lseek - reposition read/write file offset
off_t lseek(int fd, off_t offset, int
() function repositions the offset of the open file associated
with the file descriptor fd
to the argument offset
the directive whence
- The offset is set to offset bytes.
- The offset is set to its current location plus
- The offset is set to the size of the file plus
() function allows the file offset to be set beyond the end of
the file (but this does not change the size of the file). If data is later
written at this point, subsequent reads of the data in the gap (a
"hole") return null bytes ('\0') until data is actually written into
Seeking file data and holes¶
Since version 3.1, Linux supports the following additional values for
- Adjust the file offset to the next location in the file
greater than or equal to offset containing data. If offset
points to data, then the file offset is set to offset.
- Adjust the file offset to the next hole in the file greater
than or equal to offset. If offset points into the middle of
a hole, then the file offset is set to offset. If there is no hole
past offset, then the file offset is adjusted to the end of the
file (i.e., there is an implicit hole at the end of any file).
In both of the above cases, lseek
() fails if offset
the end of the file.
These operations allow applications to map holes in a sparsely allocated file.
This can be useful for applications such as file backup tools, which can save
space when creating backups and preserve holes, if they have a mechanism for
For the purposes of these operations, a hole is a sequence of zeros that
(normally) has not been allocated in the underlying file storage. However, a
file system is not obliged to report holes, so these operations are not a
guaranteed mechanism for mapping the storage space actually allocated to a
file. (Furthermore, a sequence of zeros that actually has been written to the
underlying storage may not be reported as a hole.) In the simplest
implementation, a file system can support the operations by making
always return the offset of the end of the file, and making
always return offset
(i.e., even if the location
referred to by offset
is a hole, it can be considered to consist of
data that is a sequence of zeros).
Upon successful completion, lseek
() returns the resulting offset location
as measured in bytes from the beginning of the file. On error, the value
is returned and errno
is set to indicate the
- fd is not an open file descriptor.
- whence is not valid. Or: the resulting file offset
would be negative, or beyond the end of a seekable device.
- The resulting file offset cannot be represented in an
- fd is associated with a pipe, socket, or FIFO.
- whence is SEEK_DATA or SEEK_HOLE, and
the current file offset is beyond the end of the file.
SVr4, 4.3BSD, POSIX.1-2001.
are nonstandard extensions also present in
Solaris, FreeBSD, and DragonFly BSD; they are proposed for inclusion in the
next POSIX revision (Issue 8).
Some devices are incapable of seeking and POSIX does not specify which devices
must support lseek
On Linux, using lseek
() on a tty device returns ESPIPE
When converting old code, substitute values for whence
with the following
Note that file descriptors created by dup(2)
current file position pointer, so seeking on such files may be subject to race
This page is part of release 3.44 of the Linux man-pages
description of the project, and information about reporting bugs, can be found