Use this documentation with care! It describes the heavily outdated version 5, which was actively developed around 2010 and is considered dead by the rsyslog team for many years now.

This documentation reflects the latest update of the previously existing (now removed) v5-stable branch. It describes the 5.10.2 version, which was never released. As such, it contains some content that does not apply to any released version.

To obtain the doc that properly matches your installed v5 version, obtain the doc set from your distro. Each version of rsyslog contained the version that exactly matches it.

As general advise, it is strongly suggested to upgrade to the current version supported by the rsyslog project. The current version can always be found on the right-hand side info box on the rsyslog web site.

Note that there is no rsyslog community support available for this heavily outdated version. If you need to stick with it, please ask your distribution for support.

Installing rsyslog from Source

Written by Rainer Gerhards

In this paper, I describe how to install rsyslog. It is intentionally a brief step-by-step guide, targeted to those who want to quickly get it up and running. For more elaborate information, please consult the rest of the manual set.

How to make your life easier…

There are RPMs/packages for rsyslog available. If you use them, you can spare yourself many of the steps below. This is highly recommended if there is a package for your distribution available.

Steps To Do

Step 1 - Download Software

For obvious reasons, you need to download rsyslog. Here, I assume that you use a distribution tarball. If you would like to use a version directly from the repository, see build rsyslog from repository instead.

Load the most recent build from Extract the software with “tar xzf -nameOfDownloadSet-“. This will create a new subdirectory rsyslog-version in the current working directory. CD into that.

Depending on your system configuration, you also need to install some build tools, most importantly make, the gcc compiler and the MySQL development system (if you intend to use MySQL - the package is often named “mysql-dev”). On many systems, these things should already be present. If you don’t know exactly, simply skip this step for now and see if nice error messages pop up during the compile process. If they do, you can still install the missing build environment tools. So this is nothing that you need to look at very carefully.

Step 2 - Run ./configure

Run ./configure to adopt rsyslog to your environment. While doing so, you can also enable options. Configure will display selected options when it is finished. For example, to enable MySQL support, run

./configure --enable-mysql

Please note that MySQL support by default is NOT disabled.

Step 3 - Compile

That is easy. Just type “make” and let the compiler work. On any recent system, that should be a very quick task, on many systems just a matter of a few seconds. If an error message comes up, most probably a part of your build environment is not installed. Check with step 1 in those cases.

Step 4 - Install

Again, that is quite easy. All it takes is a “make install”. That will copy the rsyslogd and the man pages to the relevant directories.

Step 5 - Configure rsyslogd

In this step, you tell rsyslogd what to do with received messages. If you are upgrading from stock syslogd, /etc/syslog.conf is probably a good starting point. Rsyslogd understands stock syslogd syntax, so you can simply copy over /etc/syslog.conf to /etc/rsyslog.conf. Note since version 3 rsyslog requires to load plug-in modules to perform useful work (more about compatibilty notes v3). To load the most common plug-ins, add the following to the top of rsyslog.conf:

$ModLoad immark # provides –MARK– message capability $ModLoad imudp # provides UDP syslog reception $ModLoad imtcp # provides TCP syslog reception and GSS-API (if compiled to support it) $ModLoad imuxsock # provides support for local system logging (e.g. via logger command) $ModLoad imklog # provides kernel logging support (previously done by rklogd)

Change rsyslog.conf for any further enhancements you would like to see. For example, you can add database writing as outlined in the paper “Writing syslog Data to MySQL” (remember you need to enable MySQL support during step 2 if you want to do that!).

Step 6 - Disable stock syslogd

In almost all cases, there already is stock syslogd installed. Because both it and rsyslogd listen to the same sockets, they can NOT be run concurrently. So you need to disable the stock syslogd. To do this, you typically must change your rc.d startup scripts.

For example, under Debian this must be done as follows: The default runlevel is 2. We modify the init scripts for runlevel 2 - in practice, you need to do this for all run levels you will ever use (which probably means all). Under /etc/rc2.d there is a S10sysklogd script (actually a symlink). Change the name to _S10sysklogd (this keeps the symlink in place, but will prevent further execution - effectively disabling it).

Step 7 - Enable rsyslogd Autostart

This step is very close to step 3. Now, we want to enable rsyslogd to start automatically. The rsyslog package contains a (currently small) number of startup scripts. They are inside the distro-specific directory (e.g. debian). If there is nothing for your operating system, you can simply copy the stock syslogd startup script and make the minor modifications to run rsyslogd (the samples should be of help if you intend to do this).

In our Debian example, the actual scripts are stored in /etc/init.d. Copy the standard script to that location. Then, you need to add a symlink to it in the respective rc.d directory. In our sample, we modify rc2.d, and can do this via the command “ln -s ../init.d/rsyslogd S10rsyslogd”. Please note that the S10 prefix tells the system to start rsyslogd at the same time stock sysklogd was started.

Important: if you use the database functionality, you should make sure that MySQL starts before rsyslogd. If it starts later, you will receive an error message during each restart (this might be acceptable to you). To do so, either move MySQL’s start order before rsyslogd or rsyslogd’s after MySQL.

Step 8 - Check daily cron scripts

Most distributions come pre-configured with some daily scripts for log rotation. As long as you use the same log file names, the log rotation scripts will probably work quite well. There is one caveat, though. The scripts need to tell syslogd that the files have been rotated. To do this, they typically have a part using syslogd’s init script to do that. Obviously, the default scripts do not know about rsyslogd, so they manipulate syslogd. If that happens, in most cases an additional instance of stock syslogd is started (in almost all cases, this was not functional, but it is at least distracting). It also means that rsyslogd is not properly told about the log rotation, which will lead it to continue to write to the now-rotated files.

So you need to fix these scripts. See your distro-specific documentation how they are located. Under most Linuxes, the primary script to modify is /etc/cron.daily/sysklogd. Watch for a comment “Restart syslogd” (usually at the very end of the file). The restart command must be changed to use rsyslogd’s rc script.

Also, if you use klogd together with rsyslogd (under most Linuxes you will do that), you need to make sure that klogd is restarted after rsyslogd is restarted. So it might be a good idea to put a klogd reload-or-restart command right after the rsyslogd command in your daily script. This can save you lots of troubles.


This concludes the steps necessary to install rsyslogd. Of course, it is always a good idea to test everything thoroughly. At a minimalist level, you should do a reboot and after that check if everything has come up correctly. Pay attention not only to running processes, but also check if the log files (or the database) are correctly being populated.

If rsyslogd encounters any serious errors during startup, you should be able to see them at least on the system console. They might not be in log file, as errors might occur before the log file rules are in place. So it is always a good idea to check system console output when things don’t go smooth. In some rare cases, enabling debug logging (-d option) in rsyslogd can be helpful. If all fails, go to and check the forum or mailing list for help with your issue.

Housekeeping stuff

This section and its subsections contain all these nice things that you usually need to read only if you are really curios ;)

Feedback requested

I would appreciate feedback on this tutorial. It is still in its infancy, so additional ideas, comments or bug sighting reports are very welcome. Please let me know about them.

Revision History

  • 2005-08-08 * Rainer Gerhards * Initial version created
  • 2005-08-09 * Rainer Gerhards * updated to include distro-specific directories, which are now mandatory
  • 2005-09-06 * Rainer Gerhards * added information on log rotation scripts
  • 2007-07-13 * Rainer Gerhards * updated to new autotools-based build system
  • 2008-10-01 * Rainer Gerhards * added info on building from source repository