I have a new systemd service that fails to start with a "permission denied" error. I bought a Thinkpad L480. Unfortunately, there seems to be an issue with the kernel not detecting the touchpad. This is addressed here can be solved by

sudo sh -c 'echo -n "elantech" > /sys/bus/serio/devices/serio1/protocol'

As I do not want to do this on every single startup, I made a systemd service, which does not work as expected.

My touchpad_enabler.service is




The script file is simply


echo -n "elantech" > /sys/bus/serio/devices/serio1/protocol

But I also tried it with the sh -c version. I adjusted the permissions via

sudo chmod 744 /usr/local/bin/enable_touchpad.sh
sudo chmod 644 /etc/systemd/system/touchpad_enabler.service

so both files are owned by root. I then enabled it via

systemctl enable enable_touchpad.sh

When I manually start the service via systemctl start touchpad_enabler.service, it works totally fine and the touchpad works as it should. However, on startup , the service fails and is listet as 'failed' in systemctl list-units.

The output of journalctl -b -u touchpad_enabler.service is:

systemd[1]: Starting Solves bug that Thinkpad L480 Touchpad is not correctly detected...
enable_touchpad.sh[516]: sh: /sys/bus/serio/devices/serio1/protocol: permission denied
systemd[1]: touchpad_enabler.service: Main process exited, code=exited, status=1/FAILURE
systemd[1]: touchpad_enabler.service: Failed with result 'exit-code'.
systemd[1]: Failed to start FooBar

It looks like the problem is the permission to write to the file itself. But manually starting the service works fine and to my understanding systemd should execute the command as root anyway, right?

From reading man systemctl.service I got the idea to prepend '+' to the filepath so that it read


With no effect.

I do not really understand where this protocol file comes from. It looks like it gets created by the kernel on startup? So I also experimented with the After= parameter, but systemd should start the services after the kernel is fully loaded, right? The file is also owned by root so I would not expect any problems there.

I hope someone can help me. Thanks in advance.

  • Is SELinux present and in enforcing mode? What is the SELinux context? I believe enable_touchpad.sh should have bin_t type. Can you verify the script has the type with ls -Z /usr/local/bin/enable_touchpad.sh? (Here is an example for one of my scripts that is run by systemd timer and service every hour: ls -Z fetch-data.sh returns unconfined_u:object_r:bin_t:s0 fetch-data.sh).
    – jww
    Mar 30 '19 at 15:38
  • For debugging I would suggest to do an ls -l /sys/bus/serio/devices/serio1 in your script before trying to write to it.
    – U. Windl
    Apr 29 '19 at 8:44
  • if you look at all the services, you can see systemd starts up 'a lot of weird stuff' so probably you need an After= on "something or other"
    – rogerdpack
    May 16 '19 at 21:36

It seems like you have the service and script files a little confused. The contents of the files seem like they should work though.

Systemd needs a service file. Put this file here


With the contents:




Then your script here (I changed the name to make the separation between service file and script file clearer. Also /usr/local/bin is a better place because it's generally meant for local scripts/programs)


And it will have the contents (unchanged):

echo -n "elantech" > /sys/bus/serio/devices/serio1/protocol

Make sure the permissions on the script and the service file are correct. They should be owned by root and the script should be executable.

sudo chmod 744 /usr/local/bin/enable_touchpad.sh
sudo chmod 644 /etc/systemd/system/touchpad_enabler.service

Then you enable the systemd service.

sudo systemctl enable touchpad_enabler.service

This enables the service so it will run at boot. It can also be run manually with:

sudo systemctl start touchpad_enabler.service

or you can directly run the script, bypassing the systemd service:

sudo /usr/local/bin/enable_touchpad.sh

I can't really speak to the bug or when the protocol file is created, but the service should work.

You can add the After= parameter to the [Unit] section of the service to make sure it runs after a specific target, like default.target or multi-user.target. By default, every service has a dependency on sysinit.target, so I'm not sure how much that would matter in your case.

If you look here, https://stackoverflow.com/questions/27511139/how-to-make-sysfs-changes-persistent-in-centos-7-systemd, there are other ways to accomplish what you want without a custom service. Maybe you can try a udev rule.

  • Thank you for your answer. I actually did everything you mentioned. I just had it wrong in my question (the ExecStart= part) the error message showes, that it did actually find the script, tries to execute it, but lacks permissions. I edited my question where this was yet unclear and changed the filenames according to your suggestion to make it clearer. Manually starting the service works fine. But not loading on startup.
    – Bloch
    Feb 9 '19 at 11:01
  • 1
    What did you try with the After option? Does adding After=default.target to the [Unit] section help?
    – nitram
    Feb 9 '19 at 16:31

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.