EXEC(2) System Calls Manual EXEC(2)
execl, execv, execle, execve, execlp, execvp, exec, exece, environ -
execute a file
execl(name, arg0, arg1, ..., argn, 0)
char *name, *arg0, *arg1, ..., *argn;
char *name, *argv[ ];
execle(name, arg0, arg1, ..., argn, 0, envp)
char *name, *arg0, *arg1, ..., *argn, *envp[ ];
execve(name, argv, envp);
char *name, *argv[ ], *envp[ ];
extern char **environ;
Exec in all its forms overlays the calling process with the named file,
then transfers to the entry point of the core image of the file. There
can be no return from a successful exec; the calling core image is
Files remain open across exec unless explicit arrangement has been
made; see ioctl(2). Ignored signals remain ignored across these calls,
but signals that are caught (see signal(2)) are reset to their default
Each user has a real user ID and group ID and an effective user ID and
group ID. The real ID identifies the person using the system; the
effective ID determines his access privileges. Exec changes the effec-
tive user and group ID to the owner of the executed file if the file
has the `set-user-ID' or `set-group-ID' modes. The real user ID is not
The name argument is a pointer to the name of the file to be executed.
The pointers arg, arg ... address null-terminated strings. Con-
ventionally arg is the name of the file.
From C, two interfaces are available. Execl is useful when a known
file with known arguments is being called; the arguments to execl are
the character strings constituting the file and the arguments; the
first argument is conventionally the same as the file name (or its last
component). A 0 argument must end the argument list.
The execv version is useful when the number of arguments is unknown in
advance; the arguments to execv are the name of the file to be executed
and a vector of strings containing the arguments. The last argument
string must be followed by a 0 pointer.
When a C program is executed, it is called as follows:
main(argc, argv, envp)
char **argv, **envp;
where argc is the argument count and argv is an array of character
pointers to the arguments themselves. As indicated, argc is conven-
tionally at least one and the first member of the array points to a
string containing the name of the file.
Argv is directly usable in another execv because argv[argc] is 0.
Envp is a pointer to an array of strings that constitute the environ-
ment of the process. Each string consists of a name, an ``='', and a
null-terminated value. The array of pointers is terminated by a null
pointer. The shell sh(1) passes an environment entry for each global
shell variable defined when the program is called. See environ(5) for
some conventionally used names. The C run-time start-off routine
places a copy of envp in the global cell environ, which is used by
execv and execl to pass the environment to any subprograms executed by
the current program. The exec routines use lower-level routines as
follows to pass an environment explicitly:
execle(file, arg0, arg1, . . . , argn, 0, environ);
execve(file, argv, environ);
Execlp and execvp are called with the same arguments as execl and
execv, but duplicate the shell's actions in searching for an executable
file in a list of directories. The directory list is obtained from the
/bin/sh shell, invoked if command file found by execlp or execvp
If the file cannot be found, if it is not executable, if it does not
start with a valid magic number (see a.out(5)), if maximum memory is
exceeded, or if the arguments require too much space, a return consti-
tutes the diagnostic; the return value is -1. Even for the super-user,
at least one of the execute-permission bits must be set for a file to
If execvp is called to execute a file that turns out to be a shell com-
mand file, and if it is impossible to execute the shell, the values of
argv and argv[-1] will be modified before return.
(exec = 11.)
sys exec; name; argv
(exece = 59.)
sys exece; name; argv; envp
Plain exec is obsoleted by exece, but remains for historical reasons.
When the called file starts execution on the PDP11, the stack pointer
points to a word containing the number of arguments. Just above this
number is a list of pointers to the argument strings, followed by a
null pointer, followed by the pointers to the environment strings and
then another null pointer. The strings themselves follow; a 0 word is
left at the very top of memory.
On the Interdata 8/32, the stack begins at a conventional place (cur-
rently 0xD0000) and grows upwards. After exec, the layout of data on
the stack is as follows.
arg0: byte ...
argp0: int arg0
envp0: int env0
%2-> space 40
This arrangement happens to conform well to C calling conventions.