sigaction man page

sigaction, rt_sigaction — examine and change a signal action


#include <signal.h>

int sigaction(int signum, const struct sigaction *act,
              struct sigaction *oldact);

Feature Test Macro Requirements for glibc (see feature_test_macros(7)):

sigaction(): _POSIX_C_SOURCE

siginfo_t: _POSIX_C_SOURCE >= 199309L


The sigaction() system call is used to change the action taken by a process on receipt of a specific signal. (See signal(7) for an overview of signals.)

signum specifies the signal and can be any valid signal except SIGKILL and SIGSTOP.

If act is non-NULL, the new action for signal signum is installed from act. If oldact is non-NULL, the previous action is saved in oldact.

The sigaction structure is defined as something like:

struct sigaction {
    void     (*sa_handler)(int);
    void     (*sa_sigaction)(int, siginfo_t *, void *);
    sigset_t   sa_mask;
    int        sa_flags;
    void     (*sa_restorer)(void);

On some architectures a union is involved: do not assign to both sa_handler and sa_sigaction.

The sa_restorer field is not intended for application use. (POSIX does not specify a sa_restorer field.) Some further details of purpose of this field can be found in sigreturn(2).

sa_handler specifies the action to be associated with signum and may be SIG_DFL for the default action, SIG_IGN to ignore this signal, or a pointer to a signal handling function. This function receives the signal number as its only argument.

If SA_SIGINFO is specified in sa_flags, then sa_sigaction (instead of sa_handler) specifies the signal-handling function for signum. This function receives the signal number as its first argument, a pointer to a siginfo_t as its second argument and a pointer to a ucontext_t (cast to void *) as its third argument. (Commonly, the handler function doesn't make any use of the third argument. See getcontext(3) for further information about ucontext_t.)

sa_mask specifies a mask of signals which should be blocked (i.e., added to the signal mask of the thread in which the signal handler is invoked) during execution of the signal handler. In addition, the signal which triggered the handler will be blocked, unless the SA_NODEFER flag is used.

sa_flags specifies a set of flags which modify the behavior of the signal. It is formed by the bitwise OR of zero or more of the following:


If signum is SIGCHLD, do not receive notification when child processes stop (i.e., when they receive one of SIGSTOP, SIGTSTP, SIGTTIN, or SIGTTOU) or resume (i.e., they receive SIGCONT) (see wait(2)). This flag is meaningful only when establishing a handler for SIGCHLD.

SA_NOCLDWAIT (since Linux 2.6)

If signum is SIGCHLD, do not transform children into zombies when they terminate. See also waitpid(2). This flag is meaningful only when establishing a handler for SIGCHLD, or when setting that signal's disposition to SIG_DFL.

If the SA_NOCLDWAIT flag is set when establishing a handler for SIGCHLD, POSIX.1 leaves it unspecified whether a SIGCHLD signal is generated when a child process terminates. On Linux, a SIGCHLD signal is generated in this case; on some other implementations, it is not.


Do not prevent the signal from being received from within its own signal handler. This flag is meaningful only when establishing a signal handler. SA_NOMASK is an obsolete, nonstandard synonym for this flag.


Call the signal handler on an alternate signal stack provided by sigaltstack(2). If an alternate stack is not available, the default stack will be used. This flag is meaningful only when establishing a signal handler.


Restore the signal action to the default upon entry to the signal handler. This flag is meaningful only when establishing a signal handler. SA_ONESHOT is an obsolete, nonstandard synonym for this flag.


Provide behavior compatible with BSD signal semantics by making certain system calls restartable across signals. This flag is meaningful only when establishing a signal handler. See signal(7) for a discussion of system call restarting.


Not intended for application use. This flag is used by C libraries to indicate that the sa_restorer field contains the address of a "signal trampoline". See sigreturn(2) for more details.

SA_SIGINFO (since Linux 2.2)

The signal handler takes three arguments, not one. In this case, sa_sigaction should be set instead of sa_handler. This flag is meaningful only when establishing a signal handler.

The siginfo_t argument to sa_sigaction is a struct with the following fields:

