Technology Tales

Adventures & experiences in contemporary technology

Killing those runaway processes that refuse to die

5th July 2008

I must admit that there have been times when I logged off from my main Ubuntu box at home to dispatch a runaway process that I couldn’t kill and then log back in again. The standard signal being sent to the process by the very useful kill command just wasn’t sending the nefarious CPU-eating nuisance the right kind of signal. Thankfully, there is a way to control the signal being sent and there is one that does what’s needed:

kill -9 [ID of nuisance process]

For Linux users, there seems to be another option for terminating process that doesn’t need the ps and grep command combination: it’s killall. Generally, killall terminates all processes and its own has no immunity to its quest. Hence, it’s an administrator only tool with a very definite and perhaps rarely required use. The Linux variant is more useful because it also will terminate all instances of a named process at a stroke and has the same signal control as the kill command. It is used as follows:

killall -9 nuisanceprocess

I’ll certainly be continuing to use both of the above; it seems that Wine needs termination like this at times and VMware Workstation lapsed into the same sort of antisocial behaviour while running a VM running a development version of Ubuntu’s Intrepid Ibex (or 8.10, if you prefer). Anything that keeps you from constantly needing to restart Linux sessions on your PC has to be good.

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