Common Functionality

All resources (including custom resources) share a set of common actions, properties, conditional executions, notifications, and relative path options.


The following actions may be used with any resource:

Define this resource block to do nothing until notified by another resource to take action. When this resource is notified, this resource block is either run immediately or it is queued up to be run at the end of the chef-client run.


The following examples show how to use common actions in a recipe.

Use the :nothing action

service 'memcached' do
  action :nothing
  supports :status => true, :start => true, :stop => true, :restart => true


The following properties are common to every resource:


Ruby Types: TrueClass, FalseClass

Continue running a recipe if a resource fails for any reason. Default value: false.


Ruby Type: Chef Class

Optional. Explicitly specifies a provider.


Ruby Type: Integer

The number of times to catch exceptions and retry the resource. Default value: 0.


Ruby Type: Integer

The retry delay (in seconds). Default value: 2.


Ruby Type: Hash

A hash of options that contains hints about the capabilities of a resource. The chef-client may use these hints to help identify the correct provider. This property is only used by a small number of resources, including user and service.


The following examples show how to use common properties in a recipe.

Use the ignore_failure common property

gem_package 'syntax' do
  action :install
  ignore_failure true

Use the provider common property

package 'some_package' do
  provider Chef::Provider::Package::Rubygems

Use the supports common property

service 'apache' do
  supports :restart => true, :reload => true
  action :enable

Use the supports and providers common properties

service 'some_service' do
  provider Chef::Provider::Service::Upstart
  supports :status => true, :restart => true, :reload => true
  action [ :enable, :start ]


A guard property can be used to evaluate the state of a node during the execution phase of the chef-client run. Based on the results of this evaluation, a guard property is then used to tell the chef-client if it should continue executing a resource. A guard property accepts either a string value or a Ruby block value:

  • A string is executed as a shell command. If the command returns 0, the guard is applied. If the command returns any other value, then the guard property is not applied. String guards in a powershell_script run Windows PowerShell commands and may return true in addition to 0.
  • A block is executed as Ruby code that must return either true or false. If the block returns true, the guard property is applied. If the block returns false, the guard property is not applied.

A guard property is useful for ensuring that a resource is idempotent by allowing that resource to test for the desired state as it is being executed, and then if the desired state is present, for the chef-client to do nothing.


When using the not_if and only_if guards with the execute resource, the current working directory property (cwd) is not inherited from the resource. For example:

execute 'bundle install' do
  cwd '/myapp'
  not_if 'bundle check' # This is not run inside /myapp


The following properties can be used to define a guard that is evaluated during the execution phase of the chef-client run:

Prevent a resource from executing when the condition returns true.
Allow a resource to execute only if the condition returns true.


The following arguments can be used with the not_if or only_if guard properties:


Specify the user that a command will run as. For example:

not_if 'grep adam /etc/passwd', :user => 'adam'

Specify the group that a command will run as. For example:

not_if 'grep adam /etc/passwd', :group => 'adam'

Specify a Hash of environment variables to be set. For example:

not_if 'grep adam /etc/passwd', :environment => {
  'HOME' => '/home/adam'

Set the current working directory before running a command. For example:

not_if 'grep adam passwd', :cwd => '/etc'

Set a timeout for a command. For example:

not_if 'sleep 10000', :timeout => 10

not_if Examples

Update if not already updated

The following example shows how to use not_if to guard against running the apt-get-update command when a file already exists that is the same as the updated file:

execute "apt-get-update" do
  command "apt-get update"
  ignore_failure true
  not_if do ::File.exist?('/var/lib/apt/periodic/update-success-stamp') end

Ensure a node can resolve a host

The following example shows how to use a custom block of Ruby code to ensure that a node can resolve the host. If the node can resolve the host, the chef-client will do nothing. If the node cannot resolve the host, the chef-client will configure the host:

ruby_block "ensure node can resolve API FQDN" do
  block do
    fe ="/etc/hosts")
                               " #{node['chef-server']['api_fqdn']}")
  not_if { Resolv.getaddress(node['chef-server']['api_fqdn']) rescue false }

Prevent installs on older versions

The following example shows how to use not_if to prevent ZeroMQ from being installed when the node on which the install is to occur has a version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux that is older than version 6.0:

ark "test_autogen" do
  url ''
  extension "tar.gz"
  action :configure
  not_if { platform_family?('rhel') && node['platform_version'].to_f < 6.0 }

