timelimit(1) effectively limit the absolute execution time of a process


[-pq ] [-S killsig ] [-s warnsig ] [-T killtime ] [-t warntime ] command [arguments ... ]


The utility executes a given command with the supplied arguments and terminates the spawned process after a given time with a given signal. If the process exits before the time limit has elapsed, will silently exit, too.


If the child process is terminated by a signal, propagates this condition, i.e. sends the same signal to itself. This allows the program executing to determine whether the child process was terminated by a signal or actually exited with an exit code larger than 128.
Quiet operation - does not output diagnostic messages about signals sent to the child process.
-S killsig
Specify the number of the signal to be sent to the process killtime seconds after warntime has expired. Defaults to 9 (SIGKILL).
-s warnsig
Specify the number of the signal to be sent to the process warntime seconds after it has been started. Defaults to 15 (SIGTERM).
-T killtime
Specify the maximum execution time of the process before sending killsig after warnsig has been sent. Defaults to 120 seconds.
-t warntime
Specify the maximum execution time of the process in seconds before sending warnsig Defaults to 3600 seconds.

On systems that support the setitimer(2) system call, the warntime and killtime values may be specified in fractional seconds with microsecond precision.


The killsig to use if the -S option was not specified.
The killtime to use if the -T option was not specified.
The warnsig to use if the -s option was not specified.
The warntime to use if the -t option was not specified.


If the child process exits normally, the utility will pass its exit code on up. If the child process is terminated by a signal and the -p flag was not specified, the utility's exit status is 128 plus the signal number, similar to sh(1). If the -p flag was specified, the utility will raise the signal itself so that its own parent process may in turn reliably distinguish between a signal and a larger than 128 exit code.

In rare cases, the utility may encounter a system or user error; then, its exit status is one of the standard sysexits(3) values:

The command-line parameters and options were incorrectly specified.
The utility itself received an unexpected signal while waiting for the child process to terminate.
The utility was unable to execute the child process, wait for it to terminate, or examine its exit status.


The following examples are shown as given to the shell:

timelimit -p /usr/local/bin/rsync rsync://some.host/dir /opt/mirror

Run the rsync program to mirror a WWW or FTP site and kill it if it runs longer than 1 hour (that is 3600 seconds) with SIGTERM. If the rsync process does not exit after receiving the SIGTERM, issues a SIGKILL 120 seconds after the SIGTERM. If the rsync process is terminated by a signal, will itself raise this signal.

tcpserver 0 8888 timelimit -t600 -T300 /opt/services/chat/stats

Start a tcpservern process listening on tcp port 8888; each client connection shall invoke an instance of an IRC statistics tool under /opt/services/chat and kill it after 600 seconds have elapsed. If the stats process is still running after the SIGTERM, it will be killed by a SIGKILL sent 300 seconds later.

env WARNTIME=4.99 WARNSIG=1 KILLTIME=1.000001 timelimit sh stats.sh

Start a shell script and kill it with a SIGHUP in a little under 5 seconds. If the shell gets stuck and does not respond to the SIGHUP, kill it with the default SIGKILL just a bit over a second afterwards.


No standards documentation was harmed in the process of creating .


Please report any bugs in to the author.


The utility was conceived and written by An Peter Pentchev Aq [email protected] with contributions and suggestions by An Karsten W Rohrbach Aq [email protected] , An Teddy Hogeborn Aq [email protected] , and An Tomasz Nowak Aq [email protected] .