flockfile - Linux


flockfile is a powerful utility that enables users to obtain exclusive locks on files, ensuring that only one process has access to a particular file at a time. It is commonly used for preventing data corruption in concurrent programming environments and for managing access to shared files among multiple users or applications.


flockfile [options] filename


  • -l (lock): Obtains an exclusive lock on the specified file, blocking other processes from accessing it.
  • -u (unlock): Releases the lock on the specified file, allowing other processes to access it.
  • -e (exclusive): Same as -l.
  • -s (shared): Obtains a shared lock on the specified file, allowing multiple processes to access it concurrently for read-only operations.
  • -n (non-blocking): Attempts to obtain the specified lock without blocking. Returns an error if the lock cannot be acquired immediately.
  • -w (wait): Blocks until the specified lock can be acquired.
  • -t (timeout): Specifies a timeout in seconds for acquiring the lock. If the lock cannot be obtained within the specified time, an error is returned.
  • -c (command): Executes the specified command after acquiring the lock. The command is executed in a subshell.


Obtain an exclusive lock on a file:

flockfile -l /path/to/file.txt

Release the lock on a file:

flockfile -u /path/to/file.txt

Execute a command after obtaining a shared lock:

flockfile -s -c "cat /path/to/file.txt" /path/to/file.txt

Attempt to obtain a non-blocking lock:

if flockfile -n /path/to/file.txt; then
  # Do something...

Wait 10 seconds to obtain a lock:

flockfile -w 10 /path/to/file.txt

Common Issues

  • Permission Denied: Ensure that the user running the command has the appropriate file permissions to lock or unlock the file.
  • Resource Busy: If another process is already holding the lock, the command will block until the lock is released or the timeout expires.
  • File Not Found: Double-check that the specified file path is correct and exists.


Command Chaining: Flockfile can be combined with other commands using pipes or subshells to create complex workflows. For example, to lock a file, execute a command, and then unlock the file:

flockfile -l /path/to/file.txt && mycommand && flockfile -u /path/to/file.txt

Scripts: Flockfile can be integrated into scripts to automate file locking tasks. For example, a script could lock a file before performing updates and unlock it afterward.

Related Commands

  • fcntl: Provides low-level file locking functionality.
  • flock: A simplified command for obtaining file locks.