killing all subprocess childrens

Nobody nobody at
Thu Sep 2 17:52:00 CEST 2010

On Thu, 02 Sep 2010 13:12:07 +1000, Astan Chee wrote:

> I have a piece of code that looks like this:
> import subprocess
> retcode =["java","test","string"])
> print "Exited with retcode " + str(retcode)
> What I'm trying to do (and wondering if its possible) is to make sure 
> that any children (and any descendants) of this process is killed when 
> the main java process is killed (or dies).
> How do I do this in windows, linux and OSX?

I don't think that you can do it reliably on any of those platforms.

Consider: A spawns B, B spawns C, C spawns D, B and C terminate. There is
no information available to tie D to A. A knows that it spawned B, and D's
PPID is C, but C no longer exists so you can't tell that B spawned C.

Process groups won't help, as subprocess.Popen() doesn't put the child
into a new process group, so all of its descendents will share the PGID of
the Python process and any children spawned from it. Even it did use a new
process group, the descendents might have different process groups (quite
likely if the initial child is a shell script, as the shell executes each
"command" in a new process group).

If you avoid the subprocess module and use os.fork(), the child can
create a new session by fork()ing again, and having the grandchild call
os.setsid(). All descendents will share this session unless they
explicitly create a new session (and you probably shouldn't be killing any
descendents which explicitly create a new session). 

Another option is if to create the child with std{in,out,err} set to a
descriptor created for that specific child. Descendents inherit their
descriptors unless explicitly changed. The same applies to the CWD, and
(by convention) the environment. On Linux, you can discover a process'
descriptors, cwd and environment via the /proc filesystem.

More information about the Python-list mailing list