pthread_key_create, pthread_key_delete, pthread_setspecific, pthread_getspecific - manage-
ment of thread-specific data
int pthread_key_create(pthread_key_t *key, void (*destr_function) (void *));
int pthread_key_delete(pthread_key_t key);
int pthread_setspecific(pthread_key_t key, const void *pointer);
void * pthread_getspecific(pthread_key_t key);
Programs often need global or static variables that have different values in different
threads. Since threads share one memory space, this cannot be achieved with regular vari-
ables. Thread-specific data is the POSIX threads answer to this need.
Each thread possesses a private memory block, the thread-specific data area, or TSD area
for short. This area is indexed by TSD keys. The TSD area associates values of type void *
to TSD keys. TSD keys are common to all threads, but the value associated with a given TSD
key can be different in each thread.
For concreteness, the TSD areas can be viewed as arrays of void * pointers, TSD keys as
integer indices into these arrays, and the value of a TSD key as the value of the corre-
sponding array element in the calling thread.
When a thread is created, its TSD area initially associates NULL with all keys.
pthread_key_create allocates a new TSD key. The key is stored in the location pointed to
by key. There is a limit of PTHREAD_KEYS_MAX on the number of keys allocated at a given
time. The value initially associated with the returned key is NULL in all currently exe-
The destr_function argument, if not NULL, specifies a destructor function associated with
the key. When a thread terminates via pthread_exit or by cancellation, destr_function is
called with arguments the value associated with the key in that thread. The destr_function
is not called if that value is NULL. The order in which destructor functions are called
at thread termination time is unspecified.
Before the destructor function is called, the NULL value is associated with the key in the
current thread. A destructor function might, however, re-associate non- NULL values to
that key or some other key. To deal with this, if after all the destructors have been
called for all non- NULL values, there are still some non- NULL values with associated
destructors, then the process is repeated. The LinuxThreads implementation stops the
process after PTHREAD_DESTRUCTOR_ITERATIONS iterations, even if some non- NULL values with
associated descriptors remain. Other implementations may loop indefinitely.
pthread_key_delete deallocates a TSD key. It does not check whether non- NULL values are
associated with that key in the currently executing threads, nor call the destructor func-
tion associated with the key.
pthread_setspecific changes the value associated with key in the calling thread, storing
the given pointer instead.
pthread_getspecific returns the value currently associated with key in the calling thread.
pthread_key_create, pthread_key_delete, and pthread_setspecific return 0 on success and a
non-zero error code on failure. If successful, pthread_key_create stores the newly allo-
cated key in the location pointed to by its key argument.
pthread_getspecific returns the value associated with key on success, and NULL on error.
pthread_key_create returns the following error code on error:
EAGAIN PTHREAD_KEYS_MAX keys are already allocated
pthread_key_delete and pthread_setspecific return the following error code on error:
EINVAL key is not a valid, allocated TSD key
pthread_getspecific returns NULL if key is not a valid, allocated TSD key.
Xavier Leroy <Xavier.Leroy@inria.fr>
pthread_create(3), pthread_exit(3), pthread_testcancel(3).
The following code fragment allocates a thread-specific array of 100 characters, with
automatic reclaimation at thread exit:
/* Key for the thread-specific buffer */
static pthread_key_t buffer_key;
/* Once-only initialisation of the key */
static pthread_once_t buffer_key_once = PTHREAD_ONCE_INIT;
/* Allocate the thread-specific buffer */
/* Return the thread-specific buffer */
char * get_buffer(void)
return (char *) pthread_getspecific(buffer_key);
/* Allocate the key */
static void buffer_key_alloc()
/* Free the thread-specific buffer */
static void buffer_destroy(void * buf)