When using a terminal emulator, one can stop the currently running program with either CTRL-Z or CTRL-S. What's the difference between these control characters?


2 Answers 2


It's the difference between the "stop" and "suspend" actions to the terminal.

Stopping the output with Ctrl-S doesn't stop the process from running; rather it just stops output to the terminal (resume with Ctrl-Q / "start").

Suspending a process with Ctrl-Z actually stops it running, and puts the process into a different state visible from ps (state "T"). Resume with "fg" or "bg" to resume the process in the foreground or background, respectively.


CTRL-Z sends the SIGSTOP signal, which forces the program to stop.





you can send SIGCONT and start it in the front- or background.

CTRL-S just stops outputting stuff to the terminal. (XOFF) You can turn it back on with CTRL-Q.(XON)

  • A small correction: Control-Z sends SIGTSTP, not SIGSTOP. An important difference between them is that programs can catch or ignore SIGTSTP, but not SIGSTOP. Programs may catch TSTP and perform cleanup operations before suspending execution, but STOP causes the process to stop without any notice.
    – Chris Page
    Sep 19, 2011 at 12:14

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