory. Available, but not yet enabled, services can be placed in /etc/finit.d/available and enabled by an operator using the initctl tool.

# Runlevel to start after bootstrap, 'S', default: 2
runlevel 2

# Max file size for each log file: 100 kiB, rotate max 4 copies:
# log => log.1 => log.2.gz => log.3.gz => log.4.gz
log size=100k count=4

# Services to be monitored and respawned as needed
service [S12345] watchdogd -L -f                             -- System watchdog daemon
service [S12345] syslogd -n -b 3 -D                          -- System log daemon
service [S12345] <pid/syslogd> klogd -n                      -- Kernel log daemon
service   [2345] env:-/etc/conf.d/lldpd lldpd -d $LLDPD_OPTS -- LLDP daemon (IEEE 802.1ab)

# The BusyBox ntpd does not use syslog when running in the foreground
# So we use this trick to redirect stdout/stderr to a log file.  The
# log file is rotated with the above settings.  The condition declares
# a dependency on a system default route (gateway) to be set.  A single
# <!> at the beginning means ntpd does not respect SIGHUP for restart.
service [2345] log:/var/log/ntpd.log <!net/route/default> ntpd -n -l -I eth0 -- NTP daemon

# For multiple instances of the same service, add :ID somewhere between
# the service/run/task keyword and the command.
service :80   [2345] merecat -n -p 80   /var/www -- Web server
service :8080 [2345] merecat -n -p 8080 /var/www -- Old web server

# Alternative method instead of below runparts, can also use /etc/rc.local
#task [S] /etc/init.d/keyboard-setup start       -- Setting up preliminary keymap
#task [S] /etc/init.d/acpid start                -- Starting ACPI Daemon
#task [S] /etc/init.d/kbd start                  -- Preparing console

# When Finit receive SIGPWR, e.g., from powstatd(8), it asserts the
# sys/pwr/fail condition.  The <!> in the condition tells Finit to
# not block bootstrap waiting for the task to run.
task [S0123456789] <!sys/pwr/fail> name:pwrfail initctl poweroff -- Power failure, shutting down

# Run start scripts from this directory
# runparts /etc/start.d

# Virtual consoles run BusyBox getty, keep kernel default speed
tty [12345] /sbin/getty -L 0 /dev/tty1 linux
tty [12345] /sbin/getty -L 0 /dev/tty2 linux
tty [12345] /sbin/getty -L 0 /dev/tty3 linux

# Use built-in getty for serial port and USB serial
tty [12345] /dev/ttyAMA0 noclear nowait
tty [12345] /dev/ttyUSB0 noclear

# Just give me a shell, I need to debug this embedded system!
#tty [12345] @console noclear nologin
#tty [12345] notty
#tty [12345] rescue

The service stanza, as well as task, run and others are described in full in doc/ Here’s a quick overview of some of the most common components needed to start a UNIX daemon:

service [LVLS] <COND> log env:[-]/etc/default/daemon daemon ARGS -- Daemon daemon
^       ^      ^      ^   ^                          ^              ^       ^
|       |      |      |   |                          |              |        `-- Optional description
|       |      |      |   |                          |              `----------- Daemon arguments
|       |      |      |   |                          `-------------------------- Path to daemon
|       |      |      |    `---------------------------------------------------- Optional env. file
|       |      |       `-------------------------------------------------------- Redirect output to log
|       |       `--------------------------------------------------------------- Optional conditions
|        `---------------------------------------------------------------------- Optional Runlevels
 `------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Monitored application

Some components are optional: runlevel(s), condition(s) and description, making it easy to create simple start scripts and still possible for more advanced uses as well:

service /usr/sbin/sshd -D

Dependencies are handled using conditions. One of the most common conditions is to wait for basic networking to become available:

service <net/route/default> nginx -- High performace HTTP server

Here is another example where we instruct Finit to not start BusyBox ntpd until syslogd has started properly. Finit waits for syslogd to create its PID file, by default /var/run/

service [2345] log <!pid/syslogd> ntpd -n -N -p
service [S12345] syslogd -n -- Syslog daemon

Notice the log keyword, BusyBox ntpd uses stderr for logging when run in the foreground. With log Finit redirects stdout + stderr to the system log daemon using the command line logger(1) tool.

