I'm developing a shell script that only uses /dev/random in the following manner:

dd if=/dev/random of=%{outputFile} count=512 bs=1 2>/dev/null

I explicitly do not want to use /dev/urandom, even though it is better to use for a variety of reasons, because I want to test a particular piece of hardware random number generator that I purchased for my computer and would like to rely on /dev/random entirely.

Now, I know I can check entropy_avail and poolsize but, how exactly should I go about ensuring to the best of my ability that performing my dd call won't block? For some reason I feel like doing a simple if check on the size of entropy_avail isn't sufficient because entropy_avail doesn't necessarily tell me exactly how many bits are available to be used by /dev/random.

How should I go about safely checking if performing dd on /dev/random is going to block?

  • I'm curious. Why would you purchase a specialized random number generator? Wouldn't it be easier (and cheaper) to make a sha512 hash of the webcam picture (or microphone). Thanks to random noise on the sensor, even if you the webcam takes a picture of a wall, it should still be quite random. Jun 21, 2019 at 21:15
  • I’ll see if I can dig up the link but I seem to recall from the security stack exchange that the common advice about random vs. urandom is outdated.
    – Wildcard
    Jun 21, 2019 at 21:30
  • 1
    @roaima, here is the link I was referring to; however I see that in this case the Original Poster specifically wants to test a hardware number generator (otherwise urandom would be fine).
    – Wildcard
    Jun 21, 2019 at 23:47
  • @Wildcard i'm just a hobbyist :) looking to do some very amateur data collection on various medium of randomness. Jun 24, 2019 at 13:36

1 Answer 1


If using GNU dd, you can use

dd if=/dev/random iflag=nonblock

for it to read up to 512 bytes without blocking (so returning fewer bytes if fewer are available).

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