EXECVE(2) BSD Programmer's Manual EXECVE(2)
execve - execute a file
execve(const char *path, char *const argv, char *const envp);
Execve() transforms the calling process into a new process. The new pro-
cess is constructed from an ordinary file, whose name is pointed to by
path, called the new process file. This file is either an executable ob-
ject file, or a file of data for an interpreter. An executable object
file consists of an identifying header, followed by pages of data repre-
senting the initial program (text) and initialized data pages. Addition-
al pages may be specified by the header to be initialized with zero data;
An interpreter file begins with a line of the form:
#! interpreter [arg]
When an interpreter file is execve'd, the system execve's runs the speci-
fied interpreter. If the optional arg is specified, it becomes the first
argument to the interpreter, and the name of the originally execve'd file
becomes the second argument; otherwise, the name of the originally ex-
ecve'd file becomes the first argument. The original arguments are
shifted over to become the subsequent arguments. The zeroth argument,
normally the name of the execve'd file, is left unchanged.
The argument argv is a pointer to a null-terminated array of character
pointers to null-terminated character strings. These strings construct
the argument list to be made available to the new process. At least one
argument must be present in the array; by custom, the first element
should be the name of the executed program (for example, the last compo-
nent of path).
The argument envp is also a pointer to a null-terminated array of charac-
ter pointers to null-terminated strings. A pointer to this array is nor-
mally stored in the global variable environ. These strings pass informa-
tion to the new process that is not directly an argument to the command
File descriptors open in the calling process image remain open in the new
process image, except for those for which the close-on-exec flag is set
(see close(2) and fcntl(2)). Descriptors that remain open are unaffected
Signals set to be ignored in the calling process are set to be ignored in
the new process. Signals which are set to be caught in the calling pro-
cess image are set to default action in the new process image. Blocked
signals remain blocked regardless of changes to the signal action. The
signal stack is reset to be undefined (see sigaction(2) for more informa-
If the set-user-ID mode bit of the new process image file is set (see
chmod(2)), the effective user ID of the new process image is set to the
owner ID of the new process image file. If the set-group-ID mode bit of
the new process image file is set, the effective group ID of the new pro-
cess image is set to the group ID of the new process image file. (The
effective group ID is the first element of the group list.) The real us-
er ID, real group ID and other group IDs of the new process image remain
the same as the calling process image. After any set-user-ID and set-
group-ID processing, the effective user ID is recorded as the saved set-
user-ID, and the effective group ID is recorded as the saved set-group-
ID. These values may be used in changing the effective IDs later (see
The new process also inherits the following attributes from the calling
process ID see getpid(2)
parent process ID see getppid(2)
process group ID see getpgrp(2)
access groups see getgroups(2)
working directory see chdir(2)
root directory see chroot(2)
control terminal see termios(4)
resource usages see getrusage(2)
interval timers see getitimer(2)
resource limits see getrlimit(2)
file mode mask see umask(2)
signal mask see sigvec(2), sigsetmask(2)
When a program is executed as a result of an execve() call, it is entered
main(argc, argv, envp)
char **argv, **envp;
where argc is the number of elements in argv (the ``arg count'') and argv
points to the array of character pointers to the arguments themselves.
As the execve() function overlays the current process image with a new
process image the successful call has no process to return to. If
execve() does return to the calling process an error has occurred; the
return value will be -1 and the global variable errno is set to indicate
Execve() will fail and return to the calling process if:
[ENOTDIR] A component of the path prefix is not a directory.
[EINVAL] The pathname contains a character with the high-order bit
[ENAMETOOLONG] A component of a pathname exceeded 255 characters, or an
entire path name exceeded 1023 characters.
[ENOENT] The new process file does not exist.
[ELOOP] Too many symbolic links were encountered in translating
[EACCES] Search permission is denied for a component of the path
[EACCES] The new process file is not an ordinary file.
[EACCES] The new process file mode denies execute permission.
[ENOEXEC] The new process file has the appropriate access permis-
sion, but has an invalid magic number in its header.
[ETXTBSY] The new process file is a pure procedure (shared text)
file that is currently open for writing or reading by
[ENOMEM] The new process requires more virtual memory than is al-
lowed by the imposed maximum (getrlimit(2)).
[E2BIG] The number of bytes in the new process's argument list is
larger than the system-imposed limit. The limit in the
system as released is 20480 bytes (NCARGS in
[EFAULT] The new process file is not as long as indicated by the
size values in its header.
[EFAULT] Path, argv, or envp point to an illegal address.
[EIO] An I/O error occurred while reading from the file system.
If a program is setuid to a non-super-user, but is executed when the real
uid is ``root'', then the program has some of the powers of a super-user
exit(2), fork(2), execl(3), environ(7)
The execve function call appeared in 4.2BSD.
4th Berkeley Distribution June 1, 1994 3