Using module 'subprocess' with timeout


Question

Here's the Python code to run an arbitrary command returning its stdout data, or raise an exception on non-zero exit codes:

proc = subprocess.Popen(
    cmd,
    stderr=subprocess.STDOUT,  # Merge stdout and stderr
    stdout=subprocess.PIPE,
    shell=True)

communicate is used to wait for the process to exit:

stdoutdata, stderrdata = proc.communicate()

The subprocess module does not support timeout--ability to kill a process running for more than X number of seconds--therefore, communicate may take forever to run.

What is the simplest way to implement timeouts in a Python program meant to run on Windows and Linux?

1
297
11/1/2015 12:18:26 AM

Accepted Answer

In Python 3.3+:

from subprocess import STDOUT, check_output

output = check_output(cmd, stderr=STDOUT, timeout=seconds)

output is a byte string that contains command's merged stdout, stderr data.

check_output raises CalledProcessError on non-zero exit status as specified in the question's text unlike proc.communicate() method.

I've removed shell=True because it is often used unnecessarily. You can always add it back if cmd indeed requires it. If you add shell=True i.e., if the child process spawns its own descendants; check_output() can return much later than the timeout indicates, see Subprocess timeout failure.

The timeout feature is available on Python 2.x via the subprocess32 backport of the 3.2+ subprocess module.

143
8/20/2019 2:47:36 PM

I don't know much about the low level details; but, given that in python 2.6 the API offers the ability to wait for threads and terminate processes, what about running the process in a separate thread?

import subprocess, threading

class Command(object):
    def __init__(self, cmd):
        self.cmd = cmd
        self.process = None

    def run(self, timeout):
        def target():
            print 'Thread started'
            self.process = subprocess.Popen(self.cmd, shell=True)
            self.process.communicate()
            print 'Thread finished'

        thread = threading.Thread(target=target)
        thread.start()

        thread.join(timeout)
        if thread.is_alive():
            print 'Terminating process'
            self.process.terminate()
            thread.join()
        print self.process.returncode

command = Command("echo 'Process started'; sleep 2; echo 'Process finished'")
command.run(timeout=3)
command.run(timeout=1)

The output of this snippet in my machine is:

Thread started
Process started
Process finished
Thread finished
0
Thread started
Process started
Terminating process
Thread finished
-15

where it can be seen that, in the first execution, the process finished correctly (return code 0), while the in the second one the process was terminated (return code -15).

I haven't tested in windows; but, aside from updating the example command, I think it should work since I haven't found in the documentation anything that says that thread.join or process.terminate is not supported.


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