Shell Scripting – How to Send Signal to a Process?

In this tutorial, we will delve into the concept of sending signals to processes in shell scripting, equipping you with the knowledge and skills to effectively control and interact with processes. Signals serve as a means of communication between processes, enabling them to convey specific instructions or handle various events. Our focus will be on using shell scripts to send signals to processes.

In the following sections of this article, we will cover different aspects of sending signals to processes, starting with a solid understanding of signals and their usage. We will then dive into various methods of sending signals using shell scripts. Our exploration will encompass sending signals to specific processes, groups of processes, and even processes running on remote machines. By the end of this tutorial, you will have a comprehensive grasp of how to effectively send signals to processes in shell scripts, empowering you to optimize your system's performance and responsiveness.

Understanding Signals and Their Usage

Before we proceed, let's establish a foundation by understanding signals and their significance in the realm of operating systems. Signals are software interrupts that can be sent to processes to inform them about specific events or prompt them to execute particular actions. They serve a wide range of purposes, such as gracefully terminating a process, handling interrupts, or modifying a process's behavior.

To send signals to a process within a shell script, we employ the `kill` command. This command allows us to send a designated signal to one or more processes. By default, the `kill` command sends the SIGTERM signal, which politely requests the process to terminate gracefully, allowing it to clean up resources and exit.

Let's examine a code snippet to illustrate the process of sending a signal to a process −


# Send SIGTERM signal to a process
kill <process_id>

In the above code snippet, `<process_id>` represents the unique identifier of the process to which we intend to send the signal. We can obtain the process ID using commands like `ps` or `pgrep`, ensuring accurate targeting of the desired process.

Executing the above code snippet triggers the specified process to receive the SIGTERM signal, which, if implemented appropriately, prompts the process to terminate gracefully.

Sending Signals to Specific Processes

In many scenarios, we encounter the need to send signals to specific processes based on their names or other distinguishing criteria. To fulfill this requirement, we can leverage the `pkill` command. With the `pkill` command, we can send signals to processes based on their names, command-line arguments, or other attributes. Let's explore an example to grasp its functionality 


# Send SIGTERM signal to a process based on its name
pkill -SIGTERM <process_name>

In the above code snippet, `<process_name>` represents the name of the target process to which we aim to send the signal. The `pkill` command performs a search for processes matching the specified name and dispatches the SIGTERM signal to each of them.

The output of the above script with broadcast the SIGTERM signal to all processes that match the specified name. Consequently, these processes receive the signal and, if implemented suitably, initiate a graceful termination process.

Sending Signals to Process Groups

In certain cases, our objective may encompass sending signals to a group of processes as opposed to individual processes. Process groups comprise a collection of related processes spawned by a common parent process.

To transmit a signal to an entire process group, we can utilize the `kill` command along with the `-<signal>` option, followed by a negative process group ID. Let's consider an example to better understand the process 


# Send SIGTERM signal to a process group
kill -SIGTERM -<process_group_id>

In the above code snippet, `<process_group_id>` represents the unique identifier of the process group to which we desire to send the signal. By including a negative sign before the process group ID, we indicate our intent to broadcast the signal to the entire process group.

Executing the above code snippet initiates the transmission of the SIGTERM signal to all processes within the specified process group. If the processes are designed to handle the signal appropriately, they will gracefully terminate upon receipt.

Sending Signals to Remote Processes

In certain scenarios, it becomes necessary to send signals to processes running on remote machines. To accomplish this, we can leverage the capabilities of tools like SSH (Secure Shell) to execute commands on remote machines seamlessly.

Consider the following example illustrating the process of sending a signal to a process running on a remote machine 


# Send SIGTERM signal to a process on a remote machine
ssh user@remote_machine "kill -SIGTERM <process_id>"

In the above code snippet, `user` represents the username associated with the remote machine, `remote_machine` signifies the hostname or IP address of the targeted remote machine, and `<process_id>` denotes the process ID of the specific process to which we intend to send the signal.

If you execute the above script, he specified process running on the remote machine receives the SIGTERM signal. If implemented correctly on the remote machine, the process will gracefully terminate, adhering to the intended behavior.


In this tutorial, we have extensively explored the concept of sending signals to processes through shell scripting. By understanding the fundamentals of signals and their purpose, as well as mastering various techniques for sending signals, such as targeting specific processes, process groups, and remote processes, you are now equipped with a valuable skillset to enhance your shell scripting proficiency. By experimenting with the provided examples and exploring further possibilities, you can optimize system performance, facilitate seamless process management, and elevate your scripting capabilities.

Updated on: 28-Jul-2023


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