SYSTEM(3)                   Linux Programmer's Manual                  SYSTEM(3)

       system - execute a shell command

       #include <stdlib.h>

       int system(const char *command);

       The system() library function uses fork(2) to create a child process that
       executes the shell command specified in command using execl(3) as

           execl("/bin/sh", "sh", "-c", command, (char *) NULL);

       system() returns after the command has been completed.

       During execution of the command, SIGCHLD will be blocked, and SIGINT and
       SIGQUIT will be ignored, in the process that calls system().  (These
       signals will be handled according to their defaults inside the child
       process that executes command.)

       If command is NULL, then system() returns a status indicating whether a
       shell is available on the system.

       The return value of system() is one of the following:

       *  If command is NULL, then a nonzero value if a shell is available, or 0
          if no shell is available.

       *  If a child process could not be created, or its status could not be
          retrieved, the return value is -1 and errno is set to indicate the

       *  If a shell could not be executed in the child process, then the return
          value is as though the child shell terminated by calling _exit(2) with
          the status 127.

       *  If all system calls succeed, then the return value is the termination
          status of the child shell used to execute command.  (The termination
          status of a shell is the termination status of the last command it

       In the last two cases, the return value is a "wait status" that can be
       examined using the macros described in waitpid(2).  (i.e., WIFEXITED(),
       WEXITSTATUS(), and so on).

       system() does not affect the wait status of any other children.

       system() can fail with any of the same errors as fork(2).

       For an explanation of the terms used in this section, see attributes(7).

       │Interface                                     Attribute     Value   │
       │system()                                      │ Thread safety │ MT-Safe │

       POSIX.1-2001, POSIX.1-2008, C89, C99.

       system() provides simplicity and convenience: it handles all of the
       details of calling fork(2), execl(3), and waitpid(2), as well as the
       necessary manipulations of signals; in addition, the shell performs the
       usual substitutions and I/O redirections for command.  The main cost of
       system() is inefficiency: additional system calls are required to create
       the process that runs the shell and to execute the shell.

       If the _XOPEN_SOURCE feature test macro is defined (before including any
       header files), then the macros described in waitpid(2) (WEXITSTATUS(),
       etc.) are made available when including <stdlib.h>.

       As mentioned, system() ignores SIGINT and SIGQUIT.  This may make
       programs that call it from a loop uninterruptible, unless they take care
       themselves to check the exit status of the child.  For example:

           while (something) {
               int ret = system("foo");

               if (WIFSIGNALED(ret) &&
                   (WTERMSIG(ret) == SIGINT || WTERMSIG(ret) == SIGQUIT))

       According to POSIX.1, it is unspecified whether handlers registered using
       pthread_atfork(3) are called during the execution of system().  In the
       glibc implementation, such handlers are not called.

       In versions of glibc before 2.1.3, the check for the availability of
       /bin/sh was not actually performed if command was NULL; instead it was
       always assumed to be available, and system() always returned 1 in this
       case.  Since glibc 2.1.3, this check is performed because, even though
       POSIX.1-2001 requires a conforming implementation to provide a shell,
       that shell may not be available or executable if the calling program has
       previously called chroot(2) (which is not specified by POSIX.1-2001).

       It is possible for the shell command to terminate with a status of 127,
       which yields a system() return value that is indistinguishable from the
       case where a shell could not be executed in the child process.

       Do not use system() from a privileged program (a set-user-ID or set-
       group-ID program, or a program with capabilities) because strange values
       for some environment variables might be used to subvert system integrity.
       For example, PATH could be manipulated so that an arbitrary program is
       executed with privilege.  Use the exec(3) family of functions instead,
       but not execlp(3) or execvp(3) (which also use the PATH environment
       variable to search for an executable).

       system() will not, in fact, work properly from programs with set-user-ID
       or set-group-ID privileges on systems on which /bin/sh is bash version 2:
       as a security measure, bash 2 drops privileges on startup.  (Debian uses
       a different shell, dash(1), which does not do this when invoked as sh.)

       Any user input that is employed as part of command should be carefully
       sanitized, to ensure that unexpected shell commands or command options
       are not executed.  Such risks are especially grave when using system()
       from a privileged program.

       If the command name starts with a hyphen, sh(1) interprets the command
       name as an option, and the behavior is undefined.  (See the -c option to
       sh(1).)  To work around this problem, prepend the command with a space as
       in the following call:

               system(" -unfortunate-command-name");

       sh(1), execve(2), fork(2), sigaction(2), sigprocmask(2), wait(2),
       exec(3), signal(7)

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                                   2021-03-22                          SYSTEM(3)