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cpython / Doc / library / signal.rst

:mod:`signal` --- Set handlers for asynchronous events

This module provides mechanisms to use signal handlers in Python.

General rules

The :func:`signal.signal` function allows to define custom handlers to be executed when a signal is received. A small number of default handlers are installed: :const:`SIGPIPE` is ignored (so write errors on pipes and sockets can be reported as ordinary Python exceptions) and :const:`SIGINT` is translated into a :exc:`KeyboardInterrupt` exception.

A handler for a particular signal, once set, remains installed until it is explicitly reset (Python emulates the BSD style interface regardless of the underlying implementation), with the exception of the handler for :const:`SIGCHLD`, which follows the underlying implementation.

There is no way to "block" signals temporarily from critical sections (since this is not supported by all Unix flavors).

Execution of Python signal handlers

A Python signal handler does not get executed inside the low-level (C) signal handler. Instead, the low-level signal handler sets a flag which tells the :term:`virtual machine` to execute the corresponding Python signal handler at a later point(for example at the next :term:`bytecode` instruction). This has consequences:

  • It makes little sense to catch synchronous errors like :const:`SIGFPE` or :const:`SIGSEGV` that are caused by an invalid operation in C code. Python will return from the signal handler to the C code, which is likely to raise the same signal again, causing Python to apparently hang. From Python 3.3 onwards, you can use the :mod:`faulthandler` module to report on synchronous errors.
  • A long-running calculation implemented purely in C (such as regular expression matching on a large body of text) may run uninterrupted for an arbitrary amount of time, regardless of any signals received. The Python signal handlers will be called when the calculation finishes.

Signals and threads

Python signal handlers are always executed in the main Python thread, even if the signal was received in another thread. This means that signals can't be used as a means of inter-thread communication. You can use the synchronization primitives from the :mod:`threading` module instead.

Besides, only the main thread is allowed to set a new signal handler.

Module contents

The variables defined in the :mod:`signal` module are:

The :mod:`signal` module defines one exception:

The :mod:`signal` module defines the following functions:


Here is a minimal example program. It uses the :func:`alarm` function to limit the time spent waiting to open a file; this is useful if the file is for a serial device that may not be turned on, which would normally cause the :func:`os.open` to hang indefinitely. The solution is to set a 5-second alarm before opening the file; if the operation takes too long, the alarm signal will be sent, and the handler raises an exception.

import signal, os

def handler(signum, frame):
    print('Signal handler called with signal', signum)
    raise OSError("Couldn't open device!")

# Set the signal handler and a 5-second alarm
signal.signal(signal.SIGALRM, handler)

# This open() may hang indefinitely
fd = os.open('/dev/ttyS0', os.O_RDWR)

signal.alarm(0)          # Disable the alarm