flock Command in Linux

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The flock command in Linux is a powerful tool for managing file locks in your Linux environment. It's a simple yet highly useful utility that allows multiple processes to read and write to a file without corrupting its contents. This command grants exclusive or shared access to a file or file descriptor, and ensures synchronization which is essential in multi-user and multi-tasking environments.

Syntax of flock Command in Linux

The basic syntax of the flock command in Linux is as follows:


  • options: These are flags or parameters that modify the behavior of the flock command.
  • file: This represents the file or file descriptor that the flock command will operate on.
  • command: This is an optional parameter representing a command that will be executed atomically after the flock command acquires the lock.

Options in flock Command in Linux

  1. -s, --shared: This option allows the acquisition of a shared lock, which permits multiple processes to read from the file simultaneously.

    For example -


    This command locks myfile.txt, runs the cat command to display its content, and then releases the lock.

  2. -u, --unlock: This option manually releases a file lock.

    For example -

    This command unlocks the file myfile.txt.

  3. -n, --nonblock: This option specifies not to wait for the lock. If lock cannot be acquired, return immediately with an error.

    For example -


    If myfile.txt is locked, the command will fail and return an error immediately instead of waiting for the lock to be released.

Example Usages

  • Basic usage of flock command:

    Explanation: This command will lock the file myfile.txt, write 'Hello, World!' into it, and then release the lock.

  • Using flock command in scripts:

    Explanation: This usage in a script attempts to acquire a lock on descriptor 200 linked to lockfile. If the lock can't be acquired, it exits; otherwise, it writes to the file.


  • Always ensure proper lock handling to avoid data corruption or loss.

  • Flock does not lock files over network filesystems like NFS.

  • The lock is automatically released when the file descriptor is closed. Hence, ensure the file descriptor is open as long as the lock is needed.

Advanced Use Cases of flock Command in Linux

  • Using flock with timeout:

    Explanation: This command will attempt to lock myfile.txt for 5 seconds. If the lock is not acquired within this time, the command will terminate.

  • Using flock to synchronize cron jobs:

    Explanation: This command ensures that the cron job script.sh does not run simultaneously by using the flock command.

  • Using flock to limit script execution:

    Explanation: This command will ensure that 'your-command-here' is never executed more than once at the same time.


  • The flock command in Linux is a valuable tool for ensuring data integrity when multiple processes need to read/write to the same file.

  • The flock command can be used to synchronize tasks, ensure atomic operations, and even handle deadlock situations.

  • Although flock does not work over network filesystems, it still remains an invaluable tool for local file locking and synchronization.