getitimer - get value of an interval timer


#include <sys/time.h> int getitimer(int which, struct itimerval *value);


The system provides each process with three interval timers, each decrementing in a distinct time domain. When any timer expires, a signal is sent to the process, and the timer (potentially) restarts.

decrements in real time, and delivers SIGALRM upon expiration.
decrements only when the process is executing, and delivers SIGVTALRM upon expiration.
decrements both when the process executes and when the system is executing on behalf of the process. Coupled with

ITIMER_VIRTUAL?, this timer is usually used to profile the time spent by the application in user and kernel space. SIGPROF is delivered upon expiration.

Timer values are defined by the following structures

struct itimerval {

struct timeval it_interval; /* next value / struct timeval it_value; / current value */


struct timeval {

long tv_sec; /* seconds / long tv_usec; / microseconds */


getitimer(2) fills the structure indicated by value with the current setting for the timer indicated by which (one of ITIMER_REAL, ITIMER_VIRTUAL, or ITIMER_PROF). The element it_value is set to the amount of time remaining on the timer, or zero if the timer is disabled. Similarly, it_interval is set to the reset value. Setitimer(2)? sets the indicated timer to the value in value. If ovalue is nonzero, the old value of the timer is stored there.

Timers decrement from it_value to zero, generate a signal, and reset to it_interval. A timer which is set to zero (it_value is zero or the timer expires and it_interval is zero) stops.

Both tv_sec and tv_usec are significant in determining the duration of a timer.

Timers will never expire before the requested time, instead expiring some short, constant time afterwards, dependent on the system timer resolution (currently 10ms). Upon expiration, a signal will be generated and the timer reset. If the timer expires while the process is active (always true for ITIMER_VIRT) the signal will be delivered immediately when generated. Otherwise the delivery will be offset by a small time dependent on the system loading.


On success, zero is returned. On error, -1 is returned, and errno is set appropriately.


value or ovalue are not valid pointers.
which is not one of ITIMER_REAL, ITIMER_VIRT, or ITIMER_PROF.


SVr4, 4.4BSD (This call first appeared in 4.2BSD).


Under Linux, the generation and delivery of a signal are distinct, and there each signal is permitted only one outstanding event. It's therefore conceivable that under pathologically heavy loading, ITIMER_REAL will expire before the signal from a previous expiration has been delivered. The second signal in such an event will be lost.


gettimeofday(2), sigaction(2), signal(2)

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