kevent(2) kernel event notification mechanism

Other Alias



In sys/types.h In sys/event.h In sys/time.h Ft int Fn kqueue void Ft int Fn kevent int kq const struct kevent *changelist int nchanges struct kevent *eventlist int nevents const struct timespec *timeout Fn EV_SET &kev ident filter flags fflags data udata


The Fn kqueue system call provides a generic method of notifying the user when an event happens or a condition holds, based on the results of small pieces of kernel code termed filters. A kevent is identified by the (ident, filter) pair; there may only be one unique kevent per kqueue.

The filter is executed upon the initial registration of a kevent in order to detect whether a preexisting condition is present, and is also executed whenever an event is passed to the filter for evaluation. If the filter determines that the condition should be reported, then the kevent is placed on the kqueue for the user to retrieve.

The filter is also run when the user attempts to retrieve the kevent from the kqueue. If the filter indicates that the condition that triggered the event no longer holds, the kevent is removed from the kqueue and is not returned.

Multiple events which trigger the filter do not result in multiple kevents being placed on the kqueue; instead, the filter will aggregate the events into a single struct kevent. Calling Fn close on a file descriptor will remove any kevents that reference the descriptor.

The Fn kqueue system call creates a new kernel event queue and returns a descriptor. The queue is not inherited by a child created with fork(2). However, if rfork(2) is called without the RFFDG flag, then the descriptor table is shared, which will allow sharing of the kqueue between two processes.

The Fn kevent system call is used to register events with the queue, and return any pending events to the user. The Fa changelist argument is a pointer to an array of kevent structures, as defined in In sys/event.h . All changes contained in the Fa changelist are applied before any pending events are read from the queue. The Fa nchanges argument gives the size of Fa changelist . The Fa eventlist argument is a pointer to an array of kevent structures. The Fa nevents argument determines the size of Fa eventlist . When Fa nevents is zero, Fn kevent will return immediately even if there is a Fa timeout specified unlike select(2). If Fa timeout is a non-NULL pointer, it specifies a maximum interval to wait for an event, which will be interpreted as a struct timespec. If Fa timeout is a NULL pointer, Fn kevent waits indefinitely. To effect a poll, the Fa timeout argument should be non-NULL, pointing to a zero-valued timespec structure. The same array may be used for the Fa changelist and Fa eventlist .

The Fn EV_SET macro is provided for ease of initializing a kevent structure.

The kevent structure is defined as:

struct kevent {
        uintptr_t ident;        /* identifier for this event */
        short     filter;       /* filter for event */
        u_short   flags;        /* action flags for kqueue */
        u_int     fflags;       /* filter flag value */
        intptr_t  data;         /* filter data value */
        void      *udata;       /* opaque user data identifier */

The fields of Fa struct kevent are:

Value used to identify this event. The exact interpretation is determined by the attached filter, but often is a file descriptor.
Identifies the kernel filter used to process this event. The pre-defined system filters are described below.
Actions to perform on the event.
Filter-specific flags.
Filter-specific data value.
Opaque user-defined value passed through the kernel unchanged.

The flags field can contain the following values:

Adds the event to the kqueue. Re-adding an existing event will modify the parameters of the original event, and not result in a duplicate entry. Adding an event automatically enables it, unless overridden by the EV_DISABLE flag.
Permit Fn kevent to return the event if it is triggered.
Disable the event so Fn kevent will not return it. The filter itself is not disabled.
Disable the event source immediately after delivery of an event. See EV_DISABLE above.
Removes the event from the kqueue. Events which are attached to file descriptors are automatically deleted on the last close of the descriptor.
This flag is useful for making bulk changes to a kqueue without draining any pending events. When passed as input, it forces EV_ERROR to always be returned. When a filter is successfully added the data field will be zero.
Causes the event to return only the first occurrence of the filter being triggered. After the user retrieves the event from the kqueue, it is deleted.
After the event is retrieved by the user, its state is reset. This is useful for filters which report state transitions instead of the current state. Note that some filters may automatically set this flag internally.
Filters may set this flag to indicate filter-specific EOF condition.

The predefined system filters are listed below. Arguments may be passed to and from the filter via the fflags and data fields in the kevent structure.

Takes a descriptor as the identifier, and returns whenever there is data available to read. The behavior of the filter is slightly different depending on the descriptor type.

Sockets which have previously been passed to Fn listen return when there is an incoming connection pending. data contains the size of the listen backlog.

