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24.2.2 Termination Signals

These signals are all used to tell a process to terminate, in one way or another. They have different names because they’re used for slightly different purposes, and programs might want to handle them differently.

The reason for handling these signals is usually so your program can tidy up as appropriate before actually terminating. For example, you might want to save state information, delete temporary files, or restore the previous terminal modes. Such a handler should end by specifying the default action for the signal that happened and then reraising it; this will cause the program to terminate with that signal, as if it had not had a handler. (See Termination in Handler.)

The (obvious) default action for all of these signals is to cause the process to terminate.

Macro: int SIGTERM

The SIGTERM signal is a generic signal used to cause program termination. Unlike SIGKILL, this signal can be blocked, handled, and ignored. It is the normal way to politely ask a program to terminate.

The shell command kill generates SIGTERM by default.

Macro: int SIGINT

The SIGINT (“program interrupt”) signal is sent when the user types the INTR character (normally C-c). See Special Characters, for information about terminal driver support for C-c.

Macro: int SIGQUIT

The SIGQUIT signal is similar to SIGINT, except that it’s controlled by a different key—the QUIT character, usually C-\—and produces a core dump when it terminates the process, just like a program error signal. You can think of this as a program error condition “detected” by the user.

See Program Error Signals, for information about core dumps. See Special Characters, for information about terminal driver support.

Certain kinds of cleanups are best omitted in handling SIGQUIT. For example, if the program creates temporary files, it should handle the other termination requests by deleting the temporary files. But it is better for SIGQUIT not to delete them, so that the user can examine them in conjunction with the core dump.

Macro: int SIGKILL

The SIGKILL signal is used to cause immediate program termination. It cannot be handled or ignored, and is therefore always fatal. It is also not possible to block this signal.

This signal is usually generated only by explicit request. Since it cannot be handled, you should generate it only as a last resort, after first trying a less drastic method such as C-c or SIGTERM. If a process does not respond to any other termination signals, sending it a SIGKILL signal will almost always cause it to go away.

In fact, if SIGKILL fails to terminate a process, that by itself constitutes an operating system bug which you should report.

The system will generate SIGKILL for a process itself under some unusual conditions where the program cannot possibly continue to run (even to run a signal handler).

Macro: int SIGHUP

The SIGHUP (“hang-up”) signal is used to report that the user’s terminal is disconnected, perhaps because a network or telephone connection was broken. For more information about this, see Control Modes.

This signal is also used to report the termination of the controlling process on a terminal to jobs associated with that session; this termination effectively disconnects all processes in the session from the controlling terminal. For more information, see Termination Internals.

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