siginfo_t {
    int      si_signo;     /* Signal number */
    int      si_errno;     /* An errno value */
    int      si_code;      /* Signal code */
    int      si_trapno;    /* Trap number that caused
                              hardware-generated signal
                              (unused on most architectures) */
    pid_t    si_pid;       /* Sending process ID */
    uid_t    si_uid;       /* Real user ID of sending process */
    int      si_status;    /* Exit value or signal */
    clock_t  si_utime;     /* User time consumed */
    clock_t  si_stime;     /* System time consumed */
    sigval_t si_value;     /* Signal value */
    int      si_int;       /* POSIX.1b signal */
    void    *si_ptr;       /* POSIX.1b signal */
    int      si_overrun;   /* Timer overrun count;
                              POSIX.1b timers */
    int      si_timerid;   /* Timer ID; POSIX.1b timers */
    void    *si_addr;      /* Memory location which caused fault */
    long     si_band;      /* Band event (was int in
                              glibc 2.3.2 and earlier) */
    int      si_fd;        /* File descriptor */
    short    si_addr_lsb;  /* Least significant bit of address
                              (since Linux 2.6.32) */
    void    *si_lower;     /* Lower bound when address violation
                              occurred (since Linux 3.19) */
    void    *si_upper;     /* Upper bound when address violation
                              occurred (since Linux 3.19) */
    int      si_pkey;      /* Protection key on PTE that caused
                              fault (since Linux 4.6) */
    void    *si_call_addr; /* Address of system call instruction
                              (since Linux 3.5) */
    int      si_syscall;   /* Number of attempted system call
                              (since Linux 3.5) */
    unsigned int si_arch;  /* Architecture of attempted system call
                              (since Linux 3.5) */

si_signo, si_errno and si_code are defined for all signals. (si_errno is generally unused on Linux.) The rest of the struct may be a union, so that one should read only the fields that are meaningful for the given signal:

si_code is a value (not a bit mask) indicating why this signal was sent. For a ptrace(2) event, si_code will contain SIGTRAP and have the ptrace event in the high byte:

    (SIGTRAP | PTRACE_EVENT_foo << 8).

For a regular signal, the following list shows the values which can be placed in si_code for any signal, along with reason that the signal was generated.




Sent by the kernel.




POSIX timer expired.

SI_MESGQ (since Linux 2.6.6)

POSIX message queue state changed; see mq_notify(3).


AIO completed.


Queued SIGIO (only in kernels up to Linux 2.2; from Linux 2.4 onward SIGIO/SIGPOLL fills in si_code as described below).

SI_TKILL (since Linux 2.4.19)

tkill(2) or tgkill(2).

The following values can be placed in si_code for a SIGILL signal:


Illegal opcode.


Illegal operand.


Illegal addressing mode.


Illegal trap.


Privileged opcode.


Privileged register.


Coprocessor error.


Internal stack error.

The following values can be placed in si_code for a SIGFPE signal:


Integer divide by zero.


Integer overflow.


Floating-point divide by zero.


Floating-point overflow.


Floating-point underflow.


Floating-point inexact result.


Floating-point invalid operation.


Subscript out of range.

The following values can be placed in si_code for a SIGSEGV signal:


Address not mapped to object.


Invalid permissions for mapped object.

SEGV_BNDERR (since Linux 3.19)

Failed address bound checks.

SEGV_PKUERR (since Linux 4.6)

Access was denied by memory protection keys. See pkeys(7). The protection key which applied to this access is available via si_pkey.

The following values can be placed in si_code for a SIGBUS signal:


Invalid address alignment.


Nonexistent physical address.


Object-specific hardware error.

BUS_MCEERR_AR (since Linux 2.6.32)

Hardware memory error consumed on a machine check; action required.

BUS_MCEERR_AO (since Linux 2.6.32)

Hardware memory error detected in process but not consumed; action optional.

The following values can be placed in si_code for a SIGTRAP signal:


Process breakpoint.


Process trace trap.

TRAP_BRANCH (since Linux 2.4)

Process taken branch trap.

TRAP_HWBKPT (since Linux 2.4)

Hardware breakpoint/watchpoint.

The following values can be placed in si_code for a SIGCHLD signal:


Child has exited.


Child was killed.


Child terminated abnormally.


Traced child has trapped.


Child has stopped.

CLD_CONTINUED (since Linux 2.6.9)

Stopped child has continued.

The following values can be placed in si_code for a SIGIO/SIGPOLL signal:


Data input available.


Output buffers available.


Input message available.


I/O error.


High priority input available.


Device disconnected.

The following value can be placed in si_code for a SIGSYS signal:

SYS_SECCOMP (since Linux 3.5)

Triggered by a seccomp(2) filter rule.

Return Value

sigaction() returns 0 on success; on error, -1 is returned, and errno is set to indicate the error.



act or oldact points to memory which is not a valid part of the process address space.


An invalid signal was specified. This will also be generated if an attempt is made to change the action for SIGKILL or SIGSTOP, which cannot be caught or ignored.

Conforming to

POSIX.1-2001, POSIX.1-2008, SVr4.


A child created via fork(2) inherits a copy of its parent's signal dispositions. During an execve(2), the dispositions of handled signals are reset to the default; the dispositions of ignored signals are left unchanged.

According to POSIX, the behavior of a process is undefined after it ignores a SIGFPE, SIGILL, or SIGSEGV signal that was not generated by kill(2) or raise(3). Integer division by zero has undefined result. On some architectures it will generate a SIGFPE signal. (Also dividing the most negative integer by -1 may generate SIGFPE.) Ignoring this signal might lead to an endless loop.

