FORK(2) Linux Programmer's Manual FORK(2)
fork - create a child process
fork() creates a new process by duplicating the calling process. The
new process, referred to as the child, is an exact duplicate of the
calling process, referred to as the parent, except for the following
* The child has its own unique process ID, and this PID does not match
the ID of any existing process group (setpgid(2)).
* The child's parent process ID is the same as the parent's process
* The child does not inherit its parent's memory locks (mlock(2),
* Process resource utilizations (getrusage(2)) and CPU time counters
(times(2)) are reset to zero in the child.
* The child's set of pending signals is initially empty (sigpend-
* The child does not inherit semaphore adjustments from its parent
* The child does not inherit record locks from its parent (fcntl(2)).
* The child does not inherit timers from its parent (setitimer(2),
* The child does not inherit outstanding asynchronous I/O operations
from its parent (aio_read(3), aio_write(3)).
The process attributes in the preceding list are all specified in
POSIX.1-2001. The parent and child also differ with respect to the
following Linux-specific process attributes:
* The child does not inherit directory change notifications (dnotify)
from its parent (see the description of F_NOTIFY in fcntl(2)).
* The prctl(2) PR_SET_PDEATHSIG setting is reset so that the child
does not receive a signal when its parent terminates.
* Memory mappings that have been marked with the madvise(2) MADV_DONT-
FORK flag are not inherited across a fork().
* The termination signal of the child is always SIGCHLD (see
Note the following further points:
* The child process is created with a single thread -- the one that
called fork(). The entire virtual address space of the parent is
replicated in the child, including the states of mutexes, condition
variables, and other pthreads objects; the use of pthread_atfork(3)
may be helpful for dealing with problems that this can cause.
* The child inherits copies of the parent's set of open file descrip-
tors. Each file descriptor in the child refers to the same open
file description (see open(2)) as the corresponding file descriptor
in the parent. This means that the two descriptors share open file
status flags, current file offset, and signal-driven I/O attributes
(see the description of F_SETOWN and F_SETSIG in fcntl(2)).
* The child inherits copies of the parent's set of open message queue
descriptors (see mq_overview(7)). Each descriptor in the child
refers to the same open message queue description as the correspond-
ing descriptor in the parent. This means that the two descriptors
share the same flags (mq_flags).
* The child inherits copies of the parent's set of open directory
streams (see opendir(3)). POSIX.1-2001 says that the corresponding
directory streams in the parent and child may share the directory
stream positioning; on Linux/glibc they do not.
On success, the PID of the child process is returned in the parent, and
0 is returned in the child. On failure, -1 is returned in the parent,
no child process is created, and errno is set appropriately.
EAGAIN fork() cannot allocate sufficient memory to copy the parent's
page tables and allocate a task structure for the child.
EAGAIN It was not possible to create a new process because the caller's
RLIMIT_NPROC resource limit was encountered. To exceed this
limit, the process must have either the CAP_SYS_ADMIN or the
ENOMEM fork() failed to allocate the necessary kernel structures
because memory is tight.
SVr4, 4.3BSD, POSIX.1-2001.
Under Linux, fork() is implemented using copy-on-write pages, so the
only penalty that it incurs is the time and memory required to dupli-
cate the parent's page tables, and to create a unique task structure
for the child.
Since version 2.3.3, rather than invoking the kernel's fork() system
call, the glibc fork() wrapper that is provided as part of the NPTL
threading implementation invokes clone(2) with flags that provide the
same effect as the traditional system call. The glibc wrapper invokes
any fork handlers that have been established using pthread_atfork(3).
See pipe(2) and wait(2).
clone(2), execve(2), setrlimit(2), unshare(2), vfork(2), wait(2), capa-
This page is part of release 3.05 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/.
Linux 2008-04-22 FORK(2)