exec man page


This manual page is part of the POSIX Programmer's Manual. The Linux implementation of this interface may differ (consult the corresponding Linux manual page for details of Linux behavior), or the interface may not be implemented on Linux.

exec ā€” execute commands and open, close, or copy file descriptors


exec [command [argument...]]


The exec utility shall open, close, and/or copy file descriptors as specified by any redirections as part of the command.

If exec is specified without command or arguments, and any file descriptors with numbers greater than 2 are opened with associated redirection statements, it is unspecified whether those file descriptors remain open when the shell invokes another utility. Scripts concerned that child shells could misuse open file descriptors can always close them explicitly, as shown in one of the following examples.

If exec is specified with command, it shall replace the shell with command without creating a new process. If arguments are specified, they shall be arguments to command. Redirection affects the current shell execution environment.




See the Description.


Not used.

Input Files


Environment Variables


Asynchronous Events



Not used.


The standard error shall be used only for diagnostic messages.

Output Files


Extended Description


Exit Status

If command is specified, exec shall not return to the shell; rather, the exit status of the process shall be the exit status of the program implementing command, which overlaid the shell. If command is not found, the exit status shall be 127. If command is found, but it is not an executable utility, the exit status shall be 126. If a redirection error occurs (see Section 2.8.1, Consequences of Shell Errors), the shell shall exit with a value in the range 1-125. Otherwise, exec shall return a zero exit status.

Consequences of Errors


The following sections are informative.

Application Usage



Open readfile as file descriptor 3 for reading:

exec 3< readfile

Open writefile as file descriptor 4 for writing:

exec 4> writefile

Make file descriptor 5 a copy of file descriptor 0:

exec 5<&0

Close file descriptor 3:

exec 3<&-

Cat the file maggie by replacing the current shell with the cat utility:

exec cat maggie


Most historical implementations were not conformant in that:

foo=bar exec cmd

did not pass foo to cmd.

Future Directions


See Also

Section 2.14, Special Built-In Utilities

Referenced By

aio_error(3p), aio_read(3p), aio_return(3p), aio_write(3p), alarm(3p), atexit(3p), awk(1p), c99(1p), chmod(3p), close(3p), command(1p), confstr(3p), exit(3p), fcntl(3p), fcntl.h(0p), fork(3p), fort77(1p), fstatvfs(3p), getenv(3p), getitimer(3p), getopt(3p), getpgid(3p), getpgrp(3p), getpid(3p), getppid(3p), getrlimit(3p), getsid(3p), glob(3p), lio_listio(3p), make(1p), mknod(3p), mlock(3p), mlockall(3p), mmap(3p), newgrp(1p), nice(3p), open(3p), posix_spawn(3p), posix_trace_create(3p), posix_trace_event(3p), posix_trace_eventid_equal(3p), posix_typed_mem_open(3p), pthread_atfork(3p), pthread_sigmask(3p), putenv(3p), readdir(3p), semop(3p), setegid(3p), setenv(3p), seteuid(3p), setgid(3p), setlocale(3p), setpgid(3p), setpgrp(3p), setregid(3p), setuid(3p), sh(1p), shmat(3p), shmdt(3p), shm_open(3p), sigaction(3p), sigaltstack(3p), sighold(3p), signal(3p), sigpending(3p), stdarg.h(0p), system(3p), times(3p), ulimit(3p), umask(3p), unistd.h(0p), wait(3p), waitid(3p), wordexp(3p), xargs(1p).

2013 IEEE/The Open Group POSIX Programmer's Manual