I am writing a long-running program in the Linux environment that will be calculating entries in a large table. Every time it comes to the end of the row, it outputs the calculated values into a plaintext file.

To avoid having to continually reopen the file and append to it, I am considering just opening the file once and holding it open for the duration of the program.

I know that there is a limit on the maximum number of file descriptors that can be open at once, but is there a time limit on a single file descriptor being held for an extended period of time?

Note: The process I am running could potentially take a month or more to complete.

  • If there was such a limit, your system would crash when it's reached as all processes have open files, starting with the first one (init) without which the system cannot run. Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 7:02
  • Excellent point: I'll accept this answer if you post it. Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 15:12

1 Answer 1


If I understand you correctly, you are looking for some solution as suggested over here. So, as suggested in this answer, I wanted to see if there is an option using exec. So, when I did a google search linux append using file descriptor, I got this answer from user Gilles.

So the essence of his answer is what I believe you are looking for.

exec 5>/tmp/foo       # open /tmp/foo for writing, on fd 5
while true; do        # 
  echo "Hello" >&5    # write to fd 5, i.e. /tmp/foo
done                  # 

Regarding the maximum time the file descriptor can remain open, I believe as long as the loop terminates it will remain open as we are not closing the file descriptor here. You could find more information on that answer that I had linked to.

  • To clarify, I was speaking more of a limit in the kernel, not how to do this programmatically from the shell. Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 15:14
  • @mattingly890, I know. That's what I have specified in my last paragraph. It will remain open as long as we are not closing the file descriptor. If you check the answer I linked, it discusses it in detail.
    – Ramesh
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 15:52
  • I appreciate your effort, but none of the questions or answers you linked to were clear and unequivocal about the behavior of the Linux kernel in my specific situation. I was not concerned about how to open a file indefinitely. I wanted a clear answer about whether the kernel had an internal time-to-live on open file descriptors. It is a case of mechanics vs behavior. Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 16:29
  • @mattingly890, agreed. I am just a curious learner trying to explore new things always. Sorry that this one did not answer your query :)
    – Ramesh
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 16:33
  • Has anyone found out about the time limit, theoretically or at least by trying?
    – Renato
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 8:59

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .