In the docs for chkconfig it says: <startlevellist> is a list of the runlevels for which the service should be started by default. Only services which are really required for a vital system should define runlevels here. If no runlevels are defined, a - should be used in place of the runlevels list. and then: More commonly, the service is off by default on all runlevels, which looks like this: # chkconfig: - 20 80 But services with a chkconfig entry like that are started at boot time (e.g. mysql, httpd). So when do they get started?