/etc/syslog.conf: Explanation & Insights

The /etc/syslog.conf file is a configuration file for the syslogd daemon. The syslogd daemon is responsible for tracking system information and logging it. This daemon listens to software and hardware messages, categorizing them according to their severity level and directing them where they need to go, according to the settings in the /etc/syslog.conf file.

Structure of /etc/syslog.conf

The structure of the /etc/syslog.conf file is simple and easy to understand. This file contains rules that determine where the log messages will go. These rules are composed of two fields: the selector field and the action field.

The selector field is further divided into two parts: a facility, which represents the part of the system sending the message, and a priority, which represents the severity of the message. The action field specifies the file where these messages will be stored.

Here's a glimpse of what the file content could look like:

authpriv.*                 /var/log/secure
*.info;mail.none;authpriv.none;cron.none                /var/log/messages
mail.*                     /var/log/maillog
cron.*                     /var/log/cron
*.emerg                    *

Importance of /etc/syslog.conf

The /etc/syslog.conf file is crucial in a Linux system as it allows for the proper logging and monitoring of system events. This can be incredibly useful for diagnosing system issues, debugging application errors, and monitoring system use. It allows system administrators to filter messages based on their origin and importance and direct them to an appropriate and useful destination.

Usage and Examples

Let's look at how we can use the file. For example, to add a rule that directs all mail-related messages with a priority of info or higher to a file called /var/log/mail.info, we can add the following line to our /etc/syslog.conf file:

mail.info                     /var/log/mail.info

To make the changes take effect, we need to reload or restart the syslogd daemon using the service command:

service syslog restart

Troubleshooting with /etc/syslog.conf

The /etc/syslog.conf file can be a powerful tool for troubleshooting. For instance, if you're dealing with a network issue, you can modify the /etc/syslog.conf file to redirect network messages to a specific file, making them easier to inspect.


Understanding the /etc/syslog.conf file and how it works can be a powerful tool in the Linux ecosystem. It provides a flexible and robust system for handling log messages, which can be vital for system administration, troubleshooting, and security.

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