Set the administrator if not already set

The following example shows how to set the administrator for Nagios on multiple nodes, except when the package already exists on a node:

%w{adminpassword adminpassword-repeat}.each do |setting|
  execute "debconf-set-selections::#{node['nagios']['server']['vname']}-cgi::#{node['nagios']['server']['vname']}/#{setting}" do
    command "echo #{node['nagios']['server']['vname']}-cgi #{node['nagios']['server']['vname']}/#{setting} password #{random_initial_password} | debconf-set-selections"
    not_if "dpkg -l #{node['nagios']['server']['vname']}"

only_if Examples

Install packages only when necessary

The following example shows how to use only_if with one (or more) cookbook attributes to ensure that packages are only installed when necessary. In this case, three attributes exist in the /attributes/default.rb file: use_openssl, use_pcre, and use_zlib. Each of these attributes are defined as false by default. The only_if attributes are used to test for the presence of these packages on the target node before then asking the chef-client to complete the process of installing these packages. If the packages are already present, the chef-client will do nothing.

package 'libpcre3-dev' do
  only_if { node['haproxy']['source']['use_pcre'] }

package 'libssl-dev' do
  only_if { node['haproxy']['source']['use_openssl'] }

package 'zlib1g-dev' do
  only_if { node['haproxy']['source']['use_zlib'] }

Remove a recipe if it belongs to a specific run-list

The following example shows how to use only_if to only remove a recipe named recipe[ntp::undo], but only when that recipe is part of the recipe[ntp::default] run-list:

ruby_block 'remove ntp::undo from run list' do
  block do
  only_if { node.run_list.include?('recipe[ntp::default]') }

Re-register ASP.Net if it’s already installed

The following example shows how to use only_if to ensure that the chef-client will attempt to register ASP.NET only if the executable is installed on the system, on both 32- and 64-bit systems:

aspnet_regiis = "#{ENV['WinDir']}\\Microsoft.NET\\Framework\\v4.0.30319\\aspnet_regiis.exe"
execute 'Register ASP.NET v4' do
  command "#{aspnet_regiis} -i"
  only_if { File.exist?(aspnet_regiis) }
  action :nothing

aspnet_regiis64 = "#{ENV['WinDir']}\\Microsoft.NET\\Framework64\\v4.0.30319\\aspnet_regiis.exe"
execute 'Register ASP.NET v4 (x64)' do
  command "#{aspnet_regiis64} -i"
  only_if { File.exist?(aspnet_regiis64) }
  action :nothing

Lazy Evaluation

In some cases, the value for a property cannot be known until the execution phase of a chef-client run. In this situation, using lazy evaluation of property values can be helpful. Instead of a property being assigned a value, it may instead be assigned a code block. The syntax for using lazy evaluation is as follows:

attribute_name lazy { code_block }

where lazy is used to tell the chef-client to evaluate the contents of the code block later on in the resource evaluation process (instead of immediately) and { code_block } is arbitrary Ruby code that provides the value.

For example, a resource that is not doing lazy evaluation:

template 'template_name' do
  # some attributes
  path '/foo/bar'

and a resource block that is doing lazy evaluation:

template 'template_name' do
  # some attributes
  path lazy { ' some Ruby code ' }

In the previous examples, the first resource uses the value /foo/bar and the second resource uses the value provided by the code block, as long as the contents of that code block are a valid resource property.

The following example shows how to use lazy evaluation with template variables:

template '/tmp/canvey_island.txt' do
  source 'canvey_island.txt.erb'
    lazy {
      { :canvey_island => node.run_state['sea_power'] }


A notification is a property on a resource that listens to other resources in the resource collection and then takes actions based on the notification type (notifies or subscribes).


A timer specifies the point during the chef-client run at which a notification is run. The following timers are available:

Default. Specifies that a notification should be queued up, and then executed at the very end of the chef-client run.
:immediate, :immediately
Specifies that a notification should be run immediately, per resource notified.


A resource may notify another resource to take action when its state changes. Specify a 'resource[name]', the :action that resource should take, and then the :timer for that action. A resource may notifiy more than one resource; use a notifies statement for each resource to be notified.

