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Linux 2.6 - man page for vfork (linux section 2)

VFORK(2)			    Linux Programmer's Manual				 VFORK(2)

       vfork - create a child process and block parent

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

       pid_t vfork(void);

   Feature Test Macro Requirements for glibc (see feature_test_macros(7)):

	   Since glibc 2.12:
	       _BSD_SOURCE ||
		   (_XOPEN_SOURCE >= 500 ||
		   !(_POSIX_C_SOURCE >= 200809L || _XOPEN_SOURCE >= 700)
	   Before glibc 2.12:

   Standard description
       (From POSIX.1) The vfork() function has the same effect as fork(2), except that the behav-
       ior 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(2) or one of the exec(3) family of functions.

   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 applica-
       tions where a child is created which then immediately issues an execve(2).

       vfork() differs from fork(2) in that the calling thread is suspended until the child  ter-
       minates	(either  normally,  by calling _exit(2), or abnormally, after delivery of a fatal
       signal), or it makes a call to execve(2).  Until that point, the child shares  all  memory
       with its parent, including the stack.  The child must not return from the current function
       or call exit(3), but may call _exit(2).

       As with fork(2), the child process created by vfork() inherits copies of  various  of  the
       caller's  process  attributes  (e.g.,  file  descriptors, signal dispositions, and current
       working directory); the vfork() call differs only in the treatment of the virtual  address
       space, as described above.

       Signals	sent  to  the  parent  arrive after the child releases the parent's memory (i.e.,
       after the child terminates or calls execve(2)).

   Historic description
       Under Linux, fork(2) is	implemented  using  copy-on-write  pages,  so  the  only  penalty
       incurred by fork(2) 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(2) would require making a complete copy of the caller's data space, often needlessly,
       since usually immediately afterward an exec(3) is done.	Thus, for greater efficiency, BSD
       introduced the vfork() system call, which did not fully copy the address space of the par-
       ent process, but borrowed the parent's memory and  thread  of  control  until  a  call  to
       execve(2) 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 par-
       ent process depended on knowing which variables were held in a register.

       4.3BSD;	POSIX.1-2001  (but  marked  OBSOLETE).	POSIX.1-2008 removes the specification of

       The requirements put on vfork() by the standards are weaker than those put on fork(2),  so
       an  implementation where the two are synonymous is compliant.  In particular, the program-
       mer cannot rely on the parent remaining blocked until the child either terminates or calls
       execve(2), and cannot rely on any specific behavior with respect to shared memory.

       Some  consider the semantics of vfork() to be an architectural blemish, and the 4.2BSD man
       page stated: "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(2)."  However, even  though  modern  memory
       management  hardware has decreased the performance difference between fork(2) and vfork(),
       there are various reasons why Linux and other systems have retained vfork():

       *  Some performance-critical applications require the  small  performance  advantage  con-
	  ferred by vfork().

       *  vfork()  can	be  implemented  on systems that lack a memory-management unit (MMU), but
	  fork(2) can't be implemented on such systems.  (POSIX.1-2008 removed vfork()	from  the
	  standard; the POSIX rationale for the posix_spawn(3) function notes that that function,
	  which provides functionality equivalent to fork(2)+exec(3), is designed  to  be  imple-
	  mentable on systems that lack an MMU.)

   Linux notes
       Fork handlers established using pthread_atfork(3) are not called when a multithreaded pro-
       gram employing the NPTL threading library calls vfork().  Fork handlers are called in this
       case  in  a  program  using  the  LinuxThreads  threading library.  (See pthreads(7) for a
       description of Linux threading libraries.)

       A call to vfork() is equivalent to calling clone(2) with flags specified as:


       The vfork() system call appeared in 3.0BSD.  In 4.4BSD it was made synonymous  to  fork(2)
       but   NetBSD   introduced   it	again,	cf.   <http://www.netbsd.org/Documentation/kernel
       /vfork.html>.  In Linux, it has been equivalent to fork(2) 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.

       Details of the signal handling are obscure and differ between systems.  The BSD	man  page
       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."

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

       This  page  is  part of release 3.55 of the Linux man-pages project.  A description of the
       project,    and	  information	 about	  reporting    bugs,	can    be    found     at

Linux					    2012-08-05					 VFORK(2)

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