INETD(8) BSD System Manager’s Manual INETD(8)


inetd − internet ‘‘super-server’’


inetd [−di] [−q queuelength] [configuration file]


Inetd should be run at boot time by /etc/rc.local (see rc(8)). If your init(8) can respawn arbitrary daemons, inetd can be run from init instead; then init will restart it if it crashes. You must use the −i option to prevent inetd from backgrounding itself, or init will become confused.

When running, inetd listens for connections on certain internet sockets. When a connection is found on one of its sockets, it looks up what service the socket corresponds to, and invokes a program to service the request. After the program is finished, it will continue to listen on the socket, except in some special cases which will be described below. Essentially, inetd allows running one daemon to invoke several others, reducing load on the system.


The options available for inetd:

      −d’        Turns on several kinds of debugging and make inetd behave ifrun in a debugger. Also implies −i.

−i’ Do not background; for running from init(8).

−q queuelength
Sets the size of the socket listen queue to the specified value. Default is 128.

Upon execution, inetd reads its configuration information from a configuration file which, by default, is /etc/inetd.conf. There must be an entry for each field of the configuration file, with entries for each field separated by a tab or a space. Comments are denoted by a ‘‘#’’ at the beginning of a line. There must be an entry for each field. The fields of the configuration file are as follows:

service name
socket type
server program
server program arguments

To specify an Sun-RPC based service, the entry would contain these fields.

service name/version
socket type
server program
server program arguments

The service-name entry is the name of a valid service in the file /etc/services. For ‘‘internal’’ services (discussed below), the service name must be the official name of the service (that is, the first entry in /etc/services). When used to specify a Sun-RPC based service, this field is a valid RPC service name in the file /etc/rpc. The part on the right of the ‘‘/’’ is the RPC version number. This can simply be a single numeric argument or a range of versions. A range is bounded by the low version to the high version - ‘‘rusers/1-3’’.

The socket-type should be one of ‘‘stream’’, ‘‘dgram’’, ‘‘raw’’, ‘‘rdm’’, or ‘‘seqpacket’’, depending on whether the socket is a stream, datagram, raw, reliably delivered message, or sequenced packet socket.

The protocol must be a valid protocol as given in /etc/protocols. Examples might be ‘‘tcp’’ or ‘‘udp’’. Rpc based services are specified with the ‘‘rpc/tcp’’ or ‘‘rpc/udp’’ service type.

The wait/nowait entry is applicable to datagram sockets only (other sockets should have a ‘‘nowait’’ entry in this space). If a datagram server connects to its peer, freeing the socket so inetd can received further messages on the socket, it is said to be a ‘‘multi-threaded’’ server, and should use the ‘‘nowait’’ entry. For datagram servers which process all incoming datagrams on a socket and eventually time out, the server is said to be ‘‘single-threaded’’ and should use a ‘‘wait’’ entry. Comsat(8) (biff(1)) and talkd(8) are both examples of the latter type of datagram server. Tftpd(8) is an exception; it is a datagram server that establishes pseudo-connections. It must be listed as ‘‘wait’’ in order to avoid a race; the server reads the first packet, creates a new socket, and then forks and exits to allow inetd to check for new service requests to spawn new servers. The optional ‘‘max’’ suffix (separated from ‘‘wait’’ or ‘‘nowait’’ by a dot) specifies the maximum number of server instances that may be spawned from inetd within an interval of 60 seconds. When omitted, ‘‘max’’ defaults to 40.

The user entry should contain the user name of the user as whom the server should run. This allows for servers to be given less permission than root. An optional group name can be specified by appending a dot to the user name followed by the group name. This allows for servers to run with a different (primary) group id than specified in the password file. If a group is specified and user is not root, the supplementary groups associated with that user will still be set.

The server-program entry should contain the pathname of the program which is to be executed by inetd when a request is found on its socket. If inetd provides this service internally, this entry should be ‘‘internal’’.

The server program arguments should be just as arguments normally are, starting with argv[0], which is the name of the program. If the service is provided internally, the word ‘‘internal’’ should take the place of this entry.


Inetd provides several ‘‘trivial’’ services internally by use of routines within itself. These services are ‘‘echo’’, ‘‘discard’’, ‘‘chargen’’ (character generator), ‘‘daytime’’ (human readable time), and ‘‘time’’ (machine readable time, in the form of the number of seconds since midnight, January 1, 1900). All of these services are tcp based. For details of these services, consult the appropriate RFC from the Network Information Center.

Inetd rereads its configuration file when it receives a hangup signal, SIGHUP. Services may be added, deleted or modified when the configuration file is reread. Inetd creates a file /var/run/ that contains its process identifier.


comsat(8), fingerd(8), ftpd(8), rexecd(8), rlogind(8), rshd(8), telnetd(8), tftpd(8)


The inetd command appeared in 4.3BSD. Support for Sun-RPC based services is modelled after that provided by SunOS 4.1.

Linux NetKit (0.16) August 22, 1999 Linux NetKit (0.16)