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NAME

       vfork - create a child process and block parent

SYNOPSIS

       #include <sys/types.h>
       #include <unistd.h>

       pid_t vfork(void);

STANDARD DESCRIPTION

       (From  XPG4  / SUSv2 / POSIX draft.)  The vfork() function has the same
       effect as fork(), except that the behaviour is undefined if the process
       created  by  vfork()  either modifies any data other than a variable of
       type pid_t used to store the return value from vfork(), or returns from
       the  function  in which vfork() was called, or calls any other function
       before successfully calling _exit() or one  of  the  exec()  family  of
       functions.

ERRORS

       EAGAIN Too many processes; try again.

       ENOMEM There is insufficient swap space for the new process.

LINUX DESCRIPTION

       vfork(),  just  like  fork(2),  creates  a child process of the calling
       process.  For details and return value and errors, see fork(2).

       vfork() is a special case of  clone(2).   It  is  used  to  create  new
       processes  without  copying  the page tables of the parent process.  It
       may be useful in performance sensitive applications where a child  will
       be created which then immediately issues an execve().

       vfork()  differs  from fork() in that the parent is suspended until the
       child makes a call to execve(2) or  _exit(2).   The  child  shares  all
       memory  with  its parent, including the stack, until execve() is issued
       by the child.  The child must not return from the current  function  or
       call exit(), but may call _exit().

       Signal  handlers  are inherited, but not shared.  Signals to the parent
       arrive after the child releases the parent.

HISTORIC DESCRIPTION

       Under Linux, fork() is implemented using copy-on-write  pages,  so  the
       only  penalty  incurred  by  fork()  is the time and memory required to
       duplicate the parent’s  page  tables,  and  to  create  a  unique  task
       structure  for  the child.  However, in the bad old days a fork() would
       require making a complete  copy  of  the  caller’s  data  space,  often
       needlessly,  since  usually  immediately  afterwards an exec() is done.
       Thus, for greater efficiency, BSD introduced the vfork()  system  call,
       that  did  not  fully copy the address space of the parent process, but
       borrowed the parent’s memory and thread of  control  until  a  call  to
       execve()  or  an  exit occurred. The parent process was suspended while
       the child was using its resources.  The use of vfork() was tricky:  for
       example,  not  modifying data in the parent process depended on knowing
       which variables are held in a register.

BUGS

       It is rather unfortunate that Linux revived this spectre from the past.
       The  BSD  manpage  states:  "This  system  call will be eliminated when
       proper system sharing mechanisms  are  implemented.  Users  should  not
       depend  on  the memory sharing semantics of vfork() as it will, in that
       case, be made synonymous to fork()."

       Formally speaking, the standard description given above does not  allow
       one  to  use vfork() since a following exec() might fail, and then what
       happens is undefined.

       Details of the signal handling are obscure and differ between  systems.
       The  BSD  manpage  states:  "To  avoid  a  possible deadlock situation,
       processes that are children in the middle of a vfork() are  never  sent
       SIGTTOU  or  SIGTTIN  signals; rather, output or ioctls are allowed and
       input attempts result in an end-of-file indication."

       Currently (Linux 2.3.25), strace(1) cannot follow vfork() and  requires
       a kernel patch.

HISTORY

       The  vfork()  system  call  appeared  in 3.0BSD.  In 4.4BSD it was made
       synonymous  to   fork()   but   NetBSD   introduced   it   again,   cf.
       http://www.netbsd.org/Documentation/kernel/vfork.html  .   In Linux, it
       has been equivalent to fork() until 2.2.0-pre6 or so. Since  2.2.0-pre9
       (on  i386,  somewhat later on other architectures) it is an independent
       system call. Support was added in glibc 2.0.112.

CONFORMING TO

       The vfork() call may be a bit similar to calls with the  same  name  in
       other  operating  systems.  The  requirements  put  on  vfork()  by the
       standards are weaker than those put on  fork(),  so  an  implementation
       where   the  two  are  synonymous  is  compliant.  In  particular,  the
       programmer cannot rely on the parent remaining blocked until a call  of
       execve()  or  _exit()  and cannot rely on any specific behaviour w.r.t.
       shared memory.

SEE ALSO

       clone(2), execve(2), fork(2), wait(2)