The syntax for notifies is:

notifies :action, 'resource[name]', :timer


The following examples show how to use the notifies notification in a recipe.

Delay notifications

template '/etc/nagios3/configures-nagios.conf' do
  # other parameters
  notifies :run, 'execute[test-nagios-config]', :delayed

Notify immediately

By default, notifications are :delayed, that is they are queued up as they are triggered, and then executed at the very end of a chef-client run. To run an action immediately, use :immediately:

template '/etc/nagios3/configures-nagios.conf' do
  # other parameters
  notifies :run, 'execute[test-nagios-config]', :immediately

and then the chef-client would immediately run the following:

execute 'test-nagios-config' do
  command 'nagios3 --verify-config'
  action :nothing

Notify multiple resources

template '/etc/chef/server.rb' do
  source 'server.rb.erb'
  owner 'root'
  group 'root'
  mode '0755'
  notifies :restart, 'service[chef-solr]', :delayed
  notifies :restart, 'service[chef-solr-indexer]', :delayed
  notifies :restart, 'service[chef-server]', :delayed

Notify in a specific order

To notify multiple resources, and then have these resources run in a certain order, do something like the following:

execute 'foo' do
  command '...'
  notifies :create, 'template[baz]', :immediately
  notifies :install, 'package[bar]', :immediately
  notifies :run, 'execute[final]', :immediately

template 'baz' do
  notifies :run, 'execute[restart_baz]', :immediately

package 'bar'

execute 'restart_baz'

execute 'final' do
  command '...'

where the sequencing will be in the same order as the resources are listed in the recipe: execute 'foo', template 'baz', execute [restart_baz], package 'bar', and execute 'final'.

Reload a service

template '/tmp/somefile' do
  mode '0755'
  source 'somefile.erb'
  notifies :reload, 'service[apache]', :immediately

Restart a service when a template is modified

template '/etc/www/configures-apache.conf' do
  notifies :restart, 'service[apache]', :immediately

Send notifications to multiple resources

To send notifications to multiple resources, just use multiple attributes. Multiple attributes will get sent to the notified resources in the order specified.

template '/etc/netatalk/netatalk.conf' do
  notifies :restart, 'service[afpd]', :immediately
  notifies :restart, 'service[cnid]', :immediately

service 'afpd'
service 'cnid'

Execute a command using a template

The following example shows how to set up IPv4 packet forwarding using the execute resource to run a command named forward_ipv4 that uses a template defined by the template resource:

execute 'forward_ipv4' do
  command 'echo > /proc/.../ipv4/ip_forward'
  action :nothing

template '/etc/file_name.conf' do
  source 'routing/file_name.conf.erb'
  notifies :run, 'execute[forward_ipv4]', :delayed

where the command property for the execute resource contains the command that is to be run and the source property for the template resource specifies which template to use. The notifies property for the template specifies that the execute[forward_ipv4] (which is defined by the execute resource) should be queued up and run at the end of the chef-client run.

Restart a service, and then notify a different service

The following example shows how start a service named example_service and immediately notify the Nginx service to restart.

service 'example_service' do
  action :start
  provider Chef::Provider::Service::Init
  notifies :restart, 'service[nginx]', :immediately

where by using the default provider for the service, the recipe is telling the chef-client to determine the specific provider to be used during the chef-client run based on the platform of the node on which the recipe will run.

Notify when a remote source changes

remote_file '/tmp/couch.png' do
  source ''
  action :nothing

http_request 'HEAD' do
  message ''
  url ''
  action :head
  if File.exist?('/tmp/couch.png')
    headers 'If-Modified-Since' => File.mtime('/tmp/couch.png').httpdate
  notifies :create, 'remote_file[/tmp/couch.png]', :immediately


A resource may listen to another resource, and then take action if the state of the resource being listened to changes. Specify a 'resource[name]', the :action to be taken, and then the :timer for that action.

The syntax for subscribes is:

subscribes :action, 'resource[name]', :timer


The following examples show how to use the subscribes notification in a recipe.

