how to run arbitrary commands as a service

I want to show how to run the arbitrary commands as a service, even a PowerShell script if you want. This started with Core .NET that currently doesn't have the classes that support the services (although hopefully they will be added in the future). But overall I find pretty annoying that there is no easy way to separate the service management from the binary itself, nor write the services as scripts. So I wrote my own wrapper. I've seen a lot of people on Stackoverflow asking for such a wrapper, so perhaps a wrapper like this will some day become a standard part of windows.

The point of it is to start the program when the service controller says so, and then stop it when the service controller says to stop. The starting is easy. The stopping requires some way to tell the program to stop. I can think of at least 3 ways to stop the program:

  • Have a global event that will be signaled when the stop request arrives, with the program waiting for this event and exiting.
  • Just kill the process.
  • Have some command that will somehow tell the service program to stop (maybe the same program with a different command-line argument) thus shifting the responsibility there.

I'll show the implementation of the first option as the simplest one, feel free to add more.

The service with a wrapper gets installed like this:

 set SVCNAME=TestWrap
sc create %SVCNAME% binPath="%RUNDIR%\WrapSvc.exe -name %SVCNAME% -ownLog %RUNDIR%\W_%SVCNAME%.log -svcLog %RUNDIR%\S_%SVCNAME%.log -- c:\windows\system32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\powershell.exe -ExecutionPolicy Unrestricted %RUNDIR%\TestSvc.ps1" start=demand

The log of the wrapper will go into the W_*.log, the log from the stdout and stderr of the program itself into the S_*.log (after all, it's unreasonable to expect that the simple programs would always log to ETW like the real services). This example defines a service written in PowerShell, with its source code being:

 $ev = new-Object System.Threading.EventWaitHandle @($false, "ManualReset", "Global\ServiceTestWrap")

for ([int]$i = 0; !$ev.WaitOne(1000); $i++) {
    date | Out-String
    echo "Waiting $i"

date | Out-String
echo "Completed"

The default name of the event is Global\ServiceServiceName, although you can specify your own as well with the parameter -event.

When you start the service, you can see that the periodic messages start getting written into the log file, and when you stop the service, you'll find a message about it in the log file too. This is a very simple implementation that doesn't try to do any smart log rotation, it just overwrites the log files on restart (or it can keep appending to them if the parameter -append is used but this is dangerous because the files will grow indefinitely over time).

The implementation uses some of the classes I've previously shown: the service class and the error logging infrastructure (although with the logging to file for which I didn't show the implementation). It also uses the parameter parsing code that I haven't shown (hm, maybe worth showing, since I like it a lot) but the meaning of it is easy to understand.

The other noteworthy example in this code is how to do the output redirection when starting a process.

Here it goes:

Copyright (c) 2016 Microsoft Corporation

// put the includes here

ErrorMsg::Source WaSvcErrorSource(L"WrapSvc", NULL);

class WrapService: public Service
    // The thread that will be waiting for the background process to complete.
    // This handle is owned by this class.
    HANDLE waitThread_;

    shared_ptr<Logger> logger_; // the logger
    shared_ptr<LogEntity> entity_; // mostly a placeholder for now

    // Whoever created them should close them after disposing of this object.

    // Information about the running background process.
    // The code that starts it is responsible for filling this
    // field directly.
    // The event used to signal the stop request to the process,
    HANDLE stopEvent_;

    // Don't forget to fill in pi_ with the information from the started
    // background process after constructing this object!
    // name - service name
    // logger - objviously, used for logging the messages
    // stopEvent - event object used to signal the stop request
        __in const std::wstring &name,
        __in shared_ptr<Logger> logger,
        __in HANDLE stopEvent
        : Service(name, true, true, false),
        ZeroMemory(&pi_, sizeof(pi_));

        if (waitThread_ != INVALID_HANDLE_VALUE) {

    void log(
        __in Erref err,
        __in Logger::Severity sev)
        logger_->log(err, sev, entity_);

    virtual void onStart(
        __in DWORD argc,
        __in_ecount(argc) LPWSTR *argv)

        // start the thread that will wait for the background process
        waitThread_ = CreateThread(NULL, 
            0, // do we need to change the stack size?
            0, NULL);

        if (waitThread_ == INVALID_HANDLE_VALUE) {
            log(WaSvcErrorSource.mkSystem(GetLastError(), 1, L"Failed to create the thread that will wait for the background process:"),

            if (!SetEvent(stopEvent_)) {
                log(WaSvcErrorSource.mkSystem(GetLastError(), 1, L"Failed to set the event to stop the service:"),
            WaitForSingleObject(pi_.hProcess, INFINITE); // ignore any errors...


