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Terminate Python Child Processes Safely with Subprocess Module

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Are you having trouble managing your child processes while coding in Python? Is it challenging to terminate child processes safely without causing any damage to your system? Well, worry no more because the Subprocess module has got you covered!With Subprocess module, you can easily create and manage child processes in Python. Not only that, but it also provides a safe way to control and terminate these processes without any hassles. This powerful tool enables you to execute external commands and scripts, establish communication channels between parent and child processes, and much more.However, there are certain precautions that you need to take while handling your child processes with the Subprocess module. You have to be careful about properly closing all the I/O streams and killing the child processes before exiting your program. If not done correctly, these processes can continue running in the background and cause a host of problems.If you’re curious to know how to deal with these challenges and ensure that your child processes are managed safely and efficiently, then this article is a must-read for you. We’ll provide you with all the necessary guidelines and tips to help you terminate Python child processes without causing any damage to your system. So, sit back, relax, and let’s dive right in!

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“How To Kill A Python Child Process Created With Subprocess.Check_output() When The Parent Dies?” ~ bbaz


Python is an interpreted language that’s widely used in the software industry. One of the core strengths of Python is its ability to spawn and manage child processes. However, when working with child processes, it’s critical to ensure they’re terminated safely and efficiently to avoid problems such as orphaned processes or resource leaks. This article focuses on discussing how you can terminate Python child processes using the subprocess module.

What is the subprocess module?

The subprocess module is an essential component of Python’s Standard Library. It allows spawning new processes, connecting to their input/output/error pipes, and obtaining their return codes. This module provides a simple and consistent interface for spawning new processes, making it easy to create complex pipelines or work with external programs from Python code.

Why is Safe Termination Important?

When a Python script spawns a child process, it must handle terminating it correctly to avoid issues such as stuck or lingering processes. Failure to do this might lead to orphaned processes or performance issues, putting the system at risk of instability. Hence, a safe and efficient termination method ensures that child processes are terminated gracefully without any left-over residues.

How does Subprocess Terminate Child Processes?

The subprocess module provides several methods for terminating child processes based on the operating system. These include:

Method Description
Kill() Sends a SIGKILL signal to the process, forcing it to exit immediately.
Terminate() Sends a SIGTERM signal to the process, prompting it to cleanup operations and exit.
Send_signal(signal) Sends a custom signal to the process, allowing more control over the termination process.

Using Kill() Method to Terminate Child Processes

The kill() method is one of the methods provided by Subprocess to terminate child processes. Developers prefer using this method when there’s a need to shutdown a process immediately, without much concern for proper cleanup or data integrity. This approach is riskier because it doesn’t give the process a chance to save its data or release system resources.

Using Terminate() Method to End Child Processes

The terminate() method is a more sensible option than the kill() method. It sends a SIGTERM signal to the process to invoke a proper cleanup of memory and resource usage before the process can exit. The method is more effective when there’s still a lot to do, such as writing unsaved data to disk and releasing system resources.

Killing Python Child Processes on Windows

Windows users have unique challenges when it comes to terminating python child processes. Unlike Unix-like operating systems, Windows uses a different set of signals, which makes it slightly harder for developers to terminate processes using signals. Fortunately, Subprocess provides workarounds for terminating child processes safely and securely.

Terminating Multiple Processes Simultaneously

This functionality is crucial when dealing with multiple child processes spawned concurrently. While a single process can be terminated using the terminate() method, we use a Loop structure to iterate through a list of all the child processes and terminate them one after another.

Safe Termination Using SIGINT With Signals

It’s possible to implement safe termination using signals programmatically. When you send a SIGINT signal to a running process, it triggers an interrupt command that prompts the process to terminate safely. This approach is useful when the process needs a little time to save data or release some crucial resources before the termination can happen.


Defensive programming is necessary when dealing with child processes because it becomes easy for these processes to get out of hand, leading to critical issues such as orphaned resources and even system crashes. Understanding the right method of terminating your child processes in your codebase is paramount, and it’s the only way to ensure no residue is lying around to create long-term risks to your system.



Thank you for taking the time to read this article on terminating Python child processes safely with the Subprocess module. We hope that you found the information provided helpful and informative, allowing you to better manage your project’s subprocesses in a secure and efficient manner.

As we discussed in the article, properly handling subprocesses is critical to the efficient functioning of any Python project. Failure to manage these subprocesses correctly can result in a host of issues, including security risks, resource drain, and potential loss of data.

Fortunately, with the Subprocess module, Python developers have a powerful tool at their disposal that allows them to manage child processes effectively and safely. By using best practices and following the tips outlined in this article, you can ensure that your subprocesses are managed securely and efficiently, keeping your project running smoothly.

Once again, thank you for reading this article. If you have any questions or concerns about managing subprocesses in Python, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Our team is always here to help, and we look forward to hearing from you soon!

Here are some common questions that people also ask about how to terminate Python child processes safely with the Subprocess module:

  1. What is the Subprocess module in Python?

    The Subprocess module in Python is a way to spawn new processes, connect to their input/output/error pipes, and obtain their return codes.

  2. How can I create a child process using the Subprocess module?

    You can create a child process using the Subprocess module by calling the subprocess.Popen() function. This function takes a variety of arguments, including the command you want to run and any options you want to pass to it.

  3. What happens if I don’t terminate my Python child processes correctly?

    If you don’t terminate your Python child processes correctly, they may continue to run in the background even after your main program has finished executing. This can cause problems with system resources and stability.

  4. How can I terminate my Python child processes safely using the Subprocess module?

    You can terminate your Python child processes safely using the subprocess.Popen.terminate() method. This will send a SIGTERM signal to the child process, which should allow it to gracefully shut down.

  5. What other options do I have for terminating my Python child processes?

    In addition to the terminate() method, you can also use the kill() method to send a SIGKILL signal to the child process. However, this is a more forceful way to terminate the process and may not allow it to clean up properly.