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system.3

SYSTEM

Section: Linux Programmer's Manual (3)
Updated: 2004-12-20
Index Return to Main Contents
 

NAME

system - execute a shell command  

SYNOPSIS

#include <stdlib.h>

int system(const char *command);
 

DESCRIPTION

system() executes a command specified in command by calling /bin/sh -c command, and returns after the command has been completed. During execution of the command, SIGCHLD will be blocked, and SIGINT and SIGQUIT will be ignored.  

RETURN VALUE

The value returned is -1 on error (e.g. fork(2) failed), and the return status of the command otherwise. This latter return status is in the format specified in wait(2). Thus, the exit code of the command will be WEXITSTATUS(status). In case /bin/sh could not be executed, the exit status will be that of a command that does exit(127).

If the value of command is NULL, system() returns non-zero if the shell is available, and zero if not.

system() does not affect the wait status of any other children.  

CONFORMING TO

C89, C99, POSIX.1-2001.  

NOTES

If the _XOPEN_SOURCE feature test macro is defined, then the macros described in wait(2) (WEXITSTATUS(), etc.) are made available when including <stdlib.h>.

As mentioned, system() ignores SIGINT and SIGQUIT. This may make programs that call it from a loop uninterruptible, unless they take care themselves to check the exit status of the child. E.g.


    while (something) {
        int ret = system("foo");

        if (WIFSIGNALED(ret) &&
            (WTERMSIG(ret) == SIGINT || WTERMSIG(ret) == SIGQUIT))
                break;
    }

Do not use system() from a program with set-user-ID or set-group-ID privileges, because strange values for some environment variables might be used to subvert system integrity. Use the exec(3) family of functions instead, but not execlp(3) or execvp(3). system() will not, in fact, work properly from programs with set-user-ID or set-group-ID privileges on systems on which /bin/sh is bash version 2, since bash 2 drops privileges on startup. (Debian uses a modified bash which does not do this when invoked as sh.)

In versions of glibc before 2.1.3, the check for the availability of /bin/sh was not actually performed if command was NULL; instead it was always assumed to be available, and system() always returned 1 in this case. Since glibc 2.1.3, this check is performed because, even though POSIX.1-2001 requires a conforming implementation to provide a shell, that shell may not be available or executable if the calling program has previously called chroot(2) (which is not specified by POSIX.1-2001).

It is possible for the shell command to return 127, so that code is not a sure indication that the execve(2) call failed.  

SEE ALSO

sh(1), signal(2), wait(2), exec(3)  

COLOPHON

This page is part of release 3.21 of the Linux man-pages project. A description of the project, and information about reporting bugs, can be found at http://www.kernel.org/doc/man-pages/.


 

Index

NAME
SYNOPSIS
DESCRIPTION
RETURN VALUE
CONFORMING TO
NOTES
SEE ALSO
COLOPHON

 

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