Vivek Sharma Vivek Sharma - 2 months ago 6x
C Question

Exception Handling in C - What is the use of setjmp() returning 0?

I have a few questions relating to setjmp/longjmp usage -

  1. What is the use of setjmp(jmp___buf stackVariables) returning 0. It is a default, which we cannot influence.

  2. Is the only significance of setjmp(stackVariables) is to push the stack in stackVariables. And basically 0 tells us if the stack was pushed on stack_variables successfully.

  3. Their is one occasion when the value is non-zero (any non-zero) when you return from a longjmp. What is returning from a lomgjmp, when do you return from longjmp, when your exception is handled. This is setup is really confusing.

  4. Can some please relate it to try/throw and catch. And would be really great, if some good examples of setjmp/longjmp could be provided.

  5. Is longJmp like throw, and it is called just after the place where exception can be raised.



The C99 spec gives:

If the return is from a direct invocation, the setjmp macro returns the value zero. If the return is from a call to the longjmp function, the setjmp macro returns a nonzero value.

So the answer to 1 is that a zero indicates you have called setjmp the first time, and non-zero indicates it is returning from a longjmp.

  1. It pushes the current program state. After a longjmp, the state is restored, control returns to the point it was called, and the return value is non-zero.

  2. There are no exceptions in C. It's sort-of similar to fork returning different values depending whether you're in the original process, or a second process which has inherited the environment, if you're familiar with that.

  3. try/catch in C++ will call destructors on all automatic objects between the throw and the catch. setjmp/longjmp will not call destructors, as they don't exist in C. So you are on your own as far as calling free on anything you've malloced in the mean time.

With that proviso, this:

#include <stdio.h>
#include <setjmp.h>
#include <string.h>
#include <stdlib.h>

void foo ( char** data ) ;
void handle ( char* data ) ;
jmp_buf env;

int main ()
    char* data = 0;

    int res = setjmp ( env ); 
    // stored for demo purposes. 
    // in portable code do not store 
    // the result, but test it directly.

    printf ( "setjmp returned %d\n", res );

    if ( res == 0 )
        foo ( &data );
        handle ( data );

    return 0;

void foo ( char** data )
    *data = malloc ( 32 );

    printf ( "in foo\n" );

    strcpy ( *data, "Hello World" );

    printf ( "data = %s\n", *data );

    longjmp ( env, 42 );

void handle ( char* data )
    printf ( "in handler\n" );

    if ( data ) {
        free ( data );
        printf ( "data freed\n" );

is roughly equivalent to

#include <iostream>

void foo ( ) ;
void handle ( ) ;

int main ()
    try {
        foo ();
    } catch (int x) {
        std::cout << "caught " << x << "\n";
        handle ();

    return 0;

void foo ( )
    printf ( "in foo\n" );

    std::string data = "Hello World";

    std::cout << "data = " << data << "\n";

    throw 42;

void handle ( )
    std::cout << "in handler\n";

In the C case, you have to do explicit memory management (though normally you'd free it in the function which malloc'd it before calling longjmp as it makes life simpler)