I'm looking to run a number of background processes in a loop, but only want to wait for all of those processes to finish, still allowing another background process to continue.

After doing some research, I only see solutions that would require me to list every process ID I wish to wait for instead of matching them inversely against a single process ID. It seems that something like wait != $pid would be very useful.

example script:


command1 &
for i in ${array[@]}; do
    for n in $(seq 3); do
        if [ $n -eq 1 ];
            command2 > file &
            command2 >> file &

In this example I'm looking to wait for every process to finish except $pid without having to list them all using the wait command. Is this possible?

  • 3
    I don't think you can do the inverse, but the bash wait also takes job id's as well as pid id's, which would be easier to get a list of compared to pid's (unless you store each PID in an array as you loop...) – Drav Sloan Sep 9 '13 at 0:00

As others have said, there isn't any way to wait on "not" a process ID. However this pattern of code doesn't seem that bad to me, so I offer it as a suggested way of achieving what you're after.

It makes use of Bash arrays which you can then give as a list to the wait command.


A modified version of your example code, cmd.bash.



sleep 30 &

for i in ${array[@]}; do
  for n in $(seq 3); do
    if [ $n -eq 1 ]; then
      sleep 31 > file &
      sleep 32 >> file &

echo ${pidArr[@]}

I've substituted sleep commands in this example just to simulate some long running jobs that we can background. They have nothing to do with this other than to act as stand-ins.

Also the final echo command is there purely so we can see what happens when the for loops complete. Ultimately we'll replace it with an actual wait command, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Example run #1

So let's run our program and see what happens.

$ ./cmd.bash 
24666 24667 24668

Now if we check ps:

$ ps -eaf|grep sleep
saml     24664     1  0 22:28 pts/9    00:00:00 sleep 30
saml     24666     1  0 22:28 pts/9    00:00:00 sleep 31
saml     24667     1  0 22:28 pts/9    00:00:00 sleep 32
saml     24668     1  0 22:28 pts/9    00:00:00 sleep 32

If we wait a bit, these will ultimately finish. But this shows that if we add the process IDs to an array we can echo them out afterwards.

Example #2

So let's change that echo line out and swap in a wait line now, something like this:

  wait ${pidArr[@]}

Now when we run our modified version we see that it's waiting on ALL the process IDs:

$ ./cmd.bash 

...after ~30 seconds passes


We get back our prompt. So we successfully waited for all the processes. A quick check of ps:

$ ps -eaf|grep sleep

So it worked.

  • saved me having to write that essay, thanks :D – Drav Sloan Sep 9 '13 at 10:20
  • 1
    @DravSloan - yeah if I ever leave comments always feel free to write that up as an answer, it usually means I'm too tired to expand on it. That's usually the case with most everyone as well. I waited a couple of hours to make sure you weren't going to do it. 8-). – slm Sep 9 '13 at 12:17

What's wrong with just


As help wait notes:

Waits for the process identified by ID, which may be a process ID or a job specification, and reports its termination status. If ID is not given, waits for all currently active child processes, and the return status is zero.

You want to "still allow another background process to continue"? Just disown it. Following your example:

command1 & disown %1
command2 & command2 & command2 &

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