POSIX.1-1990 disallowed setting the action for SIGCHLD to SIG_IGN. POSIX.1-2001 and later allow this possibility, so that ignoring SIGCHLD can be used to prevent the creation of zombies (see wait(2)). Nevertheless, the historical BSD and System V behaviors for ignoring SIGCHLD differ, so that the only completely portable method of ensuring that terminated children do not become zombies is to catch the SIGCHLD signal and perform a wait(2) or similar.

POSIX.1-1990 specified only SA_NOCLDSTOP. POSIX.1-2001 added SA_NOCLDSTOP, SA_NOCLDWAIT, SA_NODEFER, SA_ONSTACK, SA_RESETHAND, SA_RESTART, and SA_SIGINFO. Use of these latter values in sa_flags may be less portable in applications intended for older UNIX implementations.

The SA_RESETHAND flag is compatible with the SVr4 flag of the same name.

The SA_NODEFER flag is compatible with the SVr4 flag of the same name under kernels 1.3.9 and newer. On older kernels the Linux implementation allowed the receipt of any signal, not just the one we are installing (effectively overriding any sa_mask settings).

sigaction() can be called with a NULL second argument to query the current signal handler. It can also be used to check whether a given signal is valid for the current machine by calling it with NULL second and third arguments.

It is not possible to block SIGKILL or SIGSTOP (by specifying them in sa_mask). Attempts to do so are silently ignored.

See sigsetops(3) for details on manipulating signal sets.

See signal-safety(7) for a list of the async-signal-safe functions that can be safely called inside from inside a signal handler.

C library/kernel differences

The glibc wrapper function for sigaction() gives an error (EINVAL) on attempts to change the disposition of the two real-time signals used internally by the NPTL threading implementation. See nptl(7) for details.

The original Linux system call was named sigaction(). However, with the addition of real-time signals in Linux 2.2, the fixed-size, 32-bit sigset_t type supported by that system call was no longer fit for purpose. Consequently, a new system call, rt_sigaction(), was added to support an enlarged sigset_t type. The new system call takes a fourth argument, size_t sigsetsize, which specifies the size in bytes of the signal sets in act.sa_mask and oldact.sa_mask. This argument is currently required to have the value sizeof(sigset_t) (or the error EINVAL results). The glibc sigaction() wrapper function hides these details from us, transparently calling rt_sigaction() when the kernel provides it.


Before the introduction of SA_SIGINFO, it was also possible to get some additional information, namely by using a sa_handler with second argument of type struct sigcontext. See the relevant Linux kernel sources for details. This use is obsolete now.


In kernels up to and including 2.6.13, specifying SA_NODEFER in sa_flags prevents not only the delivered signal from being masked during execution of the handler, but also the signals specified in sa_mask. This bug was fixed in kernel 2.6.14.


See mprotect(2).

See Also

kill(1), kill(2), pause(2), restart_syscall(2), seccomp(2) sigaltstack(2), signal(2), signalfd(2), sigpending(2), sigprocmask(2), sigreturn(2), sigsuspend(2), wait(2), killpg(3), raise(3), siginterrupt(3), sigqueue(3), sigsetops(3), sigvec(3), core(5), signal(7)


This page is part of release 4.10 of the Linux man-pages project. A description of the project, information about reporting bugs, and the latest version of this page, can be found at

Referenced By

abort(3), alarm(2), bsd_signal(3), clock_nanosleep(2), clone(2), core(5), fcntl(2), fifo(7), getcontext(3), getitimer(2), inotify(7), iv_signal(3), kill(1), makecontext(3), nptl(7), pid_namespaces(7), pkeys(7), posix_spawn(3), prctl(2), proc(5), procenv(1), profil(3), psignal(3), pth(3), pthread_kill(3), pthread_sigmask(3), pthread_sigqueue(3), pthsem(3), ptrace(2), raise(3), readpassphrase(3), restart_syscall(2), rt_sigqueueinfo(2), seccomp(2), seccomp_init(3), semop(2), send(2), sigaltstack(2), sigevent(7), siginterrupt(3), signal(2), signal(7), signalfd(2), signal-safety(7), sigpause(3), sigpending(2), sigprocmask(2), sigqueue(3), sigreturn(2), sigset(3), sigsetops(3), sigsuspend(2), sigvec(3), sigwait(3), sigwaitinfo(2), socket(7), swapcontext(2), syscalls(2), system(3), sysv_signal(3), timer_getoverrun(2), user_namespaces(7), wait(2), wait4(2).

rt_sigaction(2) is an alias of sigaction(2).

2017-03-13 Linux Programmer's Manual