cweston cweston - 1 month ago 5
C Question

fcntl, lockf, which is better to use for file locking?

Looking for information regarding the advantages and disadvantages of both fcntl and lockf for file locking. For example which is better to use for portability? I am currently coding a linux daemon and wondering which is better suited to use for enforcing mutual exclusion.


What is the difference between lockf and fcntl:

On many systems, the lockf() library routine is just a wrapper around fcntl(). That is to say lockf offers a subset of the functionality that fcntl does.


But on some systems, fcntl and lockf locks are completely independent.


Since it is implementation dependent, make sure to always use the same convention. So either always use lockf from both your processes or always use fcntl. There is a good chance that they will be interchangeable, but it's safer to use the same one.

Which one you chose doesn't matter.

Some notes on mandatory vs advisory locks:

Locking in unix/linux is by default advisory, meaning other processes don't need to follow the locking rules that are set. So it doesn't matter which way you lock, as long as your co-operating processes also use the same convention.

Linux does support mandatory locking, but only if your file system is mounted with the option on and the file special attributes set. You can use mount -o mand to mount the file system and set the file attributes g-x,g+s to enable mandatory locks, then use fcntl or lockf. For more information on how mandatory locks work see here.

Note that locks are applied not to the individual file, but to the inode. This means that 2 filenames that point to the same file data will share the same lock status.

In Windows on the other hand, you can actively exclusively open a file, and that will block other processes from opening it completely. Even if they want to. I.e., the locks are mandatory. The same goes for Windows and file locks. Any process with an open file handle with appropriate access can lock a portion of the file and no other process will be able to access that portion.

How mandatory locks work in Linux:

Concerning mandatory locks, if a process locks a region of a file with a read lock, then other processes are permitted to read but not write to that region. If a process locks a region of a file with a write lock, then other processes are not permitted to read nor write to the file. What happens when a process is not permitted to access the part of the file depends on if you specified O_NONBLOCK or not. If blocking is set it will wait to perform the operation. If no blocking is set you will get an error code of EAGAIN.

NFS warning:

Be careful if you are using locking commands on an NFS mount. The behavior is undefined and the implementation widely varies whether to use a local lock only or to support remote locking.