System Management Tools - Command Line Service Control

Posted by Adam Ruth

Apr 16, 2010 1:00:00 AM

Cat's provide good service
    Photo by *yasuhiro
I find myself having to deal with Windows services quite a lot, probably more than the average system administrator. The two most common tools administrators use are the services.msc MMC snap-in and net.exe (net start and net stop, in particular.) One more tool that I keep close is sc.exe because it gives capabilities that you can't find in the other tools. 

It provides pretty much everything that a developer can do when programming directly to the Service Control Manager. The commands that I use most often are create and delete. These are particularly useful when I'm writing a service and I need to test it on one or more machines.

Creating a Service

The create command has the following syntax:

sc.exe <server> create [service name] [binPath= ] <option1> <option2>…

Run "sc.exe create" to see all of the options. The ones you'll use most are:
  • start= (auto, manual, disabled)
  • obj= (account name)
  • password= (password)
  • DisplayName= (friendly name)

There are some gotchas that you may run into (I know I have!):

  • If using PowerShell you need to use sc.exe instead of just sc since sc is an alias for the built-in cmdlet Set-Content.
  • If you get the syntax wrong you won't get an explanation of what why, you'll only get the usage description so it can be difficult to track down typos.
  • All of the options follow the same syntax of "binPath= path." Note that there is no space before the equal sign and a space afterwards. That's caught me many times, the command will choke on "binPath = path" and "binPath=path."  
  • You'll most likely need quotes in the binPath= parameter. For example if the service path is "C:\Program Files\Company\Name\Service.exe" -service you'll need to escape the quotes. This is done differently if you're using PowerShell or cmd.exe:
    • PowerShell:  sc.exe create name binPath= '\"C:\Program Files\Company\Name\Service.exe\" -service'
      Note the \ before the double-quotes and the whole thing is wrapped in single-quotes.
    • cmd.exe: sc.exe create name binPath= """"C:\Program Files\Company\Name\Service.exe""" -service"
      Note that it's wrapped in double-quotes and the inner quotes are three sets of double-quotes.

Editing a Service

There is a config command that lets you change all of the service's settings without re-creating it. It has the same options as the create command.

Deleting a Service

Deleting a service is a lot simpler:

sc.exe <computer> delete [service name]

If the service is still running when you do this, it will be "marked for deletion" which is a kind of limbo state where the service can't be controlled any more (can't be stopped.) If that happens, most of the time you can flush the delete by killing the service's process. In the rare case where that doesn't work, a reboot will be required. 

Services on Other Computers

In order to work with services remotely on other computers you need to have File Sharing turned on and opened through a firewall. If you can get to a file share on the computer, you'll be able to modify its services.

Topics: windows administrators, Windows system administration, windows administrator tools, powershell, remote management, command line, scripting

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