Other socket descriptors return when there is data to be read, subject to the SO_RCVLOWAT value of the socket buffer. This may be overridden with a per-filter low water mark at the time the filter is added by setting the NOTE_LOWAT flag in fflags and specifying the new low water mark in data On return, data contains the number of bytes of protocol data available to read.

If the read direction of the socket has shutdown, then the filter also sets EV_EOF in flags and returns the socket error (if any) in fflags It is possible for EOF to be returned (indicating the connection is gone) while there is still data pending in the socket buffer.

Returns when the file pointer is not at the end of file. data contains the offset from current position to end of file, and may be negative.
"Fifos, Pipes"
Returns when the there is data to read; data contains the number of bytes available.

When the last writer disconnects, the filter will set EV_EOF in flags This may be cleared by passing in EV_CLEAR, at which point the filter will resume waiting for data to become available before returning.

"BPF devices"
Returns when the BPF buffer is full, the BPF timeout has expired, or when the BPF has ``immediate mode'' enabled and there is any data to read; data contains the number of bytes available.

Takes a descriptor as the identifier, and returns whenever it is possible to write to the descriptor. For sockets, pipes and fifos, data will contain the amount of space remaining in the write buffer. The filter will set EV_EOF when the reader disconnects, and for the fifo case, this may be cleared by use of EV_CLEAR. Note that this filter is not supported for vnodes or BPF devices.

For sockets, the low water mark and socket error handling is identical to the EVFILT_READ case.

Takes a file descriptor as the identifier and the events to watch for in fflags and returns when one or more of the requested events occurs on the descriptor. The events to monitor are:

The Fn unlink system call was called on the file referenced by the descriptor.
A write occurred on the file referenced by the descriptor.
The file referenced by the descriptor was extended.
The file referenced by the descriptor had its attributes changed.
The link count on the file changed.
The file referenced by the descriptor was renamed.

On return, fflags contains the events which triggered the filter.

Takes the signal number to monitor as the identifier and returns when the given signal is delivered to the process. This overrides the Fn signal and Fn sigaction facilities, and has a higher precedence. The filter will record all attempts to deliver a signal to a process, even if the signal has been marked as SIG_IGN. data returns the number of times the signal has occurred since the last call to Fn kevent . This filter automatically sets the EV_CLEAR flag internally.
Establishes an arbitrary timer identified by ident When adding a timer, data specifies the timeout period in milliseconds. The timer will be periodic unless EV_ONESHOT is specified. On return, data contains the number of times the timeout has expired since the last call to Fn kevent . This filter automatically sets the EV_CLEAR flag internally. There is a system wide limit on the number of timers which is controlled by the kern.kq_calloutmax sysctl.
Establishes a user event identified by ident which is not assosicated with any kernel mechanism but is triggered by user level code. The lower 24 bits of the fflags may be used for user defined flags and manipulated using the following:

Ignore the input fflags
Bitwise AND fflags
Bitwise OR fflags
Copy fflags
Control mask for fflags
User defined flag mask for fflags

A user event is triggered for output with the following:

Cause the event to be triggered.

On return, fflags contains the users defined flags in the lower 24 bits.


The Fn kqueue system call creates a new kernel event queue and returns a file descriptor. If there was an error creating the kernel event queue, a value of -1 is returned and errno set.

The Fn kevent system call returns the number of events placed in the Fa eventlist , up to the value given by Fa nevents . If an error occurs while processing an element of the Fa changelist and there is enough room in the Fa eventlist , then the event will be placed in the Fa eventlist with EV_ERROR set in flags and the system error in data Otherwise, -1 will be returned, and errno will be set to indicate the error condition. If the time limit expires, then Fn kevent returns 0.


The Fn kqueue system call fails if:

The kernel failed to allocate enough memory for the kernel queue.
The per-process descriptor table is full.
The system file table is full.

The Fn kevent system call fails if:

The process does not have permission to register a filter.
There was an error reading or writing the kevent structure.
The specified descriptor is invalid.
A signal was delivered before the timeout expired and before any events were placed on the kqueue for return.
The specified time limit or filter is invalid.
The event could not be found to be modified or deleted.
No memory was available to register the event or, in the special case of a timer, the maximum number of timers has been exceeded. This maximum is configurable via the kern.kq_calloutmax sysctl.
The specified process to attach to does not exist.


The Fn kqueue and Fn kevent system calls first appeared in Fx 4.1 .


The Fn kqueue system and this manual page were written by An Jonathan Lemon Aq [email protected] .