clone(2) -- Linux man page
NAMEclone - create a child process
int clone(int (*fn)(void *), void *child_stack, int flags, void *arg);
_syscall2(int, clone, int, flags, void *, child_stack)
DESCRIPTIONclone creates a new process, just like fork(2). clone is a library function layered on top of the underlying clone system call, hereinafter referred to as sys_clone. A description of sys_clone is given towards the end of this page.
Unlike fork(2), these calls allow the child process to share parts of its execution context with the calling process, such as the memory space, the table of file descriptors, and the table of signal handlers. (Note that on this manual page, "calling process" normally corresponds to "parent process". But see the description of CLONE_PARENT below.)
The main use of clone is to implement threads: multiple threads of control in a program that run concurrently in a shared memory space.
When the child process is created with clone, it executes the function application fn(arg). (This differs from fork(2), where execution continues in the child from the point of the fork(2) call.) The fn argument is a pointer to a function that is called by the child process at the beginning of its execution. The arg argument is passed to the fn function.
When the fn(arg) function application returns, the child process terminates. The integer returned by fn is the exit code for the child process. The child process may also terminate explicitly by calling exit(2) or after receiving a fatal signal.
The child_stack argument specifies the location of the stack used by the child process. Since the child and calling process may share memory, it is not possible for the child process to execute in the same stack as the calling process. The calling process must therefore set up memory space for the child stack and pass a pointer to this space to clone. Stacks grow downwards on all processors that run Linux (except the HP PA processors), so child_stack usually points to the topmost address of the memory space set up for the child stack.
The low byte of flags contains the number of the signal sent to the parent when the child dies. If this signal is specified as anything other than SIGCHLD, then the parent process must specify the __WALL or __WCLONE options when waiting for the child with wait(2). If no signal is specified, then the parent process is not signaled when the child terminates.
flags may also be bitwise-or'ed with one or several of the following constants, in order to specify what is shared between the calling process and the child process:
(Linux 2.4 onwards) If
is set, then the parent of the new child (as returned by
will be the same as that of the calling process.
If CLONE_PARENT is not set, then (as with fork(2)) the child's parent is the calling process.
Note that it is the parent process, as returned by getppid(2), which is signaled when the child terminates, so that if CLONE_PARENT is set, then the parent of the calling process, rather than the calling process itself, will be signaled.
is set, the caller and the child processes share the same file system
information. This includes the root of the file system, the current
working directory, and the umask. Any call to
performed by the calling process or the child process also takes effect in the
If CLONE_FS is not set, the child process works on a copy of the file system information of the calling process at the time of the clone call. Calls to chroot(2), chdir(2), umask(2) performed later by one of the processes do not affect the other process.
is set, the calling process and the child processes share the same file
descriptor table. File descriptors always refer to the same files in
the calling process and in the child process. Any file descriptor created by
the calling process or by the child process is also valid in the other
process. Similarly, if one of the processes closes a file descriptor,
or changes its associated flags, the other process is also affected.
If CLONE_FILES is not set, the child process inherits a copy of all file descriptors opened in the calling process at the time of clone. Operations on file descriptors performed later by either the calling process or the child process do not affect the other process.
(Linux 2.4.19 onwards)
Start the child in a new namespace.
Every process lives in a namespace. The namespace of a process is the data (the set of mounts) describing the file hierarchy as seen by that process. After a fork(2) or clone(2) where the CLONE_NEWNS flag is not set, the child lives in the same namespace as the parent. The system calls mount(2) and umount(2) change the namespace of the calling process, and hence affect all processes that live in the same namespace, but do not affect processes in a different namespace.
After a clone(2) where the CLONE_NEWNS flag is set, the cloned child is started in a new namespace, initialized with a copy of the namespace of the parent.
Only a privileged process may specify the CLONE_NEWNS flag. It is not permitted to specify both CLONE_NEWNS and CLONE_FS in the same clone call.
is set, the calling process and the child processes share the same table of
signal handlers. If the calling process or child process calls
to change the behavior associated with a signal, the behavior is
changed in the other process as well. However, the calling process and child
processes still have distinct signal masks and sets of pending
signals. So, one of them may block or unblock some signals using
without affecting the other process.
If CLONE_SIGHAND is not set, the child process inherits a copy of the signal handlers of the calling process at the time clone is called. Calls to sigaction(2) performed later by one of the processes have no effect on the other process.
is specified, and the calling process is being traced, then trace the child also (see
is set, the execution of the calling process is suspended
until the child releases its virtual memory
resources via a call to
If CLONE_VFORK is not set then both the calling process and the child are schedulable after the call, and an application should not rely on execution occurring in any particular order.
is set, the calling process and the child processes run in the same memory
space. In particular, memory writes performed by the calling process
or by the child process are also visible in the other process.
Moreover, any memory mapping or unmapping performed with
by the child or calling process also affects the other process.
If CLONE_VM is not set, the child process runs in a separate copy of the memory space of the calling process at the time of clone. Memory writes or file mappings/unmappings performed by one of the processes do not affect the other, as with fork(2).
is set, the child process is created with the same process ID as
the calling process. This is good for hacking the system, but otherwise
of not much use. Since 2.3.21 this flag can be
specified only by the system boot process (PID 0).
It disappeared in Linux 2.5.16.
(Linux 2.4 onwards)
is set, the child is placed in the same thread group as the calling process.
If CLONE_THREAD is not set, then the child is placed in its own (new) thread group, whose ID is the same as the process ID.
(Thread groups are feature added in Linux 2.4 to support the POSIX threads notion of a set of threads sharing a single PID. In Linux 2.4, calls to getpid(2) return the thread group ID of the caller.)
sys_cloneThe sys_clone system call corresponds more closely to fork(2) in that execution in the child continues from the point of the call. Thus, sys_clone only requires the flags and child_stack arguments, which have the same meaning as for clone. (Note that the order of these arguments differs from clone.)
Another difference for sys_clone is that the child_stack argument may be zero, in which case copy-on-write semantics ensure that the child gets separate copies of stack pages when either process modifies the stack. In this case, for correct operation, the CLONE_VM option should not be specified.
RETURN VALUEOn success, the PID of the child process is returned in the caller's thread of execution. On failure, a -1 will be returned in the caller's context, no child process will be created, and errno will be set appropriately.
- Too many processes are already running.
- Cannot allocate sufficient memory to allocate a task structure for the child, or to copy those parts of the caller's context that need to be copied.
- Returned by clone when a zero value is specified for child_stack.
- Both CLONE_FS and CLONE_NEWNS were specified in flags.
- CLONE_THREAD was specified, but CLONE_SIGHAND was not. (Since Linux 2.5.35.)
- Precisely one of CLONE_DETACHED and CLONE_THREAD was specified. (Since Linux 2.6.0-test6.)
- CLONE_SIGHAND was specified, but CLONE_VM was not. (Since Linux 2.6.0-test6.)
- CLONE_NEWNS was specified by a non-root process (process without CAP_SYS_ADMIN).
was specified by a process other than process 0.
BUGSThere is no entry for clone in libc version 5. libc 6 (a.k.a. glibc 2) provides clone as described in this manual page.
NOTESFor kernel versions 2.4.7-2.4.18 the CLONE_THREAD flag implied the CLONE_PARENT flag.
CONFORMING TOThe clone and sys_clone calls are Linux-specific and should not be used in programs intended to be portable. For programming threaded applications (multiple threads of control in the same memory space), it is better to use a library implementing the POSIX 1003.1c thread API, such as the LinuxThreads library (included in glibc2). See pthread_create(3).
SEE ALSOfork(2), wait(2), pthread_create(3)