What's the best way to send a signal to all members of a process group?

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I want to kill a whole process tree. What is the best way to do this using any common scripting languages? I am looking for a simple solution.

You don't say if the tree you want to kill is a single process group. (This is often the case if the tree is the result of forking from a server start or a shell command line.) You can discover process groups using GNU ps as follows:

 ps x -o  "%p %r %y %x %c "

If it is a process group you want to kill, just use the kill(1) command but instead of giving it a process number, give it the negation of the group number. For example to kill every process in group 5112, use kill -TERM -- -5112.

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pkill -TERM -P 27888

This will kill all processes that have the parent process ID 27888.

Or more robust:

CPIDS=$(pgrep -P 27888); (sleep 33 && kill -KILL $CPIDS &); kill -TERM $CPIDS

which schedule killing 33 second later and politely ask processes to terminate.

See this answer for terminating all descendants.

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To kill a process tree recursively, use killtree():


killtree() {
    local _pid=$1
    local _sig=${2:--TERM}
    kill -stop ${_pid} # needed to stop quickly forking parent from producing children between child killing and parent killing
    for _child in $(ps -o pid --no-headers --ppid ${_pid}); do
        killtree ${_child} ${_sig}
    kill -${_sig} ${_pid}

if [ $# -eq 0 -o $# -gt 2 ]; then
    echo "Usage: $(basename $0) <pid> [signal]"
    exit 1

killtree $@

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rkill command from pslist package sends given signal (or SIGTERM by default) to specified process and all its descendants:

rkill [-SIG] pid/name...

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  • Zombies should go away when the system reaper runs though. I'll admit that I have seen systems where zombies linger, but that's atypical.
  • Sometimes those lingering zombies are responsible for some scary activity.
  • Use one of the chronos or herodes commands.
  • kill $(pstree <PID> -p -a -l | cut -d, -f2 | cut -d' ' -f1)
  • @MichaelLeBarbierGrünewald Could you please link to those programs?
  • kill -74313 -bash: kill: 74313: invalid signal specification If i add the kill -15 -GPID it worked perfectly.
  • As usual with almost any command, if you want a normal argument that starts with a - to not be interpreted as a switch, precede it with --: kill -- -GPID
  • pgrep can offer an easier way to find the process group ID. For example, to kill my-script.sh's process group, run kill -TERM -$(pgrep -o my-script.sh).
  • Better look at stackoverflow.com/questions/392022/… its by far a more elegant solution and if you need to list the pids of the children then use: ps -o pid --no-headers --ppid $PARENT_PID
  • And if you modify the format slightly and sort, you get to see all processes nicely grouped and beginning with (potentially) the group parent in each group: ps x -o "%r %p %y %x %c" | sort -nk1,2
  • Hi @davide. Good question. I think kill should always send the signal to the whole tree before receiving its own signal. But in some specific circumstances/implementations, kill may send to itself the signal, be interrupted, and then receive its own signal. However the risk should be enough minimal, and may be ignored in most of cases because other bugs should occur before this one. Can this risk be ignored in your case? Moreover other answers have this common bug (kill part of the process tree being killed). Hope this help.. Cheers ;)