A service, or task, can have multiple dependencies listed. Here we wait for both syslogd to have started and basic networking to be up:

service [2345] log <pid/syslogd,net/route/default> ntpd -n -N -p

If either condition fails, e.g. loss of networking, ntpd is stopped and as soon as it comes back up again ntpd is restarted automatically.

Note: Make sure daemons do not fork and detach themselves from the controlling TTY, usually an -n or -f flag, or -D as in the case of OpenSSH above. If it detaches itself, Finit cannot monitor it and will instead try to restart it.


Process Supervision

Start, monitor and restart services should they fail.


Finit supports external getty but also comes with a limited built-in Getty, useful for really small systems. A getty sets up the TTY and waits for user input before handing over to /bin/login, which is responsible for handling the actual authentication.

tty [12345] /dev/tty1    nowait  linux
tty [12345] /dev/ttyAMA0 noclear vt100
tty [12345] /sbin/getty  -L /dev/ttyAMA0 vt100

Users of embedded systems may want to enable automatic serial console with the special @console device. This works regardless weather the system uses ttyS0, ttyAMA0, ttyMXC0, or anything else. Finit figures it out by querying sysfs: /sys/class/tty/console/active.

tty [12345] @console linux noclear

Notice the optional noclear, nowait, and nologin flags. The latter is for skipping the login process entirely. For more information, see doc/


Support for SysV init-style runlevels is available, in the same minimal style as everything else in Finit. The [2345] syntax can be applied to service, task, run, and TTY stanzas.

Reserved runlevels are 0 and 6, halt and reboot, respectively just like SysV init. Runlevel 1 can be configured freely, but is recommended to be kept as the system single-user runlevel since Finit will not start networking here. The configured runlevel NUM from /etc/finit.conf is what Finit changes to after bootstrap, unless ‘single’ (or ‘S’) is given on the kernel cmdline, in which case runlevel 1 is started.

All services in runlevel S(0) are started first, followed by the desired run-time runlevel. Run tasks in runlevel S can be started in sequence by using run [S] cmd. Changing runlevels at runtime is done like any other init, e.g. init 4, but also using the more advanced intictl tool.


Plugins can extend the functionality of Finit and hook into the different stages of the boot process and at runtime. Plugins are written in C and compiled into a dynamic library loaded automatically by finit at boot. A basic set of plugins are bundled in the plugins/ directory.


  • Hooks
    Hook into the boot at predefined points to extend Finit
  • I/O
    Listen to external events and control Finit behavior/services

Extensions and functionality not purely related to what an /sbin/init needs to start a system are available as a set of plugins that either hook into the boot process or respond to various I/O.

For more information, see doc/

Automatic Reload

By default, Finit monitors /etc/finit.d/ and /etc/finit.d/enabled/ registering any changes to .conf files. To activate a change the user must call initctl reload, which reloads all modified files, stops any removed services, starts new ones, and restarts any modified ones, with SIGHUP if the process supports it.

For some use-cases the extra step of calling initctl reload creates an unnecessary overhead, which can be removed at build-time using:

configure --enable-auto-reload

Runparts & /etc/rc.local

At the end of the boot, when all bootstrap (S) tasks and services have started, but not networking, Finit calls its built-in [run-parts(8)][] command on any configured runparts <DIR> directory. This happens just before changing to the configured runlevel (default 2). (Networking is enabled just prior to changing from single user mode.)

runparts /etc/rc.d/

Right after the runlevel change when all services have started properly, /etc/rc.local is called.

