Linux Commands Examples

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manage locks from shell scripts


flock [-sxon] [-w timeout] lockfile [-c] command...

flock [-sxon] [-w timeout] lockdir [-c] command...

flock [-sxun] [-w timeout] fd

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flock -n /run/talk-to-me.lck talk-to-me


This utility manages flock(2) locks from within shell scripts or the command line.

The first and second forms wraps the lock around the executing a command, in a manner similar to su(1) or newgrp(1). It locks a specified file or directory, which is created (assuming appropriate permissions), if it does not already exist.

The third form is convenient inside shell scripts, and is usually used the following manner:

flock -n 9 || exit 1
# ... commands executed under lock ...
) 9>/var/lock/mylockfile

The mode used to open the file doesn’t matter to flock; using > or >> allows the lockfile to be created if it does not already exist, however, write permission is required; using < requires that the file already exists but only read permission is required.

By default, if the lock cannot be immediately acquired, flock waits until the lock is available.


-s, --shared

Obtain a shared lock, sometimes called a read lock.

-x, -e, --exclusive

Obtain an exclusive lock, sometimes called a write lock. This is the default.

-u, --unlock

Drop a lock. This is usually not required, since a lock is automatically dropped when the file is closed. However, it may be required in special cases, for example if the enclosed command group may have forked a background process which should not be holding the lock.

-n, --nb, --nonblock

Fail (with an exit code of 1) rather than wait if the lock cannot be immediately acquired.

-w, --wait, --timeout seconds

Fail (with an exit code of 1) if the lock cannot be acquired within seconds seconds. Decimal fractional values are allowed.

-o, --close

Close the file descriptor on which the lock is held before executing command. This is useful if command spawns a child process which should not be holding the lock.

-c, --command command

Pass a single command to the shell with -c.

-h, --help

Print a help message.


The flock command is part of the util-linux package and is available from


Copyright © 2003-2006 H. Peter Anvin.
This is free software; see the source for copying conditions. There is NO warranty; not even for MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.

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Written by H. Peter Anvin <hpa[:at:]zytor[:dot:]com>.

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