    // The background thread that waits for the child process to complete.
    // arg - the WrapService object where the status gets reported
    DWORD static waitForProcess(LPVOID arg)
        WrapService *svc = (WrapService *)arg;

        DWORD status = WaitForSingleObject(svc->pi_.hProcess, INFINITE);
        if (status == WAIT_FAILED) {
                WaSvcErrorSource.mkSystem(GetLastError(), 1, L"Failed to wait for the process completion:"),

        DWORD exitCode = 1;
        if (!GetExitCodeProcess(svc->pi_.hProcess, &exitCode)) {
                WaSvcErrorSource.mkSystem(GetLastError(), 1, L"Failed to get the process exit code:"),

            WaSvcErrorSource.mkString(0, L"The process exit code is: %d.", exitCode),
        return exitCode;

    virtual void onStop()
        if (!SetEvent(stopEvent_)) {
            log(WaSvcErrorSource.mkSystem(GetLastError(), 1, L"Failed to set the event to stop the service:"),
            // not much else to be done?

        DWORD status = WaitForSingleObject(waitThread_, INFINITE);
        if (status == WAIT_FAILED) {
            log(WaSvcErrorSource.mkSystem(GetLastError(), 1, L"Failed to wait for thread that waits for the process completion:"),
            // not much else to be done?

        // the thread had already set the exit code, so nothing more to do

    __in long argc,
    __in_ecount(argc) PWSTR argv[]

Routine Description:

    This is the Win32 entry point for the application.


    argc - The number of command line arguments.

    argv - The command line arguments.

Return Value:

    Zero on success, non-zero otherwise.

    Erref err;
    wstring result;
    HRESULT hr;
    DWORD status;

#define DEFAULT_GLOBAL_EVENT_PREFIX L"Global\\Service"

    shared_ptr<Logger> logger = make_shared<StdoutLogger>(Logger::SV_DEBUG); // will write to stdout
    std::shared_ptr<LogEntity> logEntity = NULL;

    Switches switches(WaSvcErrorSource.mkString(0, 
        L"Wrapper to run any program as a service.\n"
        L"  WrapSvc [switches] -- wrapped command\n"
        L"The rest of the arguments constitute the command that will start the actual service process.\n"
        L"The arguments will be passed directly to CreateProcess(), so the name of the executable\n"
        L"must constitute the full path and full name with the extension.\n"
        L"The switches are:\n"));
    auto swName = switches.addMandatoryArg(
        L"name", WaSvcErrorSource.mkString(0, L"Name of the service being started."));
    auto swEvent = switches.addArg(
        L"event", WaSvcErrorSource.mkString(0, L"Name of the event that will be used to request the service stop. If not specified, will default to " DEFAULT_GLOBAL_EVENT_PREFIX "<ServiceName>, where <ServiceName> is taken from the switch -name."));
    auto swOwnLog = switches.addArg(
        L"ownLog", WaSvcErrorSource.mkString(0, L"Name of the log file where the log of the wrapper's own will be switched."));
    auto swSvcLog = switches.addArg(
        L"svcLog", WaSvcErrorSource.mkString(0, L"Name of the log file where the stdout and stderr of the service process will be switched."));
    auto swAppend = switches.addBool(
        L"append", WaSvcErrorSource.mkString(0, L"Use the append mode for the logs, instead of overwriting."));

    switches.parse(argc, argv);
    // try to honor the log switch if it's parseable even if the rest aren't
    if (swOwnLog->on_) {
        // reopen the logger
        if (!swAppend->on_)
            DeleteFileW(swOwnLog->value_); // ignore the errors
        auto newlogger = make_shared<FileLogger>(swOwnLog->value_,Logger::SV_DEBUG);
        logger->logAndExitOnError(newlogger->error(), NULL); // fall through if no error
        logger = newlogger;

    logger->logAndExitOnError(switches.err_, NULL);

