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Linux / Unix Command: execve
Command Library


execve - execute program


#include <unistd.h>

int execve(const char *filename, char *const argv [], char *const envp[]);


execve() executes the program pointed to by filename. filename must be either a binary executable, or a script starting with a line of the form "#! interpreter [arg]". In the latter case, the interpreter must be a valid pathname for an executable which is not itself a script, which will be invoked as interpreter [arg] filename.

argv is an array of argument strings passed to the new program. envp is an array of strings, conventionally of the form key=value, which are passed as environment to the new program. Both, argv and envp must be terminated by a null pointer. The argument vector and environment can be accessed by the called program's main function, when it is defined as int main(int argc, char *argv[], char *envp[]).

execve() does not return on success, and the text, data, bss, and stack of the calling process are overwritten by that of the program loaded. The program invoked inherits the calling process's PID, and any open file descriptors that are not set to close on exec. Signals pending on the calling process are cleared. Any signals set to be caught by the calling process are reset to their default behaviour. The SIGCHLD signal (when set to SIG_IGN) may or may not be reset to SIG_DFL.

If the current program is being ptraced, a SIGTRAP is sent to it after a successful execve().

If the set-uid bit is set on the program file pointed to by filename the effective user ID of the calling process is changed to that of the owner of the program file. Similarly, when the set-gid bit of the program file is set the effective group ID of the calling process is set to the group of the program file.

If the executable is an a.out dynamically-linked binary executable containing shared-library stubs, the Linux dynamic linker ld.so(8) is called at the start of execution to bring needed shared libraries into core and link the executable with them.

If the executable is a dynamically-linked ELF executable, the interpreter named in the PT_INTERP segment is used to load the needed shared libraries. This interpreter is typically /lib/ld-linux.so.1 for binaries linked with the Linux libc version 5, or /lib/ld-linux.so.2 for binaries linked with the GNU libc version 2.


On success, execve() does not return, on error -1 is returned, and errno is set appropriately.


The file or a script interpreter is not a regular file.
Execute permission is denied for the file or a script or ELF interpreter.
The file system is mounted noexec.
The file system is mounted nosuid, the user is not the superuser, and the file has an SUID or SGID bit set.
The process is being traced, the user is not the superuser and the file has an SUID or SGID bit set.
The argument list is too big.
An executable is not in a recognised format, is for the wrong architecture, or has some other format error that means it cannot be executed.
filename points outside your accessible address space.
filename is too long.
The file filename or a script or ELF interpreter does not exist, or a shared library needed for file or interpreter cannot be found.
Insufficient kernel memory was available.
A component of the path prefix of filename or a script or ELF interpreter is not a directory.
Search permission is denied on a component of the path prefix of filename or the name of a script interpreter.
Too many symbolic links were encountered in resolving filename or the name of a script or ELF interpreter.
Executable was open for writing by one or more processes.
An I/O error occurred.
The limit on the total number of files open on the system has been reached.
The process has the maximum number of files open.
An ELF executable had more than one PT_INTERP segment (i.e., tried to name more than one interpreter).
An ELF interpreter was a directory.
An ELF interpreter was not in a recognised format.


SVr4, SVID, X/OPEN, BSD 4.3. POSIX does not document the #! behavior but is otherwise compatible. SVr4 documents additional error conditions EAGAIN, EINTR, ELIBACC, ENOLINK, EMULTIHOP; POSIX does not document ETXTBSY, EPERM, EFAULT, ELOOP, EIO, ENFILE, EMFILE, EINVAL, EISDIR or ELIBBAD error conditions.


chmod(2), fork(2), execl(3), environ(5), ld.so(8)

Important: Use the man command (% man) to see how a command is used on your particular computer.

>> Linux/Unix Command Library

>> Shell Command Library

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