Prevent restart and reconfigure if configuration is broken

Use the :nothing action (common to all resources) to prevent an application from restarting, and then use the subscribes notification to ask the broken configuration to be reconfigured immediately:

execute 'test-nagios-config' do
  command 'nagios3 --verify-config'
  action :nothing
  subscribes :run, 'template[/etc/nagios3/configures-nagios.conf]', :immediately

Reload a service using a template

To reload a service based on a template, use the template and service resources together in the same recipe, similar to the following:

template '/tmp/somefile' do
  mode '0755'
  source 'somefile.erb'

service 'apache' do
  supports :restart => true, :reload => true
  action :enable
  subscribes :reload, 'template[/tmp/somefile]', :immediately

where the subscribes notification is used to reload the service using the template specified by the template resource.

Stash a file in a data bag

The following example shows how to use the ruby_block resource to stash a BitTorrent file in a data bag so that it can be distributed to nodes in the organization.

# the following code sample comes from the ``seed`` recipe
# in the following cookbook:

ruby_block 'share the torrent file' do
  block do
    f =['bittorrent']['torrent'],'rb')
    #read the .torrent file and base64 encode it
    enc = Base64.encode64(
    data = {
    item =
    item.raw_data = data
  action :nothing
  subscribes :create, "bittorrent_torrent[#{node['bittorrent']['torrent']}]", :immediately

Relative Paths

The following relative paths can be used with any resource:

Use to return the ~ path in Linux and Mac OS X or the %HOMEPATH% in Microsoft Windows.


template "#{ENV['HOME']}/chef-getting-started.txt" do
  source 'chef-getting-started.txt.erb'
  mode '0755'

Run in Compile Phase

The chef-client processes recipes in two phases:

  1. First, each resource in the node object is identified and a resource collection is built. All recipes are loaded in a specific order, and then the actions specified within each of them are identified. This is also referred to as the “compile phase”.
  2. Next, the chef-client configures the system based on the order of the resources in the resource collection. Each resource is mapped to a provider, which then examines the node and performs the necessary steps to complete the action. This is also referred to as the “execution phase”.

Typically, actions are processed during the execution phase of the chef-client run. However, sometimes it is necessary to run an action during the compile phase. For example, a resource can be configured to install a package during the compile phase to ensure that application is available to other resources during the execution phase.


Use the chef_gem resource to install gems that are needed by the chef-client during the execution phase.


Use .run_action(:some_action) at the end of a resource block to run the specified action during the compile phase. For example:

resource_name 'foo' do
  action :nothing

where action is set to :nothing to ensure the run_action is run during the compile phase and not later during the execution phase.

The following examples show when (and when not) to use run_action.

Update a package cache

Sometimes it is necessary to ensure that an operating system’s package cache is up to date before installing packages. For example, on Debian or Ubuntu systems, the Apt cache should be updated:

if node['apt']['compile_time_update'] && ( !::File.exist?('/var/lib/apt/periodic/update-success-stamp') || !::File.exist?(first_run_file) )
  e = bash 'apt-get-update at compile time' do
    code <<-EOH
      apt-get update
      touch #{first_run_file}
    ignore_failure true
    only_if { apt_installed? }
    action :nothing

where e.run_action(:run) tells the chef-client to run the apt-get update command during the compile phase. This example can be found in the default.rb recipe of the apt cookbook that is maintained by Chef.

Use the chef_gem resource for Ruby gems

A very common use case us to install a gem during the compile phase so that it will be available to the chef-client during the execution phase. This is why the chef_gem resource exists. For example, this:

chef_gem 'foo' do
  action :install

is effectively the same as

gem_package 'foo' do
  action :nothing

but without needing to define a run_action.

Notifications will not work

Resources that are executed during the compile phase cannot notify other resources. For example:

execute 'ifconfig'

p = package 'vim-enhanced' do
  action :nothing
  notifies :run, 'execute[ifconfig]', :immediately

A better approach in this type of situation is to install the package before the resource collection is built to ensure that it is available to other resources later on.

Windows File Security

To support Microsoft Windows security, the template, file, remote_file, cookbook_file, directory, and remote_directory resources support the use of inheritance and access control lists (ACLs) within recipes.

Access Control Lists (ACLs)

The rights property can be used in a recipe to manage access control lists (ACLs), which allow permissions to be given to multiple users and groups. Use the rights property can be used as many times as necessary; the chef-client will apply them to the file or directory as required. The syntax for the rights property is as follows:

rights permission, principal, option_type => value



Use to specify which rights are granted to the principal. The possible values are: :read, :write, read_execute, :modify, and :full_control.

