I have a .pid file, and I need to check if the process is running. So far I found two options

kill -0 `cat something.pid`

which prints out an error if the pid isn't running. I know this can be redirected to /dev/null, but it makes me think that this isn't the best solution.

The second solution would be to use ps, which however also prints on the STDOUT

ps -ef `cat something.pid`

Is it normal to redirect the output to /dev/null and just use the status code returned, or is it a sign that I'm doing something wrong and I need a different command?


for most linux distros enumerating the /proc/{pid} is a good way to obtain information about the running processes, and usually how the userspace commands like "ps" are communicating with the kernel. So for example you can do;

[ -d "/proc/${kpid}" ] && echo "process exists" || echo "process not exists"

Edit: you should check that kpid is set, but this is more useful as it will return "not exists" for unset ${kpid}

[ -n "${kpid}" -a -d "/proc/${kpid}" ] && echo "process exists" || echo "process not exists"
  • @SteveMuster This would make the answer Linux-specific. There is no /proc on OSX. And I think there's no /proc on BSD. – ash Nov 26 '14 at 15:44
  • Note with this you need to make sure ${kpid} exists – Wilf Aug 15 '15 at 12:55
  • @Wilf I edited it, so it returns "process not exists" for unset ${kpid} – Tom Aug 15 '15 at 17:18
  • Thanks - I was doing a script that checks a PID using a similar method and it didn't work till I found this was the issue :) – Wilf Aug 15 '15 at 20:27

As Anders noted, you should use kill -0 for POSIX compliance.

On Linux systems, you can also check for the existence of a file in the /proc filesystem, e.g.,

-f /proc/$(cat something.pid)/status

If this is in a script (which I assume is the case as you're worried about printing to stdout) then the following would be how you could do it:

if ps -p $(cat something.pid) > /dev/null 2>&1
    kill $(cat something.pid)
    # Deal with the fact that the process isn't running
    # i.e. clear up the pid file

The ps -p looks for a process with the pid specified in something.pid (the $() syntax is a slightly newer version of the backtick. Backtick needs escaping in certain circumstances which the new form doesn't). The 2>&1 redirects stderr for that command as well.

If the ps -p command doesn't find the process with that PID it exits with a error > 0 and so the else gets executed. Otherwise the kill statement. You can negate the above if you want by doing:

if ! ps -p ...

Hope that answers your question. Obviously be careful and test a lot when using dangerous commands such as kill.


Here are some options:

  • If you're writing init-script (e.g. the one to place in /etc/init.d/) and if you're using Debian-based distro, you'd better use start-stop-daemon:
    # start-stop-daemon -T -p $PIDFILE -u $USER_NAME -n $NAME
    You should get exit code 0 if it's running.
  • You may use pgrep and pkill from procps package:
    pgrep --pidfile $PIDFILE

If you have pid file you may use pgrep to check whether process is running:

    if pgrep -F something.pid; then
        echo "Running"
        echo "Not running"

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.