Difference between revisions of "Netctl"

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(Configuration: Note on renaming interface name)
m (Basic method: Added note that users will need to disable services which enable network interface to use netctl.)
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  # netctl enable ''profile''
  # netctl enable ''profile''
This will create and enable a [[systemd]] service that will start when the computer boots. Changes to the profile file will not propagate to the service file automatically. After such changes, it is necessary to reenable the profile:
This will create and enable a [[systemd]] service that will start when the computer boots. However, netctl will not start your profile if your network interface device is already started -- for instance, if you are using [[dhcpcd]].
Changes to the profile file will not propagate to the service file automatically. After such changes, it is necessary to reenable the profile:
  # netctl reenable ''profile''
  # netctl reenable ''profile''

Revision as of 23:01, 27 January 2014

netctl is a CLI-based tool used to configure and manage network connections via profiles. It is a native Arch Linux project that replaces the old netcfg utility.


Tango-view-fullscreen.pngThis article or section needs expansion.Tango-view-fullscreen.png

Reason: Optional dependencies should be mentioned. (Discuss in Talk:Netctl#)

The netctl package is available in the official repositories. Installing netctl will replace netcfgAUR.

netctl and netcfgAUR are conflicting packages. You will be potentially connectionless after installing netctl if your profiles are misconfigured.

Note: It may be a good idea to use systemctl --type=service to ensure that no other service is running that may want to configure the network. Multiple networking services will conflict.

Required reading

It is advisable to read the following man pages before using netctl:


netctl uses profiles to manage network connections, profile files are stored in /etc/netctl/. Example configuration files are provided for the user to assist them in configuring their network connection. These example profiles are located in /etc/netctl/examples/. The common configurations include:

  • ethernet-dhcp
  • ethernet-static
  • wireless-wpa
  • wireless-wpa-static

To use an example profile, simply copy one of them from /etc/netctl/examples/ to /etc/netctl/ and configure it to your needs:

# cp /etc/netctl/examples/wireless-wpa /etc/netctl/profile
Note: You will most probably need to edit the interface name in the profile. As of v197, udev no longer assigns network interface names according to the wlanX and ethX naming scheme. Please do not assume that your wireless interface is named wlan0, or that your wired interface is named eth0. You can use the command ip link to discover the names of your interfaces.
Tip: As mentioned in the forums, because systemd treats hyphens in a special way, using '-' in a profile name may result in connection drop issues.
Tip: For wireless settings, you can use wifi-menu -o to generate the profile file in /etc/netctl/.
Warning: Attempting to use wifi-menu -o to generate a profile file in /etc/netctl/ with a '-' in name will likely fail. Renaming the file is recommended

Once you have created your profile, make an attempt to establish a connection using the newly created profile by running:

# netctl start profile
Note: profile is the file name, not including the full path. Providing the full path will make netctl exit with an error code.

If issuing the above command results in a failure, then use journalctl -xn and netctl status profile in order to obtain a more in depth explanation of the failure. Make the needed corrections to the failed configuration and retest.

Automatic operation

If you use only one profile (per interface) or want to switch profiles manually, the Basic method will do. Most common examples are servers, workstations, routers etc.

If you need to switch multiple profiles frequently, use Automatic switching of profiles. Most common examples are laptops.

Basic method

With this method, you can statically start only one profile per interface. First manually check that the profile can be started successfully, then it can be enabled using

# netctl enable profile

This will create and enable a systemd service that will start when the computer boots. However, netctl will not start your profile if your network interface device is already started -- for instance, if you are using dhcpcd.

Changes to the profile file will not propagate to the service file automatically. After such changes, it is necessary to reenable the profile:

# netctl reenable profile
Note: The connection is only established if the profile can be started succesfully at boot time (or when the service starts). That specifically means, in case of wired connection the cable must be plugged-in, in case of wireless connection the network must be in range.
Tip: To enable static IP profile on wired interface no matter if the cable is connected or not, use SkipNoCarrier=yes in your profile.

Automatic switching of profiles

netctl provides two special systemd services for automatic switching of profiles:

  • For wired interfaces: netctl-ifplugd@interface.service. Using this netctl profiles change as you plug the cable in and out.
  • For wireless interfaces: netctl-auto@interface.service. Using this netctl profiles change as you move from range of one network into range of other network.
Note: netcfg used net-auto-wireless.service and net-auto-wired.service for this purpose.

First install required packages:

  • Package wpa_actiond is required to use netctl-auto@interface.service.
  • Package ifplugd is required to use netctl-ifplugd@interface.service.

Now configure all profiles that netctl-auto@interface.service or netctl-ifplugd@interface.service can start.

