pidfd_open(2) — Linux manual page


PIDFD_OPEN(2)             Linux Programmer's Manual            PIDFD_OPEN(2)

NAME         top

       pidfd_open - obtain a file descriptor that refers to a process

SYNOPSIS         top

       #include <sys/types.h>

       int pidfd_open(pid_t pid, unsigned int flags);

DESCRIPTION         top

       The pidfd_open() system call creates a file descriptor that refers to
       the process whose PID is specified in pid.  The file descriptor is
       returned as the function result; the close-on-exec flag is set on the
       file descriptor.

       The flags argument is reserved for future use; currently, this
       argument must be specified as 0.

RETURN VALUE         top

       On success, pidfd_open() returns a file descriptor (a nonnegative
       integer).  On error, -1 is returned and errno is set to indicate the
       cause of the error.

ERRORS         top

       EINVAL flags is not 0.

       EINVAL pid is not valid.

       EMFILE The per-process limit on the number of open file descriptors
              has been reached (see the description of RLIMIT_NOFILE in

       ENFILE The system-wide limit on the total number of open files has
              been reached.

       ENODEV The anonymous inode filesystem is not available in this

       ENOMEM Insufficient kernel memory was available.

       ESRCH  The process specified by pid does not exist.

VERSIONS         top

       pidfd_open() first appeared in Linux 5.3.

CONFORMING TO         top

       pidfd_open() is Linux specific.

NOTES         top

       Currently, there is no glibc wrapper for this system call; call it
       using syscall(2).

       The following code sequence can be used to obtain a file descriptor
       for the child of fork(2):

           pid = fork();
           if (pid > 0) {     /* If parent */
               pidfd = pidfd_open(pid, 0);

       Even if the child has already terminated by the time of the
       pidfd_open() call, its PID will not have been recycled and the
       returned file descriptor will refer to the resulting zombie process.
       Note, however, that this is guaranteed only if the following condi‐
       tions hold true:

       · the disposition of SIGCHLD has not been explicitly set to SIG_IGN
         (see sigaction(2));

       · the SA_NOCLDWAIT flag was not specified while establishing a han‐
         dler for SIGCHLD or while setting the disposition of that signal to
         SIG_DFL (see sigaction(2)); and

       · the zombie process was not reaped elsewhere in the program (e.g.,
         either by an asynchronously executed signal handler or by wait(2)
         or similar in another thread).

       If any of these conditions does not hold, then the child process
       (along with a PID file descriptor that refers to it) should instead
       be created using clone(2) with the CLONE_PIDFD flag.

   Use cases for PID file descriptors
       A PID file descriptor returned by pidfd_open() (or by clone(2) with
       the CLONE_PID flag) can be used for the following purposes:

       · The pidfd_send_signal(2) system call can be used to send a signal
         to the process referred to by a PID file descriptor.

       · A PID file descriptor can be monitored using poll(2), select(2),
         and epoll(7).  When the process that it refers to terminates, these
         interfaces indicate the file descriptor as readable.  Note, how‐
         ever, that in the current implementation, nothing can be read from
         the file descriptor (read(2) on the file descriptor fails with the
         error EINVAL).

       · If the PID file descriptor refers to a child of the calling
         process, then it can be waited on using waitid(2).

       · The pidfd_getfd(2) system call can be used to obtain a duplicate of
         a file descriptor of another process referred to by a PID file

       · A PID file descriptor can be used as the argument of setns(2) in
         order to move into one or more of the same namespaces as the
         process referred to by the file descriptor.

       The pidfd_open() system call is the preferred way of obtaining a PID
       file descriptor for an already existing process.  The alternative is
       to obtain a file descriptor by opening a /proc/[pid] directory.  How‐
       ever, the latter technique is possible only if the proc(5) filesystem
       is mounted; furthermore, the file descriptor obtained in this way is
       not pollable and can't be waited on with waitid(2).

EXAMPLES         top

       The program below opens a PID file descriptor for the process whose
       PID is specified as its command-line argument.  It then uses poll(2)
       to monitor the file descriptor for process exit, as indicated by an
       EPOLLIN event.

   Program source

       #define _GNU_SOURCE
       #include <sys/types.h>
       #include <sys/syscall.h>
       #include <unistd.h>
       #include <poll.h>
       #include <stdlib.h>
       #include <stdio.h>

       #ifndef __NR_pidfd_open
       #define __NR_pidfd_open 434   /* System call # on most architectures */

       static int
       pidfd_open(pid_t pid, unsigned int flags)
           return syscall(__NR_pidfd_open, pid, flags);

       main(int argc, char *argv[])
           struct pollfd pollfd;
           int pidfd, ready;

           if (argc != 2) {
               fprintf(stderr, "Usage: %s <pid>\n", argv[0]);

           pidfd = pidfd_open(atoi(argv[1]), 0);
           if (pidfd == -1) {

           pollfd.fd = pidfd;

           ready = poll(&pollfd, 1, -1);
           if (ready == -1) {

           printf("Events (0x%x): POLLIN is %sset\n", pollfd.revents,
                   (pollfd.revents & POLLIN) ? "" : "not ");


SEE ALSO         top

       clone(2), kill(2), pidfd_getfd(2), pidfd_send_signal(2), poll(2),
       select(2), setns(2), waitid(2), epoll(7)

COLOPHON         top

       This page is part of release 5.08 of the Linux man-pages project.  A
       description of the project, information about reporting bugs, and the
       latest version of this page, can be found at

Linux                            2020-08-13                    PIDFD_OPEN(2)

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