    // Since the underlying arguments aren't actually parsed on Windows but are
    // passed as a single string, find this string directly from Windows, for passing
    // through.
    LPWSTR cmdline = GetCommandLineW();
    PWSTR passline = wcsstr(cmdline, L" --");
    if (passline == NULL) {
        err = WaSvcErrorSource.mkString(1, L"Cannot find a '--' in the command line '%ls'.", cmdline);
        logger->logAndExitOnError(err, NULL);
    passline += 3;
    while (*passline != 0 && iswspace(*passline))

    if (*passline == 0) {
        err = WaSvcErrorSource.mkString(1, L"The part after a '--' is empty in the command line '%ls'.", cmdline);
        logger->logAndExitOnError(err, NULL);

        WaSvcErrorSource.mkString(0, L"--- WaSvc started."),
        Logger::SV_INFO, NULL);

    // Create the service stop request event

    wstring evname;
    if (swEvent->on_) {
        evname = swEvent->value_;
    } else {
        WaSvcErrorSource.mkString(0, L"The stop event name is '%ls'", evname.c_str()),
        Logger::SV_INFO, NULL);

    HANDLE stopEvent = CreateEventW(NULL, TRUE, FALSE, evname.c_str());
    if (stopEvent == INVALID_HANDLE_VALUE) {
        err = WaSvcErrorSource.mkSystem(GetLastError(), 1, L"Failed to create the event '%ls':", evname.c_str());
        logger->logAndExitOnError(err, NULL);
    if (!ResetEvent(stopEvent)) {
        err = WaSvcErrorSource.mkSystem(GetLastError(), 1, L"Failed to reset the event '%ls' before starting the service:", evname.c_str());
        logger->logAndExitOnError(err, NULL);

    auto svc = make_shared<WrapService>(swName->value_, logger, stopEvent);

        WaSvcErrorSource.mkString(0, L"The internal process command line is '%ls'", passline),
        Logger::SV_INFO, NULL);

    ZeroMemory(&si, sizeof(si));
    si.cb = sizeof(si);
    if (swSvcLog->on_) {
        if (swOwnLog->on_ && !_wcsicmp(swOwnLog->value_, swSvcLog->value_)) {
            err = WaSvcErrorSource.mkString(1, L"The wrapper's own log and the service's log must not be both redirected to the same file '%ls'.", swSvcLog->value_);
            logger->logAndExitOnError(err, NULL);

        if (!swAppend->on_)
            DeleteFileW(swSvcLog->value_); // ignore the errors


        newlog = CreateFileW(swSvcLog->value_, swAppend->on_? (FILE_GENERIC_WRITE|FILE_APPEND_DATA) : GENERIC_WRITE, 
            &inheritable, OPEN_ALWAYS, FILE_ATTRIBUTE_NORMAL, NULL);
        if (newlog == INVALID_HANDLE_VALUE) {
            err = WaSvcErrorSource.mkSystem(GetLastError(), 1, L"Open of the service log file '%ls' failed:", swSvcLog->value_);
            logger->logAndExitOnError(err, NULL);
        if (swAppend->on_)
            SetFilePointer(newlog, 0, NULL, FILE_END);

        si.dwFlags |= STARTF_USESTDHANDLES;
        si.hStdInput = GetStdHandle(STD_INPUT_HANDLE);
        si.hStdOutput = newlog;
        si.hStdError = newlog;
    if (!CreateProcess(NULL, passline, NULL, NULL,  TRUE, 0, NULL, NULL, &si, &svc->pi_)) {
        err = WaSvcErrorSource.mkSystem(GetLastError(), 1, L"Failed to create the child process.");
        logger->logAndExitOnError(err, NULL);

    if (newlog != INVALID_HANDLE_VALUE) {
        if (!CloseHandle(newlog)) {
                WaSvcErrorSource.mkSystem(GetLastError(), 2, L"Failed to close the old handle for stderr."),
                Logger::SV_ERROR, NULL); // don't exit

        WaSvcErrorSource.mkString(0, L"Started the process."),
        Logger::SV_INFO, NULL);

    if (err) {
        logger->log(err, Logger::SV_ERROR, NULL);
        if (!SetEvent(stopEvent)) {
            logger->log(WaSvcErrorSource.mkSystem(GetLastError(), 1, L"Failed to set the event to stop the service:"),
                Logger::SV_ERROR, NULL);
        WaitForSingleObject(svc->pi_.hProcess, INFINITE); // ignore any errors...

        WaSvcErrorSource.mkString(0, L"--- WaSvc stopped."),
        Logger::SV_INFO, NULL);
    return 0;