Next: , Previous: , Up: Top   [Contents][Index]

Appendix E Signals

Some program operations bring about an error condition called a signal. These signals terminate the program, by default.

There are various different kinds of signals, each with a name. We have seen several such error conditions through this manual:


This signal is generated when a program tries to read or write outside the memory that is allocated for it, or to write memory that can only be read. The name is an abbreviation for “segmentation violation”.


This signal indicates a fatal arithmetic error. The name is an abbreviation for “floating-point exception”, but covers all types of arithmetic errors, including division by zero and overflow.


This signal is generated when an invalid pointer is dereferenced, typically the result of dereferencing an uninitialized pointer. It is similar to SIGSEGV, except that SIGSEGV indicates invalid access to valid memory, while SIGBUS indicates an attempt to access an invalid address.

These kinds of signal allow the program to specify a function as a signal handler. When a signal has a handler, it doesn’t terminate the program; instead it calls the handler.

There are many other kinds of signal; here we list only those that come from run-time errors in C operations. The rest have to do with the functioning of the operating system. The GNU C Library Reference Manual gives more explanation about signals (see The GNU C Library in The GNU C Library Reference Manual).