No configuration stanza in /etc/finit.conf is required for rc.local. If it exists and is an executable shell script Finit calls it at the very end of the boot, before calling the HOOK_SYSTEM_UP. See more on hooks in doc/, and about the system bootstrap in doc/


Basic support for runlevels is included in Finit from v1.8. By default all services, tasks, run commands and TTYs listed without a set of runlevels get a default set [234] assigned. The default runlevel after boot is 2.

Finit supports runlevels 0-9, and S, with 0 reserved for halt, 6 reboot and S for services to only run at bootstrap. Runlevel 1 is the single user level, where usually no networking is enabled. In Finit this is more of a policy for the user to define. Normally only runlevels 1-6 are used, and even more commonly, only the default runlevel is used.

To specify an allowed set of runlevels for a service, run command, task, or tty, add [NNN] to your /etc/finit.conf, like this:

service [S12345] syslogd -n -x             -- System log daemon
run     [S]      /etc/init.d/acpid start   -- Starting ACPI Daemon
task    [S]      /etc/init.d/kbd start     -- Preparing console
service [S12345] <pid/syslogd> klogd -n -x -- Kernel log daemon

tty     [12345]  /dev/tty1
tty     [2]      /dev/tty2
tty     [2]      /dev/tty3
tty     [2]      /dev/tty4
tty     [2]      /dev/tty5
tty     [2]      /dev/tty6

In this example syslogd is first started, in parallel, and then acpid is called using a conventional SysV init script. It is called with the run command, meaning the following task command to start the kbd script is not called until the acpid init script has fully completed. Then the keyboard setup script is called in parallel with klogd as a monitored service.

Again, tasks and services are started in parallel, while run commands are called in the order listed and subsequent commands are not started until a run command has completed. Also, task and run commands are run in a shell, so pipes and redirects can be used.

The following examples illustrate this. Bootstrap task and run commands are also removed when they have completed, initctl show will not list them.

task [S] echo "foo" | cat >/tmp/bar
run  [S] echo "$HOME" >/tmp/secret

Switching between runlevels can be done by calling init with a single argument, e.g. init 5, or using initctl runlevel 5, both switch to runlevel 5. When changing runlevels Finit also automatically reloads all .conf files in the /etc/finit.d/ directory. So if you want to set a new system config, switch to runlevel 1, change all config files in the system, and touch all .conf files in /etc/finit.d before switching back to the previous runlevel again — that way Finit can both stop old services and start any new ones for you, without rebooting the system.

Rebooting & Halting

Traditionally, rebooting and halting a UNIX system is done by changing its runlevel. Finit comes with its own tooling providing: shutdown, reboot, poweroff, and suspend, but also the initctl tool, detailed in the next section.

For compatibility reasons Finit listens to the same set of signals as BusyBox init. This is not 100% compatible with SysV init, but clearly the more common combination for Finit. For more details, see doc/

Commands & Status

Finit also implements a modern API to query status, and start/stop services, called initctl. Unlike telinit the initctl tool does not return until the given command has fully completed.

alpine:~# initctl help
Usage: initctl [OPTIONS] [COMMAND]

  -b, --batch               Batch mode, no screen size probing
  -c, --create              Create missing paths (and files) as needed
  -f, --force               Ignore missing files and arguments, never prompt
  -1, --once                Only one lap in commands like 'top'
  -p, --plain               Use plain table headings, no ctrl chars
  -q, --quiet               Silent, only return status of command
  -t, --no-heading          Skip table headings
  -v, --verbose             Verbose output
  -h, --help                This help text

  debug                     Toggle Finit (daemon) debug
  help                      This help text
  version                   Show Finit version