If you want some wireless profile not to be started automatically by netctl-auto@interface.service, you have to explicitly add ExcludeAuto=yes to that profile. You can use Priority= to set priority of some profile when multiple profiles are available. netctl-ifplugd@interface.service will prefer profiles, which use DHCP. To prefer a profile with a static IP, you can use AutoWired=yes. See netctl.profile(5) for details.

Warning: Automatic selection of a WPA-enabled profile by netctl-auto is not possible with option Security=wpa-config, please use Security=wpa-configsection instead.

Once your profiles are set and verified to be working, simply enable these services using systemctl:

# systemctl enable netctl-auto@interface.service 
# systemctl enable netctl-ifplugd@interface.service  
  • If any of the profiles contain errors, such as an empty or misquoted Key= variable, the unit will fail to load with the message "Failed to read or parse configuration '/run/network/wpa_supplicant_wlan0.conf', even when that profile is not being used.
  • This method conflicts with the Basic method. If you have previously enabled a profile through netctl, run netctl disable profile to prevent the profile from starting twice at boot.

Since netctl 1.3, it possible to manually control an interface otherwise managed by netctl-auto without having to stop the netctl-auto service. This is done using the netctl-auto command. To have a list of available actions just run:

 # netctl-auto --help

Migrating from netcfg

netctl uses /etc/netctl/ to store its profiles, not /etc/network.d/ (used by netcfg).

In order to migrate from netcfg, at least the following is needed:

  • Disable the netcfg service: systemctl disable netcfg.service.
  • Uninstall netcfg and install netctl.
  • Move network profile files to the new directory.
  • Rename variables therein according to netctl.profile(5) (Most variable names have only UpperCamelCase i.e CONNECTION becomes Connection).
  • For static IP configuration make sure the Address variables have a netmask after the IP (e.g. Address=('' '') in the example profile).
  • If you setup a wireless profile according in the wireless-wpa-configsection example, note that this overrides wpa_supplicant options defined above the brackets. For a connection to a hidden wireless network, add scan_ssid=1 to the options in the wireless-wpa-configsection; Hidden=yes does not work there.
  • Unquote interface variables and other variables that don't strictly need quoting (this is mainly a style thing).
  • Run netctl enable profile for every profile in the old NETWORKS array. last doesn't work this way, see netctl.special(7).
  • Use netctl list and/or netctl start profile instead of netcfg-menu. wifi-menu remains available.
  • Unlike netcfg, by default netctl fails to bring up a NIC when it is not connected to another powered up NIC. To solve this problem, add SkipNoCarrier=yes at the end of your /etc/netctl/profile.

Passphrase obfuscation (256-bit PSK)

Note: Although "encrypted", the key that you put in the profile configuration is enough to connect to a WPA-PSK network. Therefore this process is only useful for hiding the human-readable version of the passphrase. This will not prevent anyone with read access to this file from connecting to the network. You should ask yourself if there is any use in this at all, since using the same passphrase for anything else is a very poor security measure.

Users not wishing to have the passphrase to their wireless network stored in plain text have the option of storing the corresponding 256-bit pre-shared key (PSK) instead, which is calculated from the passphrase and the SSID using standard algorithms.

  • Method 1: Use wifi-menu -o to generate a config file in /etc/netctl/
  • Method 2: Manual settings as follows.

For both methods it is suggested to chmod 600 /etc/netctl/<config_file> to prevent user access to the password.

Calculate your 256-bit PSK using wpa_passphrase:

$ wpa_passphrase your_essid passphrase
Note: This information will be used in your profile, so do not close the terminal.

In a second terminal window, copy the example file wireless-wpa from /etc/netctl/examples to /etc/netctl:

# cp /etc/netctl/examples/wireless-wpa /etc/netctl/wireless-wpa

You will then need to edit /etc/netctl/wireless-wpa using your favorite text editor and add the pre-shared key, that was generated earlier using wpa_passphrase, to the Key variable of this profile.

Once completed your network profile wireless-wpa containing a 256-bit PSK should resemble:

Description='A simple WPA encrypted wireless connection using 256-bit PSK'
  • Make sure to use the special quoting rules for the Key variable as explained at the end of netctl.profile(5).
  • If the passphrase fails, try removing the \" in the Key variable.

Tips and tricks

Replace 'netcfg current'

If you used netcfg current in the past, you can use # netctl-auto current as a replacement for connections started with netctl-auto (feature since netctl-1.3).

To manually parse the connections, you can also use:

# netctl list | awk '/*/ {print $2}'


Some universities use a system called "Eduroam" to manage their wireless networks. For this system, a WPA config-section profile with the following format is often useful:

Description='Eduroam-profile for <user>'
Tip: To prevent storing your password as plaintext, you can generate a password hash with $ echo -n <password> | iconv -t utf16le | openssl md4. Then use it as 'password=hash:<hash>'.

