A Guide to Kill, Pkill and Killall Commands to Terminate a Process in Linux

Linux Operating System comes with kill command to terminate a process. The command makes it possible to continue running the server without the need to reboot after a major change/update. Here comes the great power of Linux and this is one of the reasons, why Linux is running on 90% of servers, on the planet.

Linux Kill Command

Kill, Pkill and Killall Commands Examples

Kill command send a signal, a specified signal to be more perfect to a process. The kill command can be executed in a number of ways, directly or from a shell script.

Using kill command from /usr/bin provide you some extra feature to kill a process by process name using pkill.

The common syntax for kill command is:

# kill [signal or option] PID(s)

For a kill command a Signal Name could be:

Signal Name		Signal Value			Behaviour

SIGHUP			      1				Hangup
SIGKILL			      9				Kill Signal
SIGTERM			      15			Terminate

Clearly from the behaviour above SIGTERM is the default and safest way to kill a process. SIGHUP is less secure way of killing a process as SIGTERM. SIGKILL is the most unsafe way among the above three, to kill a process which terminates a process without saving.

In order to kill a process, we need to know the Process ID of a process. A Process is an instance of a program. Every-time a program starts, automatically an unique PID is generated for that process.

Every Process in Linux, have a pid. The first process that starts when Linux System is booted is – init process, hence it is assigned a value of ‘1‘ in most of the cases.

Read Also: All You Need To Know About Processes in Linux [Comprehensive Guide]

Init is the master process and can not be killed this way, which insures that the master process don’t gets killed accidentally. Init decides and allows itself to be killed, where kill is merely a request for a shutdown.

To know all the processes and correspondingly their assigned pid, run the following ps command.

# ps -A
Sample Output
PID TTY          TIME CMD
    1 ?        00:00:01 init
    2 ?        00:00:00 kthreadd
    3 ?        00:00:00 migration/0
    4 ?        00:00:00 ksoftirqd/0
    5 ?        00:00:00 migration/0
    6 ?        00:00:00 watchdog/0
    7 ?        00:00:01 events/0
    8 ?        00:00:00 cgroup
    9 ?        00:00:00 khelper
   10 ?        00:00:00 netns
   11 ?        00:00:00 async/mgr
   12 ?        00:00:00 pm
   13 ?        00:00:00 sync_supers
   14 ?        00:00:00 bdi-default
   15 ?        00:00:00 kintegrityd/0
   16 ?        00:00:00 kblockd/0
   17 ?        00:00:00 kacpid
   18 ?        00:00:00 kacpi_notify
   19 ?        00:00:00 kacpi_hotplug
   20 ?        00:00:00 ata/0
   21 ?        00:00:00 ata_aux
   22 ?        00:00:00 ksuspend_usbd

How about Customising the above output using syntax as ‘pidof process‘.

# pidof mysqld
Sample Output
1684

Another way to achieve the above goal is to follow the below syntax.

# ps aux | grep mysqld
Sample Output
root      1582  0.0  0.0   5116  1408 ?        S    09:49   0:00 /bin/sh /usr/bin/mysqld_safe --datadir=/var/lib/mysql --socket=/var/lib/mysql/mysql.sock --pid-file=/var/run/mysqld/mysqld.pid --basedir=/usr --user=mysql
mysql     1684  0.1  0.5 136884 21844 ?        Sl   09:49   1:09 /usr/libexec/mysqld --basedir=/usr --datadir=/var/lib/mysql --user=mysql --log-error=/var/log/mysqld.log --pid-file=/var/run/mysqld/mysqld.pid --socket=/var/lib/mysql/mysql.sock
root     20844  0.0  0.0   4356   740 pts/0    S+   21:39   0:00 grep mysqld

Read Also: 30 Useful ‘ps Command’ Examples for Linux Process Monitoring

Before we step ahead and execute a kill command, some important points to be noted:

  1. A user can kill all his process.
  2. A user can not kill another user’s process.
  3. A user can not kill processes System is using.
  4. A root user can kill System-level-process and the process of any user.

Another way to perform the same function is to execute ‘pgrep‘ command.

# pgrep mysql
Sample Output
3139

To kill the above process PID, use the kill command as shown.

kill -9 3139

The above command will kill the process having pid=3139, where PID is a Numerical Value of process.

Another way to perform the same function, can be rewritten as.

# kill -SIGTERM 3139

Similarly ‘kill -9 PID‘ is similar to ‘kill -SIGKILL PID‘ and vice-versa.

How about killing a process using process name

You must be aware of process name, before killing and entering a wrong process name may screw you.

# pkill mysqld

Kill more than one process at a time.

# kill PID1 PID2 PID3

or

# kill -9 PID1 PID2 PID3

or

# kill -SIGKILL PID1 PID2 PID3

What if a process have too many instances and a number of child processes, we have a command ‘killall‘. This is the only command of this family, which takes process name as argument in-place of process number.

Syntax:
# killall [signal or option] Process Name

To kill all mysql instances along with child processes, use the command as follow.

# killall mysqld

You can always verify the status of the process if it is running or not, using any of the below command.

# service mysql status
# pgrep mysql
# ps -aux | grep mysql

That’s all for now, from my side. I will soon be here again with another Interesting and Informative topic. Till Then, stay tuned, connected to Tecmint and healthy. Don’t forget to give your valuable feedback in comment section.

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38 Responses

  1. as says:

    Kill isn’t for kill processes. Kill is for send signals to other processes.
    And no, there is no relationship between uptime and the kill/pkill/etc commands. Most software has a standard start/stop procedure, some of them use kill, but others not.

  2. Gordon says:

    Thanks. It was a helpful information.

  3. Dave says:

    Hey @oke deh, the output of your ‘ps‘ command is showing the ‘grep‘ command, not a process called ‘vnc‘.

    By the time you run the kill command, the grep has completed and so the process id no longer exists, so you can’t kill it.

    Everything you have shown above is working exactly as it is supposed to work, assuming there is no process running on the machine called ‘vnc*‘.

    You should try with just ‘vnc‘, as your grep command is the thing wrong here, not the kill command…

  4. oke deh says:

    Hello tecmint,

    I try to kill this process but its not working…

    "[[email protected] ~]# ps -afe|grep vnc*
    root     19784 19688  0 00:02 pts/0    00:00:00 grep vnc*"
    

    I tried following command..

    # kill -9 19784
    

    return this output

    "-bash: kill: (19784) - No such process"
    

    what is the correct command?

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