What Is Diff Between $$ and $! In Shell Scripting?


Heather Bennett

Shell scripting is a powerful tool for automating tasks in the command-line environment. When writing shell scripts, you may come across two special variables: $$ and $!.

Although they may look similar, they serve different purposes. Let’s explore their differences and understand when to use each one.

The $$ Variable

The $$ variable represents the process ID (PID) of the current shell script. In simpler terms, it is a unique number assigned to the script when it starts running. This can be useful in various scenarios:

  • Tracking Processes: You can use the $$ variable to keep track of processes spawned by your script. For example, if your script launches multiple background processes, you can store their PIDs in an array using $$ as a prefix.
  • Creating Temporary Files: When creating temporary files, you can include the $$ variable in the filename to ensure uniqueness. This helps prevent conflicts if multiple instances of the script are running simultaneously.
  • Loading Configuration Files: If your script loads configuration files dynamically, you can use $$ as part of the file name to ensure that each instance of the script reads its own configuration file.

To access the value of $$ in your shell script, simply refer to it by typing “$$”. For example:


echo "The PID of this script is: $$"

This will display the PID when executing the script.

The $! Variable

In contrast to $$, the $! variable represents the PID of the most recently executed background process. It is particularly useful when launching background processes and needing to track their progress or terminate them if necessary.

Consider the following example:

command1 &

command2 &

echo “PID of command1: $pid1”
echo “PID of command2: $pid2”

In this script, command1 and command2 are executed in the background using the ampersand (&) symbol. The PIDs of these processes are stored in variables pid1 and pid2, respectively, using the $! variable.


In summary, the main differences between $$ and $! can be summarized as follows:

  • $$: Represents the PID of the current shell script. Useful for tracking processes, creating temporary files, or loading configuration files.
  • $!

    : Represents the PID of the most recently executed background process. Useful for tracking progress or terminating background processes.

By understanding the differences between these two variables, you can leverage their capabilities to enhance your shell scripts’ functionality and efficiency.

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