Code Map

This section will attempt to provide a high-level overview of the various components of the systemd repository.

Source Code

Directories in src/ provide the implementation of all daemons, libraries and command-line tools shipped by the project. There are many, and more are constantly added, so we will not enumerate them all here — the directory names are self-explanatory.

Shared Code

You might wonder what kind of common code belongs in src/shared/ and what belongs in src/basic/. The split is like this: anything that is used to implement the public shared objects we provide (sd-bus, sd-login, sd-id128, nss-systemd, nss-mymachines, nss-resolve, nss-myhostname, pam_systemd), must be located in src/basic (those objects are not allowed to link to Conversely, anything which is shared between multiple components and does not need to be in src/basic/, should be in src/shared/.

To summarize:





Code located in src/core/ implements the main logic of the systemd system (and user) service manager.

BPF helpers written in C and used by PID 1 can be found under src/core/bpf/.

Implementing Unit Settings

The system and session manager supports a large number of unit settings. These can generally be configured in three ways:

  1. Via textual, INI-style configuration files called unit files
  2. Via D-Bus messages to the manager
  3. Via the systemd-run and systemctl set-property commands

From a user’s perspective, the third is a wrapper for the second. To implement a new unit setting, it is necessary to support all three input methods:

  1. unit files are parsed in src/core/load-fragment.c, with many simple and fixed-type unit settings being parsed by common helpers, with the definition in the generator file src/core/
  2. D-Bus messages are defined and parsed in src/core/dbus-*.c
  3. systemd-run and systemctl set-property do client-side parsing and translating into D-Bus messages in src/shared/bus-unit-util.c

So that they are exercised by the fuzzing CI, new unit settings should also be listed in the text files under test/fuzz/fuzz-unit-file/.


Sources for the udev daemon and command-line tool (single binary) can be found under src/udev/.

Unit Tests

Source files found under src/test/ implement unit-level testing, mostly for modules found in src/basic/ and src/shared/, but not exclusively. Each test file is compiled in a standalone binary that can be run to exercise the corresponding module. While most of the tests can be ran by any user, some require privileges, and will attempt to clearly log about what they need (mostly in the form of effective capabilities). These tests are self-contained, and generally safe to run on the host without side effects.

Ideally, every module in src/basic/ and src/shared/ should have a corresponding unit test under src/test/, exercising every helper function.

Integration Tests

Sources in test/ implement system-level testing for executables, libraries and daemons that are shipped by the project. They require privileges to run, and are not safe to execute directly on a host. By default they will build an image and run the test under it via QEMU or systemd-nspawn.

Most of those tests should be able to run via systemd-nspawn, which is orders of magnitude faster than QEMU, but some tests require privileged operations like using dm-crypt or loopdev. They are clearly marked if that is the case.

See test/README.testsuite for more specific details.


Rules built in the static HWDB database shipped by the project can be found under hwdb.d/. Some of these files are updated automatically, some are filled by contributors.


Markdown files found under docs/ are automatically published on the website using Github Pages. A minimal unit test to ensure the formatting doesn’t have errors is included in the meson test -C build/ github-pages run as part of the CI.

MAN pages

Manpages for binaries and libraries, and the DBUS interfaces, can be found under man/ and should ideally be kept in sync with changes to the corresponding binaries and libraries.


Translations files for binaries and daemons, provided by volunteers, can be found under po/ in the usual format. They are kept up to date by contributors and by automated tools.

System Configuration files and presets

Presets (or templates from which they are generated) for various daemons and tools can be found under various directories such as factory/, modprobe.d/, network/, presets/, rules.d/, shell-completion/, sysctl.d/, sysusers.d/, tmpfiles.d/.

Utilities for Developers

tools/, coccinelle/, .github/, .semaphore/, .lgtm/, .mkosi/ host various utilities and scripts that are used by maintainers and developers. They are not shipped or installed.