UNLINK(2) Linux Programmer's Manual UNLINK(2)
unlink, unlinkat - delete a name and possibly the file it refers to
int unlink(const char *pathname);
#include <fcntl.h> /* Definition of AT_* constants */
int unlinkat(int dirfd, const char *pathname, int flags);
Feature Test Macro Requirements for glibc (see feature_test_macros(7)):
Since glibc 2.10:
_POSIX_C_SOURCE >= 200809L
Before glibc 2.10:
unlink() deletes a name from the filesystem. If that name was the last
link to a file and no processes have the file open, the file is deleted
and the space it was using is made available for reuse.
If the name was the last link to a file but any processes still have
the file open, the file will remain in existence until the last file
descriptor referring to it is closed.
If the name referred to a symbolic link, the link is removed.
If the name referred to a socket, FIFO, or device, the name for it is
removed but processes which have the object open may continue to use
The unlinkat() system call operates in exactly the same way as either
unlink() or rmdir(2) (depending on whether or not flags includes the
AT_REMOVEDIR flag) except for the differences described here.
If the pathname given in pathname is relative, then it is interpreted
relative to the directory referred to by the file descriptor dirfd
(rather than relative to the current working directory of the calling
process, as is done by unlink() and rmdir(2) for a relative pathname).
If the pathname given in pathname is relative and dirfd is the special
value AT_FDCWD, then pathname is interpreted relative to the current
working directory of the calling process (like unlink() and rmdir(2)).
If the pathname given in pathname is absolute, then dirfd is ignored.
flags is a bit mask that can either be specified as 0, or by ORing to-
gether flag values that control the operation of unlinkat(). Cur-
rently, only one such flag is defined:
By default, unlinkat() performs the equivalent of unlink() on
pathname. If the AT_REMOVEDIR flag is specified, then performs
the equivalent of rmdir(2) on pathname.
See openat(2) for an explanation of the need for unlinkat().
On success, zero is returned. On error, -1 is returned, and errno is
EACCES Write access to the directory containing pathname is not allowed
for the process's effective UID, or one of the directories in
pathname did not allow search permission. (See also path_reso-
EBUSY The file pathname cannot be unlinked because it is being used by
the system or another process; for example, it is a mount point
or the NFS client software created it to represent an active but
otherwise nameless inode ("NFS silly renamed").
EFAULT pathname points outside your accessible address space.
EIO An I/O error occurred.
EISDIR pathname refers to a directory. (This is the non-POSIX value
returned by Linux since 2.1.132.)
ELOOP Too many symbolic links were encountered in translating path-
pathname was too long.
ENOENT A component in pathname does not exist or is a dangling symbolic
link, or pathname is empty.
ENOMEM Insufficient kernel memory was available.
A component used as a directory in pathname is not, in fact, a
EPERM The system does not allow unlinking of directories, or unlinking
of directories requires privileges that the calling process
doesn't have. (This is the POSIX prescribed error return; as
noted above, Linux returns EISDIR for this case.)
EPERM (Linux only)
The filesystem does not allow unlinking of files.
EPERM or EACCES
The directory containing pathname has the sticky bit (S_ISVTX)
set and the process's effective UID is neither the UID of the
file to be deleted nor that of the directory containing it, and
the process is not privileged (Linux: does not have the
EPERM The file to be unlinked is marked immutable or append-only.
EROFS pathname refers to a file on a read-only filesystem.
The same errors that occur for unlink() and rmdir(2) can also occur for
unlinkat(). The following additional errors can occur for unlinkat():
EBADF dirfd is not a valid file descriptor.
EINVAL An invalid flag value was specified in flags.
EISDIR pathname refers to a directory, and AT_REMOVEDIR was not speci-
fied in flags.
pathname is relative and dirfd is a file descriptor referring to
a file other than a directory.
unlinkat() was added to Linux in kernel 2.6.16; library support was
added to glibc in version 2.4.
unlink(): SVr4, 4.3BSD, POSIX.1-2001, POSIX.1-2008.
On older kernels where unlinkat() is unavailable, the glibc wrapper
function falls back to the use of unlink() or rmdir(2). When pathname
is a relative pathname, glibc constructs a pathname based on the sym-
bolic link in /proc/self/fd that corresponds to the dirfd argument.
Infelicities in the protocol underlying NFS can cause the unexpected
disappearance of files which are still being used.
rm(1), unlink(1), chmod(2), link(2), mknod(2), open(2), rename(2),
rmdir(2), mkfifo(3), remove(3), path_resolution(7), symlink(7)
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Linux 2017-09-15 UNLINK(2)