What is the best way to ensure only one instance of a Bash script is running?


What is the simplest/best way to ensure only one instance of a given script is running - assuming it's Bash on Linux?

At the moment I'm doing:

ps -C script.name.sh > /dev/null 2>&1 || ./script.name.sh

but it has several issues:

  1. it puts the check outside of script
  2. it doesn't let me run the same script from separate accounts - which I would like sometimes.
  3. -C checks only first 14 characters of process name

Of course, I can write my own pidfile handling, but I sense that there should be a simple way to do it.

1/11/2017 1:57:51 AM

Accepted Answer

If the script is the same across all users, you can use a lockfile approach. If you acquire the lock, proceed else show a message and exit.

As an example:

[Terminal #1] $ lockfile -r 0 /tmp/the.lock
[Terminal #1] $ 

[Terminal #2] $ lockfile -r 0 /tmp/the.lock
[Terminal #2] lockfile: Sorry, giving up on "/tmp/the.lock"

[Terminal #1] $ rm -f /tmp/the.lock
[Terminal #1] $ 

[Terminal #2] $ lockfile -r 0 /tmp/the.lock
[Terminal #2] $ 

After /tmp/the.lock has been acquired your script will be the only one with access to execution. When you are done, just remove the lock. In script form this might look like:


lockfile -r 0 /tmp/the.lock || exit 1

# Do stuff here

rm -f /tmp/the.lock
11/11/2009 2:26:04 PM

Advisory locking has been used for ages and it can be used in bash scripts. I prefer simple flock (from util-linux[-ng]) over lockfile (from procmail). And always remember about a trap on exit (sigspec == EXIT or 0, trapping specific signals is superfluous) in those scripts.

In 2009 I released my lockable script boilerplate (originally available at my wiki page, nowadays available as gist). Transforming that into one-instance-per-user is trivial. Using it you can also easily write scripts for other scenarios requiring some locking or synchronization.

Here is the mentioned boilerplate for your convenience.

# SPDX-License-Identifier: MIT

## Copyright (C) 2009 Przemyslaw Pawelczyk <przemoc@gmail.com>
## This script is licensed under the terms of the MIT license.
## https://opensource.org/licenses/MIT
# Lockable script boilerplate

### HEADER ###

LOCKFILE="/var/lock/`basename $0`"

_lock()             { flock -$1 $LOCKFD; }
_no_more_locking()  { _lock u; _lock xn && rm -f $LOCKFILE; }
_prepare_locking()  { eval "exec $LOCKFD>\"$LOCKFILE\""; trap _no_more_locking EXIT; }


exlock_now()        { _lock xn; }  # obtain an exclusive lock immediately or fail
exlock()            { _lock x; }   # obtain an exclusive lock
shlock()            { _lock s; }   # obtain a shared lock
unlock()            { _lock u; }   # drop a lock


# Simplest example is avoiding running multiple instances of script.
exlock_now || exit 1

# Remember! Lock file is removed when one of the scripts exits and it is
#           the only script holding the lock or lock is not acquired at all.

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