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SIGACTION(2) NetBSD System Calls Manual SIGACTION(2)
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sigaction -- software signal facilities
Standard C Library (libc, -lc)
sigaction(int sig, const struct sigaction * restrict act,
struct sigaction * restrict oact);
The system defines a set of signals that may be delivered to a process.
Signal delivery resembles the occurrence of a hardware interrupt: the
signal is blocked from further occurrence, the current process context is
saved, and a new one is built. A process may specify a handler to which
a signal is delivered, or specify that a signal is to be ignored. A
process may also specify that a default action is to be taken by the sys-
tem when a signal occurs. A signal may also be blocked, in which case
its delivery is postponed until it is unblocked. The action to be taken
on delivery is determined at the time of delivery. Normally, signal han-
dlers execute on the current stack of the process. This may be changed,
on a per-handler basis, so that signals are taken on a special signal
Signal routines execute with the signal that caused their invocation
blocked, but other signals may yet occur. A global signal mask defines
the set of signals currently blocked from delivery to a process. The
signal mask for a process is initialized from that of its parent (nor-
mally empty). It may be changed with a sigprocmask(2) call, or when a
signal is delivered to the process. Signal masks are represented using
the sigset_t type; the sigsetops(3) interface is used to modify such
When a signal condition arises for a process, the signal is added to a
set of signals pending for the process. If the signal is not currently
blocked by the process then it is delivered to the process. Signals may
be delivered any time a process enters the operating system (e.g., during
a system call, page fault or trap, or clock interrupt). If multiple sig-
nals are ready to be delivered at the same time, any signals that could
be caused by traps are delivered first. Additional signals may be pro-
cessed at the same time, with each appearing to interrupt the handlers
for the previous signals before their first instructions. The set of
pending signals is returned by the sigpending(2) function. When a caught
signal is delivered, the current state of the process is saved, a new
signal mask is calculated (as described below), and the signal handler is
invoked. The call to the handler is arranged so that if the signal han-
dling routine returns normally the process will resume execution in the
context from before the signal's delivery. If the process wishes to
resume in a different context, then it must arrange to restore the previ-
ous context itself.
struct sigaction includes the following members:
void (*sa_sigaction)(int sig, siginfo_t *info, void *ctx);
void (*sa_handler)(int sig);
When a signal is delivered to a process a new signal mask is installed
for the duration of the process' signal handler (or until a
sigprocmask(2) call is made). This mask is formed by taking the union of
the current signal mask, the signal to be delivered, and the signal mask
associated with the handler to be invoked, sa_mask.
sigaction() assigns an action for a specific signal. If act is non-zero,
it specifies an action (SIG_DFL, SIG_IGN, or a handler routine) and mask
to be used when delivering the specified signal. If oact is non-zero,
the previous handling information for the signal is returned to the user.
Once a signal handler is installed, it remains installed until another
sigaction() call is made, or an execve(2) is performed. A signal-spe-
cific default action may be reset by setting sa_handler to SIG_DFL. The
defaults are process termination, possibly with core dump; no action;
stopping the process; or continuing the process. See the signal list
below for each signal's default action. If sa_handler is set to SIG_DFL,
the default action for the signal is to discard the signal, and if a sig-
nal is pending, the pending signal is discarded even if the signal is
masked. If sa_handler is set to SIG_IGN, current and pending instances
of the signal are ignored and discarded.
Options may be specified by setting sa_flags.
SA_NODEFER If set, then the signal that caused the handler to be exe-
cuted is not added to the list of block signals. Please
note that sa_mask takes precedence over SA_NODEFER, so
that if the specified signal is blocked in sa_mask, then
SA_NODEFER will have no effect.
SA_NOCLDSTOP If set when installing a catching function for the SIGCHLD
signal, the SIGCHLD signal will be generated only when a
child process exits, not when a child process stops.
SA_NOCLDWAIT If set, the system will not create a zombie when the child
exits, but the child process will be automatically waited
for. The same effect can be achieved by setting the sig-
nal handler for SIGCHLD to SIG_IGN.
SA_ONSTACK If set, the system will deliver the signal to the process
on a signal stack, specified with sigaltstack(2).
SA_RESETHAND If set, the default action will be reinstated when the
signal is first posted.
SA_RESTART Normally, if a signal is caught during the system calls
listed below, the call may be forced to terminate with the
error EINTR, the call may return with a data transfer
shorter than requested, or the call may be restarted.
Restarting of pending calls is requested by setting the
SA_RESTART bit in sa_flags. The affected system calls
include open(2), read(2), write(2), sendto(2),
recvfrom(2), sendmsg(2) and recvmsg(2) on a communications
channel or a slow device (such as a terminal, but not a
regular file) and during a wait(2) or ioctl(2). However,
calls that have already committed are not restarted, but
instead return a partial success (for example, a short
After a fork(2) or vfork(2) all signals, the signal mask,
the signal stack, and the restart/interrupt flags are
inherited by the child.