For TTLS and certified universities this setup works:

Description='Eduroam university'


From kernel documentation:

The Linux bonding driver provides a method for aggregating multiple network interfaces into a single logical "bonded" interface. The behavior of the bonded interfaces depends on the mode. Generally speaking, modes provide either hot standby or load balancing services. Additionally, link integrity monitoring may be performed.

Load balancing

To use bonding with netctl, additional package from official repositories is required: ifenslave.

Copy /etc/netctl/examples/bonding to /etc/netctl/bonding and edit it, for example:

Description='Bond Interface'
BindsToInterfaces=('eth0' 'eth1')

Now you can disable your old configuration and set bonding to be started automatically. Switch to the new profile, for example:

# netctl switch-to bonding
Note: This uses the round-robin policy, which is the default for the bonding driver. See official documentation for details.
Tip: To check the status and bonding mode:
$ cat /proc/net/bonding/bond0

Wired to wireless failover

This example describes how to use bonding to fallback to wireless when the wired ethernet goes down. It is assumed that dhcpcd service is running for all interfaces as by default.

You'll need additional packages from the official repositories: ifplugd, ifenslave and wpa_supplicant.

First configure the bonding driver to use active-backup:

options bonding mode=active-backup
options bonding miimon=100
options bonding primary=eth0
options bonding max_bonds=0

The max_bonds option avoids the Interface bond0 already exists error. fail_over_mac=active setting may be added if MAC filtering is used.

Next, configure a netctl profile to enslave the two hardware interfaces:

Description='A wired connection with failover to wireless'
BindsToInterfaces=('eth0' 'wlan0')

Enable the profile on startup.

# netctl enable failover

Configure wpa_supplicant to associate with known networks. This can be done with a netctl profile (remember to use IP='no') and a wpa_supplicant service running constantly, or on-demand with wpa_cli. Ways to do this are covered on the wpa_supplicant page. To run wpa_supplicant constantly create wpa_supplicant config file /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant-wlan0.conf and then run:

# systemctl enable wpa_supplicant@wlan0

Set IP='no' in wired network profile. IP address should be assigned to bond0 interface only.

If you have a wired and wireless connection to the same network, you can probably now disconnect and reconnect the wired connection without losing connectivity. In most cases, even streaming music won't skip!

Remove old dhcpcd lease


The file /var/lib/dhcpcd/dhcpcd-[interface].lease, where [interface] is the name of the interface on which you have a lease, contains the actual DHCP lease reply sent by the DHCP server. It is used to determine the last lease from the server, and its mtime attribute is used to determine when it was issued. This last lease information is then used to request the same IP address previously held on a network, if it is available. If you do not want that, simply delete this file. For example:

# rm /var/lib/dhcpcd/dhcpcd-wlan0.lease

This removes the last dhcpcd lease on the wlan0 interface.

DHCP timeout issues

If you are having timeout issues when requesting leases via DHCP you can set the timeout value higher than netctl's 30 seconds by default. Create a file in /etc/netctl/hooks/ or /etc/netctl/interfaces/, add TimeoutDHCP=40 to it for a timeout of 40 seconds and make the file executable.

Using any interface

In some cases it may be desirable to allow a profile to use any interface on the system. A common example use case is using a common disk image across many machines with differing hardware (this is especially useful if they are headless). If you use the kernel's naming scheme, and your machine has only one ethernet interface, you can probably guess that eth0 is the right interface. If you use udev's Predictable Network Interface Names, however, names will be assigned based on the specific hardware itself (e.g. enp1s0), rather than simply the order that the hardware was detected (e.g. eth0, eth1). This means that a netctl profile may work on one machine and not another, because they each have different interface names.

A quick and dirty solution is to make use of the /etc/netctl/interfaces/ directory. Choose a name for your interface alias (en-any in this example), and write the following to a file with that name (making sure it is executable).

for interface in /sys/class/net/en*; do
Interface=$(basename $interface)
echo "en-any: using interface $Interface";

Then create a profile that uses the interface. Pay special attention to the Interfaces directive. The rest are only provided as examples.


When the wired profile is started, any machine using the two files above will automatically bring up and configure the first ethernet interface found on the system, regardless of what name udev assigned to it. Note that this is not the most robust way to go about configuring interfaces. If you use multiple interfaces, netctl may try to assign the same interface to them, and will likely cause a disruption in connectivity. If you don't mind a more complicated solution, netctl-auto is likely to be more reliable.

See also