Do Something On Timeout Bash

Shell Programming

When working in a bash environment, it’s essential to have a good understanding of how to handle timeouts. I’ve often encountered scenarios where I need to execute a command or a script in bash, but I also need to ensure that it doesn’t run indefinitely. This is where the timeout command comes in handy.

Understanding the Timeout Command

The timeout command in bash allows you to run a specific command and automatically terminate it if it exceeds a predefined time limit. This can be incredibly useful, especially when dealing with potentially long-running processes or commands that may get stuck.

Let’s take a look at a practical example. Suppose I have a script called, and I want to ensure that it doesn’t run for more than 5 minutes. I can use the timeout command to achieve this:

timeout 5m ./

Here, the timeout command will kill the if it runs for more than 5 minutes.

Dealing with Different Time Units

It’s important to note that the timeout duration can be specified using different time units such as seconds, minutes, hours, and days. For example:

timeout 120s ./

This command will terminate if it runs for more than 120 seconds.

Personal Touch: Why I Find Timeout Command Useful

I remember a specific incident where I was running a data processing script, and due to unexpected issues, it started to hang indefinitely. Without the timeout command, I would have had to manually intervene to kill the process, leading to potential data corruption. The ability to automate the termination of such processes has been a lifesaver in my work.


Being able to effectively handle timeouts in bash is a valuable skill. The timeout command provides a simple yet powerful way to ensure that commands and scripts don’t run indefinitely, thereby enhancing the reliability of shell scripts and command execution.