ulimit - Linux


The ulimit command in Linux is used to get or set user limits on system resources, such as the number of open files, maximum stack size, and CPU time. This tool is crucial for system administrators and developers who need to manage resource usage to optimize performance and prevent resource exhaustion.


The general syntax for the ulimit command is as follows:

ulimit [options] [limit]
  • [options]: These are flags that specify which limit is being set or displayed.
  • [limit]: This is the value of the specified resource limit. If omitted, ulimit will display the current setting.


ulimit supports a range of options that control which limits are adjusted or displayed:

  • -a: Displays all current limits.
  • -c: The maximum size of core files created.
  • -d: The maximum size of a process’s data segment.
  • -f: The maximum size of files written by the shell and its children.
  • -l: The maximum size that may be locked into memory.
  • -m: The maximum resident set size.
  • -n: The maximum number of open file descriptors.
  • -q: The maximum number of bytes in POSIX message queues.
  • -s: The maximum stack size.
  • -t: The maximum amount of CPU time in seconds.
  • -u: The maximum number of processes available to a single user.
  • -v: The maximum amount of virtual memory available to the shell.

Using an option without specifying a limit will display the current value for that resource. Setting the limit requires elevated permissions.


  1. Viewing All Current Limits:

    ulimit -a
  2. Setting the Maximum Number of Open Files:

    ulimit -n 2048

    This example sets the maximum number of open file descriptors to 2048.

  3. Removing the File Size Limit:

    ulimit -f unlimited

    Use unlimited to remove the file size limit.

Common Issues

  • Permission Denied: Attempting to increase limits beyond the hard limits set by the system without appropriate permissions will result in a permission denied error.
  • Invalid Argument: Providing an unrecognized option or an incorrect argument format will cause this error.


  • Ensure you have the necessary permissions (typically root) to set limits.
  • Double-check the command syntax and limit values.


ulimit can be integrated with scripts to ensure that resource limits are appropriately set for processes started by the script. Here’s an example within a bash script:

ulimit -n 4096

This script increases the file descriptor limit before starting a heavy I/O application, potentially improving the app’s performance.

  • nice: Adjusts the priority of a process.
  • renice: Alters the priority of running processes.
  • limit (csh/tcsh): Similar to ulimit but used in different shells.

For detailed documentation on ulimit and related commands, consult the system’s man pages (man ulimit) or the official GNU Bash manual.