The execve(2) system call reinstates the default action
for all signals which were caught and resets all signals
to be caught on the user stack. Ignored signals remain
ignored; the signal mask remains the same; signals that
restart pending system calls continue to do so.
See signal(7) for comprehensive list of supported signals.
SA_SIGINFO If set, the signal handler function will receive addi-
tional information about the caught signal. An alterna-
tive handler that gets passed additional arguments will be
called which is named sa_sigaction. The sig argument of
this handler contains the signal number that was caught.
The info argument contains additional signal specific
information which is listed in siginfo(2). The ctx argu-
ment is a pointer to the ucontext(2) context where the
signal handler will return to.
SA_NOKERNINFO This flag is relevant only to SIGINFO, and turns off
printing kernel messages on the tty. It is similar to the
NOKERNINFO flag in termios(4).
If the signal handler is called due to signal delively resulting from
reasons other than direct calls to kill(2) or _lwp_kill(2) or indirect
calls to _lwp_kill(2) via abort(3) or raise(3) any activity (such as
calling functions or assigning variables in the global or static scopes)
other than setting a variable of the type volatile sig_atomic_t is unde-
Only functions that are guaranteed to be async-signal-safe can safely be
used in signal handlers. These are functions that are either reentrant
or non-interruptible. (These functions are also the only functions that
may be used in a child process after doing fork(2) in a threaded pro-
The following functions are async-signal-safe. Any function not listed
below is unsafe to use in signal handlers.
_Exit(2), _exit(2), abort(3), accept(2), access(2), alarm(3), bind(2),
cfgetispeed(3), cfgetospeed(3), cfsetispeed(3), cfsetospeed(3), chdir(2),
chmod(2), chown(2), clock_gettime(2), close(2), connect(2), creat(3),
dup(2), dup2(2), execle(3), execve(2), fchmod(2), fchown(2), fcntl(2),
fdatasync(2), fork(2), fpathconf(2), fstat(2), fsync(2), ftruncate(2),
getegid(2), geteuid(2), getgid(2), getgroups(2), getpeername(2),
getpgrp(2), getpid(2), getppid(2), getsockname(2), getsockopt(2),
getuid(2), kill(2), link(2), listen(2), lseek(2), lstat(2), mkdir(2),
mkfifo(2), open(2), pathconf(2), pause(3), pipe(2), poll(2),
pthread_mutex_unlock(3), raise(3), read(2), readlink(2), recv(2),
recvfrom(2), recvmsg(2), rename(2), rmdir(2), select(2), sem_post(3),
send(2), sendmsg(2), sendto(2), setgid(2), setpgid(2), setsid(2),
setsockopt(2), setuid(2), shutdown(2), sigaction(2), sigaddset(3),
sigdelset(3), sigemptyset(3), sigfillset(3), sigismember(3), sleep(3),
signal(3), sigpause(3), sigpending(2), sigprocmask(2), sigset(3),
sigsuspend(2), sockatmark(3), socket(2), socketpair(2), stat(2),
symlink(2), sysconf(3), tcdrain(3), tcflow(3), tcflush(3), tcgetattr(3),
tcgetpgrp(3), tcsendbreak(3), tcsetattr(3), tcsetpgrp(3), time(3),
timer_getoverrun(2), timer_gettime(2), timer_settime(2), times(3),
umask(2), uname(3), unlink(2), utime(3), wait(2), waitpid(2), write(2).
The mask specified in act is not allowed to block SIGKILL or SIGSTOP.
This is enforced silently by the system.
A 0 value indicates that the call succeeded. A -1 return value indicates
an error occurred and errno is set to indicate the reason.
sigaction() will fail and no new signal handler will be installed if one
of the following occurs:
[EFAULT] Either act or oact points to memory that is not a
valid part of the process address space.
[EINVAL] sig is not a valid signal number; or an attempt is
made to ignore or supply a handler for SIGKILL or
SIGSTOP; or the sa_flags word contains bits other than
SA_NOCLDSTOP, SA_NOCLDWAIT, SA_NODEFER, SA_ONSTACK,
SA_RESETHAND, SA_RESTART, and SA_SIGINFO.
kill(1), kill(2), ptrace(2), sigaltstack(2), sigprocmask(2), sigstack(2),
sigsuspend(2), fpgetmask(3), fpsetmask(3), setjmp(3), sigblock(3),
siginterrupt(3), signal(3), sigpause(3), sigsetmask(3), sigsetops(3),
The sigaction() function conforms to ISO/IEC 9945-1:1990 (``POSIX.1'').
The SA_ONSTACK and SA_RESTART flags are Berkeley extensions, available on
most BSD-derived systems.
NetBSD 8.0 July 9, 2016 NetBSD 8.0