  ls | list                 List all .conf in /etc/finit.d
  create   <CONF>           Create   .conf in /etc/finit.d/available
  delete   <CONF>           Delete   .conf in /etc/finit.d/available
  show     <CONF>           Show     .conf in /etc/finit.d/available
  edit     <CONF>           Edit     .conf in /etc/finit.d/available
  touch    <CONF>           Change   .conf in /etc/finit.d/available
  enable   <CONF>           Enable   .conf in /etc/finit.d/available
  disable  <CONF>           Disable  .conf in /etc/finit.d/enabled
  reload                    Reload  *.conf in /etc/finit.d (activate changes)

  cond     set   <COND>     Set (assert) user-defined condition     +usr/COND
  cond     clear <COND>     Clear (deassert) user-defined condition -usr/COND
  cond     status           Show condition status, default cond command
  cond     dump             Dump all conditions and their status

  log      [NAME]           Show ten last Finit, or NAME, messages from syslog
  start    <NAME>[:ID]      Start service by name, with optional ID
  stop     <NAME>[:ID]      Stop/Pause a running service by name
  reload   <NAME>[:ID]      Reload service by name (SIGHUP or restart)
  restart  <NAME>[:ID]      Restart (stop/start) service by name
  status   <NAME>[:ID]      Show service status, by name
  status                    Show status of services, default command

  cgroup                    List cgroup config overview
  ps                        List processes based on cgroups
  top                       Show top-like listing based on cgroups

  runlevel [0-9]            Show or set runlevel: 0 halt, 6 reboot
  reboot                    Reboot system
  halt                      Halt system
  poweroff                  Halt and power off system
  suspend                   Suspend system

For services not supporting SIGHUP the <!> notation in the .conf file must be used to tell Finit to stop and start it on reload and runlevel changes. If <> holds more conditions, these will also affect how a service is maintained.

Note: even though it is possible to start services not belonging in the current runlevel these services will not be respawned automatically by Finit if they exit (crash). Hence, if the runlevel is 2, the below Dropbear SSH service will not be restarted if it is killed or exits.

alpine:~# initctl 
1506  acpid     running  [--2345----] ACPI daemon
1509  crond     running  [--2345----] Cron daemon
1489  dropbear  running  [--2345----] Dropbear SSH daemon
1511  klogd     running  [S12345----] Kernel log daemon
1512  ntpd      running  [--2345----] NTP daemon
1473  syslogd   running  [S12345----] Syslog daemon

alpine:~# initctl -v
1506  acpid     running  [--2345----] acpid -f
1509  crond     running  [--2345----] crond -f -S $CRON_OPTS
1489  dropbear  running  [--2345----] dropbear -R -F $DROPBEAR_OPTS
1511  klogd     running  [S12345----] klogd -n $KLOGD_OPTS
1512  ntpd      running  [--2345----] ntpd -n $NTPD_OPTS
1473  syslogd   running  [S12345----] syslogd -n

The environment variables to each of the services above are read from, in the case of Alpine Linux, /etc/conf.d/. Other distributions may have other directories, e.g., Debian use /etc/default/.


Finit is capable of running on both desktop/server systems with udev and embedded systems that usually come with BusyBox mdev. Some systems have systemd-udev or eudev today instead of the original udev, Finit probes for all of them at runtime and expects /dev/ to be a writable file system using devtmpfs. It is also possible to run on a statically set up /dev if needed. It is however not a good idea to have both udev and mdev installed at the same time, this will lead to unpredictable results.

At boot Finit calls either mdev or udevd to populate /dev, this is done slightly differently and on systems with udev you might want to add the following one-shot task early in your /etc/finit.conf:

run [S] udevadm settle --timeout=120 -- Waiting for udev

Finit has a built-in Getty for TTYs, but requires a working /bin/login or /bin/sh, if no TTYs are configured in /etc/finit.conf.

For a fully operational system /var, /run and /tmp must be set up properly in /etc/fstab – which is iterated over at boot.


This project is the continuation of the original finit by Claudio Matsuoka, which was reverse engineered from syscalls of the EeePC fastinit daemon.

Please file bug reports, clone it, or send pull requests for bug fixes and proposed extensions using GitHub: