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 thoughts on “A Guide to Kill, Pkill and Killall Commands to Terminate a Process in Linux”

  1. I have problems with chrome slowing down my system, so I’m used to kill all stances of chrome with this command:

    $ while [pidof chrome]; do killall chrome; done

    Reply
    • Dear sriram,
      i Didn’t get you question.
      When you close a terminal. All the running processes gets killed except those running in background and you can kill those by finding their pid.

      Reply
  2. hi…can u tell me the procedure to replace graphic card in red hat linux enterprise 6.0?…my pc was shipped with nvidia 610GT(zotac made GT610) but i need to replace it with nvidia 210GT(asus made En210). the second card is downgraded than the first one.Also can u inform me whether I need to do free OS install or not for this? ur kindness is appreciated on this!!!

    Reply
    • I fear it would be built on the board and perhaps u cant swap it. Ask your Vendor for such detailed hardware information.

      Reply
    • @ Linux Fresher, I didn’t get you properly, although as far as i could understand, you said words for Appraisals for us. Thanks

      Reply
  3. Also xkill is the easiest way to kill a process using just your mouse.

    Just type ‘xkill’ in the terminal and then it would change the cursor to a cross, then just click on the process you want to kill and you are done. It is as easy as that.

    Please add this also. This is very useful in some really frustrating situations like stuck in the middle of a game, then just do Alt+Ctrl+T to bring up the terminal and kill the game using xkill.

    It has helped me quite a lot of times, it might help you also.

    Reply
  4. DO NOT use kill to stop services as a first resort. This will mess up your system if you do it regularly. Use the init scripts already set up for that purpose, or whichever program is provided for control of the service.

    Normally, for example to stop rsyncd, you should use “/etc/init.d/rsync stop”. You can use the same script to start, restart, or get status of the service. Read the script to learn more about what it does.

    If you have Upstart installed, then the “service” command works similarly (but arguably better). The syntax is “service rsync restart” to restart rsyncd, for example. Currently Upstart does not support all services in Debian-based distros, so you might need to use the previous method.

    Many services come with their own maintenance programs separate from the init.d scripts. For example, apache2 httpd comes with apachectl.

    Finally, while the “kill” command is mostly used to stop processes, it can send *any* signal. Check out the manpage for more information. kill is much more useful than explained here- but also more dangerous.

    Reply
    • Killall on Solaris will kill all processes on the system making it unusable.
      so it’s not a good habit to use killall. So use it with extreme care first check then use :-)

      Reply

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