These permissions are cumulative. If :write is specified, then it includes :read. If :full_control is specified, then it includes both :write and :read.

(For those who know the Microsoft Windows API: :read corresponds to GENERIC_READ; :write corresponds to GENERIC_WRITE; :read_execute corresponds to GENERIC_READ and GENERIC_EXECUTE; :modify corresponds to GENERIC_WRITE, GENERIC_READ, GENERIC_EXECUTE, and DELETE; :full_control corresponds to GENERIC_ALL, which allows a user to change the owner and other metadata about a file.)

Use to specify a group or user name. This is identical to what is entered in the login box for Microsoft Windows, such as user_name, domain\user_name, or user_name@fully_qualified_domain_name. The chef-client does not need to know if a principal is a user or a group.

A hash that contains advanced rights options. For example, the rights to a directory that only applies to the first level of children might look something like: rights :write, 'domain\group_name', :one_level_deep => true. Possible option types:

Option Type Description
:applies_to_children Specify how permissions are applied to children. Possible values: true to inherit both child directories and files; false to not inherit any child directories or files; :containers_only to inherit only child directories (and not files); :objects_only to recursively inherit files (and not child directories).
:applies_to_self Indicates whether a permission is applied to the parent directory. Possible values: true to apply to the parent directory or file and its children; false to not apply only to child directories and files.
:one_level_deep Indicates the depth to which permissions will be applied. Possible values: true to apply only to the first level of children; false to apply to all children.

For example:

resource 'x.txt' do
  rights :read, 'Everyone'
  rights :write, 'domain\group'
  rights :full_control, 'group_name_or_user_name'
  rights :full_control, 'user_name', :applies_to_children => true


rights :read, ['Administrators','Everyone']
rights :full_control, 'Users', :applies_to_children => true
rights :write, 'Sally', :applies_to_children => :containers_only, :applies_to_self => false, :one_level_deep => true

Some other important things to know when using the rights attribute:

  • Only inherited rights remain. All existing explicit rights on the object are removed and replaced.
  • If rights are not specified, nothing will be changed. The chef-client does not clear out the rights on a file or directory if rights are not specified.
  • Changing inherited rights can be expensive. Microsoft Windows will propagate rights to all children recursively due to inheritance. This is a normal aspect of Microsoft Windows, so consider the frequency with which this type of action is necessary and take steps to control this type of action if performance is the primary consideration.

Use the deny_rights property to deny specific rights to specific users. The ordering is independent of using the rights property. For example, it doesn’t matter if rights are granted to everyone is placed before or after deny_rights :read, ['Julian', 'Lewis'], both Julian and Lewis will be unable to read the document. For example:

resource 'x.txt' do
  rights :read, 'Everyone'
  rights :write, 'domain\group'
  rights :full_control, 'group_name_or_user_name'
  rights :full_control, 'user_name', :applies_to_children => true
  deny_rights :read, ['Julian', 'Lewis']


deny_rights :full_control, ['Sally']


By default, a file or directory inherits rights from its parent directory. Most of the time this is the preferred behavior, but sometimes it may be necessary to take steps to more specifically control rights. The inherits property can be used to specifically tell the chef-client to apply (or not apply) inherited rights from its parent directory.

For example, the following example specifies the rights for a directory:

directory 'C:\mordor' do
  rights :read, 'MORDOR\Minions'
  rights :full_control, 'MORDOR\Sauron'

and then the following example specifies how to use inheritance to deny access to the child directory:

directory 'C:\mordor\mount_doom' do
  rights :full_control, 'MORDOR\Sauron'
  inherits false # Sauron is the only person who should have any sort of access

If the deny_rights permission were to be used instead, something could slip through unless all users and groups were denied.

Another example also shows how to specify rights for a directory:

directory 'C:\mordor' do
  rights :read, 'MORDOR\Minions'
  rights :full_control, 'MORDOR\Sauron'
  rights :write, 'SHIRE\Frodo' # Who put that there I didn't put that there

but then not use the inherits property to deny those rights on a child directory:

directory 'C:\mordor\mount_doom' do
  deny_rights :read, 'MORDOR\Minions' # Oops, not specific enough

Because the inherits property is not specified, the chef-client will default it to true, which will ensure that security settings for existing files remain unchanged.