nohup and Background Processes

Stop stuff stopping

If you run a command in a terminal session and the terminal session is disconnected, then the processes running in it will also be terminated.

I discovered this when I was trying to download a ~500GB database overnight. I logged in the next morning expecting to see a completed download, but found I only had half the file.

Use nohup to ignore HUP signals

One solution to this seems to be to use nohup, a command that ignores the HUP signal. It stops your programme from stopping if the terminal session its running in is stopped.

By convention, the HUP signal is the method used by a terminal to warn dependent processes that it is about to logout.

You probably want to run nohup in the background. You might want to prevent it from creating nohup.out.

Close or redirect fd0 - fd2

On Linux, nohup automatically closes stdin. If you're using MacOS or BSD this doesn't automatically happen, so you might want to redirect it yourself. This is because if a background process tries to read anything from stdin then it will pause itself whilst it waits for you to bring it to the foreground and type some input. This is probably a waste of time.

If nohup detects that you have redirected stdout and stderr then it won't create nohup.out.

As with all commands, if you put & at the end of the command, it will run in the background. You can bring it to the foreground by running fg, or see a list of jobs by running jobs.

If you redirect input to /dev/null (</dev/null) you will stop the program from receiving keyboard (stdin) input, but you won't prevent it from accessing the terminal directly. Also you haven't removed the program from the shell's process group.

Stopping signals using disown

If you want to remove a program from the shell's process group, then immediately after you've run the command to start your programme, run disown with no arguments. This will make the background process no longer associated with the shell job and it wont have any signals forwarded to it by the shell.

A disowned process gets nothing (no signals) sent to it by the shell. But without a nohup it will still be sent a HUP signal sent via other means, such as a manual kill command.

A nohuped process will ignore any and all HUP signal, no matter how they are sent.



w is a combination of who, uptime, and ps -a.

Use w to see who is logged in and what they are doing. It summarises who is logged in, what they are currently doing, and the load of the current activities.

Process Groups

A collection of one or more processes. It's used to control the distribution of a signal. When a signal is directed to a process group, the signal is delivered to each process that is a member of the group.


A collection of one or more process groups. A process may not create a process group that belongs to another session. A process is not permitted to join a process group that is a member of another session. A process is not permitted to migrate from one session to another.