I want to limit the time a grep process command is allowed to run or be alive.

For example. I want to perform the following:

grep -qsRw -m1 "parameter" /var

But before running the grep command I want to limit how long the grep process is to live, say no longer than 30 seconds.

How do I do this?

And if it can, how do I return or reset to have no time limit afterwards.

  • 3
    didn't you ask this already? stackoverflow.com/questions/3061377/…
    – unbeli
    Commented Jun 17, 2010 at 15:25
  • No this other quastion because I not get answer on the orig quastion Yael
    – yael
    Commented Jun 17, 2010 at 15:25
  • 4
    @yael: you got a perfectly good solution previously, using timeout, and you even got instructions on how to install it. It's rude to ignore this answer and then duplicate your question.
    – Paul R
    Commented Jun 17, 2010 at 15:27
  • sorry but NO I do not want to install anything on my system THX yael
    – yael
    Commented Jun 17, 2010 at 15:31
  • 5
    @yael: then you need to update your original question to include this constraint, NOT just duplicate the question and start all over again
    – Paul R
    Commented Jun 17, 2010 at 15:33

4 Answers 4


You can use timelimit, it is available in the default ubuntu or you could compile it yourself.

timelimit executes a command and terminates the spawned process after a given time with a given signal. A “warning” signal is sent first, then, after a timeout, a “kill” signal, similar to the way init(8) operates on shutdown.

  • 2
    It's not in my Ubuntus (10.10 desktop, 11.04 server) so probably isn't a default. But easily grabbed with a quick sudo aptitude install timelimit. Works great once installed.
    – Day
    Commented May 6, 2011 at 20:10

Here's some slightly hackish bash for that:

grep -qsRw -m1 "parameter" /var &


( sleep 30; kill $GREPPID ) &


Basically, it starts the search in the background, then starts a subshell that waits 30 seconds and then kills the search process. If the search takes <30s, the process will already be dead. It's not a great idea to kill a process that's already dead since there's a very small chance something else will reuse the pid, but for something like this it's generally okay. Lastly, the search is put back in the foreground and will run until it finishes or is killed.

  • how to get the $? from the grep in this case because in my script I take the $? from grep and verify if grep match the string? yael
    – yael
    Commented Jun 17, 2010 at 15:29
  • I'm not sure there's a straightforward way to do that. Furthermore, this approach doesn't work in a script where bash doesn't have job control active. You may have to resort to a bit of Perl hackery to get the job done in a script. Hmm... Commented Jun 17, 2010 at 15:31
  • it is possible to arrived this question to perl ? Yael
    – yael
    Commented Jun 17, 2010 at 15:33

Create a new file called "tgrep" and put in it the following (or call it whatever you want):

grep $@ &
sleep 30 && kill $PID 2>/dev/null &
wait $PID
exit 0

Next, run chmod a+x tgrep. Now if you want to use it you can type

./tgrep -i "results" /home/dan/*txt

Or you can just use it as tgrep (without the ./ and be able to use it from any directory) if you place it in a directory contained in your $PATH variable (like /home/dan/bin/, if that is in your $PATH variable, otherwise you can add it).


You can just use timeout:

timeout 30 "grep -qsRw -m1 "parameter" /var"

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