read — read from a file descriptor


#include <unistd.h>
ssize_t read( int fd,
  void *buf,
  size_t count);


read() attempts to read up to count bytes from file descriptor fd into the buffer starting at buf.

If count is zero, read() returns zero and has no other results. If count is greater than SSIZE_MAX, the result is unspecified.


On success, the number of bytes read is returned (zero indicates end of file), and the file position is advanced by this number. It is not an error if this number is smaller than the number of bytes requested; this may happen for example because fewer bytes are actually available right now (maybe because we were close to end-of-file, or because we are reading from a pipe, or from a terminal), or because read() was interrupted by a signal. On error, −1 is returned, and errno is set appropriately. In this case it is left unspecified whether the file position (if any) changes.



The file descriptor fd refers to a file other than a socket and has been marked nonblocking (O_NONBLOCK), and the read would block.


The file descriptor fd refers to a socket and has been marked nonblocking (O_NONBLOCK), and the read would block. POSIX.1-2001 allows either error to be returned for this case, and does not require these constants to have the same value, so a portable application should check for both possibilities.


fd is not a valid file descriptor or is not open for reading.


buf is outside your accessible address space.


The call was interrupted by a signal before any data was read; see signal(7).


fd is attached to an object which is unsuitable for reading; or the file was opened with the O_DIRECT flag, and either the address specified in buf, the value specified in count, or the current file offset is not suitably aligned.


fd was created via a call to timerfd_create(2) and the wrong size buffer was given to read(); see timerfd_create(2) for further information.


I/O error. This will happen for example when the process is in a background process group, tries to read from its controlling tty, and either it is ignoring or blocking SIGTTIN or its process group is orphaned. It may also occur when there is a low-level I/O error while reading from a disk or tape.


fd refers to a directory.

Other errors may occur, depending on the object connected to fd. POSIX allows a read() that is interrupted after reading some data to return −1 (with errno set to EINTR) or to return the number of bytes already read.


SVr4, 4.3BSD, POSIX.1-2001.


On NFS file systems, reading small amounts of data will only update the timestamp the first time, subsequent calls may not do so. This is caused by client side attribute caching, because most if not all NFS clients leave st_atime (last file access time) updates to the server and client side reads satisfied from the client's cache will not cause st_atime updates on the server as there are no server side reads. UNIX semantics can be obtained by disabling client side attribute caching, but in most situations this will substantially increase server load and decrease performance.

Many file systems and disks were considered to be fast enough that the implementation of O_NONBLOCK was deemed unnecessary. So, O_NONBLOCK may not be available on files and/or disks.


close(2), fcntl(2), ioctl(2), lseek(2), open(2), pread(2), readdir(2), readlink(2), readv(2), select(2), write(2), fread(3)


This page is part of release 3.33 of the Linux man-pages project. A description of the project, and information about reporting bugs, can be found at

This manpage is Copyright (C) 1992 Drew Eckhardt;
                              1993 Michael Haardt, Ian Jackson.

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Modified Sat Jul 24 00:06:00 1993 by Rik Faith <>
Modified Wed Jan 17 16:02:32 1996 by Michael Haardt
Modified Thu Apr 11 19:26:35 1996 by Andries Brouwer <>
Modified Sun Jul 21 18:59:33 1996 by Andries Brouwer <>
Modified Fri Jan 31 16:47:33 1997 by Eric S. Raymond <>
Modified Sat Jul 12 20:45:39 1997 by Michael Haardt