PTHREAD_COND_TIMEDWAIT(P) POSIX Programmer's Manual PTHREAD_COND_TIMEDWAIT(P)
This manual page is part of the POSIX Programmer's Manual. The Linux
implementation of this interface may differ (consult the corresponding
Linux manual page for details of Linux behavior), or the interface may
not be implemented on Linux.
pthread_cond_timedwait, pthread_cond_wait - wait on a condition
int pthread_cond_timedwait(pthread_cond_t *restrict cond,
pthread_mutex_t *restrict mutex,
const struct timespec *restrict abstime);
int pthread_cond_wait(pthread_cond_t *restrict cond,
pthread_mutex_t *restrict mutex);
The pthread_cond_timedwait() and pthread_cond_wait() functions shall
block on a condition variable. They shall be called with mutex locked
by the calling thread or undefined behavior results.
These functions atomically release mutex and cause the calling thread
to block on the condition variable cond; atomically here means "atomi-
cally with respect to access by another thread to the mutex and then
the condition variable". That is, if another thread is able to acquire
the mutex after the about-to-block thread has released it, then a sub-
sequent call to pthread_cond_broadcast() or pthread_cond_signal() in
that thread shall behave as if it were issued after the about-to-block
thread has blocked.
Upon successful return, the mutex shall have been locked and shall be
owned by the calling thread.
When using condition variables there is always a Boolean predicate
involving shared variables associated with each condition wait that is
true if the thread should proceed. Spurious wakeups from the
pthread_cond_timedwait() or pthread_cond_wait() functions may occur.
Since the return from pthread_cond_timedwait() or pthread_cond_wait()
does not imply anything about the value of this predicate, the predi-
cate should be re-evaluated upon such return.
The effect of using more than one mutex for concurrent
pthread_cond_timedwait() or pthread_cond_wait() operations on the same
condition variable is undefined; that is, a condition variable becomes
bound to a unique mutex when a thread waits on the condition variable,
and this (dynamic) binding shall end when the wait returns.
A condition wait (whether timed or not) is a cancellation point. When
the cancelability enable state of a thread is set to PTHREAD_CAN-
CEL_DEFERRED, a side effect of acting upon a cancellation request while
in a condition wait is that the mutex is (in effect) re-acquired before
calling the first cancellation cleanup handler. The effect is as if the
thread were unblocked, allowed to execute up to the point of returning
from the call to pthread_cond_timedwait() or pthread_cond_wait(), but
at that point notices the cancellation request and instead of returning
to the caller of pthread_cond_timedwait() or pthread_cond_wait(),
starts the thread cancellation activities, which includes calling can-
cellation cleanup handlers.
A thread that has been unblocked because it has been canceled while
blocked in a call to pthread_cond_timedwait() or pthread_cond_wait()
shall not consume any condition signal that may be directed concur-
rently at the condition variable if there are other threads blocked on
the condition variable.
The pthread_cond_timedwait() function shall be equivalent to
pthread_cond_wait(), except that an error is returned if the absolute
time specified by abstime passes (that is, system time equals or
exceeds abstime) before the condition cond is signaled or broadcasted,
or if the absolute time specified by abstime has already been passed at
the time of the call.
If the Clock Selection option is supported, the condition variable
shall have a clock attribute which specifies the clock that shall be
used to measure the time specified by the abstime argument. When such
timeouts occur, pthread_cond_timedwait() shall nonetheless release and
re-acquire the mutex referenced by mutex. The pthread_cond_timedwait()
function is also a cancellation point.
If a signal is delivered to a thread waiting for a condition variable,
upon return from the signal handler the thread resumes waiting for the
condition variable as if it was not interrupted, or it shall return
zero due to spurious wakeup.
Except in the case of [ETIMEDOUT], all these error checks shall act as
if they were performed immediately at the beginning of processing for
the function and shall cause an error return, in effect, prior to modi-
fying the state of the mutex specified by mutex or the condition vari-
able specified by cond.
Upon successful completion, a value of zero shall be returned; other-
wise, an error number shall be returned to indicate the error.
The pthread_cond_timedwait() function shall fail if:
The time specified by abstime to pthread_cond_timedwait() has
The pthread_cond_timedwait() and pthread_cond_wait() functions may fail
EINVAL The value specified by cond, mutex, or abstime is invalid.
EINVAL Different mutexes were supplied for concurrent
pthread_cond_timedwait() or pthread_cond_wait() operations on
the same condition variable.
EPERM The mutex was not owned by the current thread at the time of the
These functions shall not return an error code of [EINTR].
The following sections are informative.
Condition Wait Semantics
It is important to note that when pthread_cond_wait() and
pthread_cond_timedwait() return without error, the associated predicate
may still be false. Similarly, when pthread_cond_timedwait() returns
with the timeout error, the associated predicate may be true due to an
unavoidable race between the expiration of the timeout and the predi-
cate state change.
Some implementations, particularly on a multi-processor, may sometimes
cause multiple threads to wake up when the condition variable is sig-
naled simultaneously on different processors.
In general, whenever a condition wait returns, the thread has to re-
evaluate the predicate associated with the condition wait to determine
whether it can safely proceed, should wait again, or should declare a
timeout. A return from the wait does not imply that the associated
predicate is either true or false.
It is thus recommended that a condition wait be enclosed in the equiva-
lent of a "while loop" that checks the predicate.
Timed Wait Semantics
An absolute time measure was chosen for specifying the timeout parame-
ter for two reasons. First, a relative time measure can be easily
implemented on top of a function that specifies absolute time, but
there is a race condition associated with specifying an absolute time-
out on top of a function that specifies relative timeouts. For exam-
ple, assume that clock_gettime() returns the current time and cond_rel-
ative_timed_wait() uses relative timeouts:
reltime = sleep_til_this_absolute_time -now;
cond_relative_timed_wait(c, m, &reltime);
If the thread is preempted between the first statement and the last
statement, the thread blocks for too long. Blocking, however, is irrel-
evant if an absolute timeout is used. An absolute timeout also need not
be recomputed if it is used multiple times in a loop, such as that
enclosing a condition wait.
For cases when the system clock is advanced discontinuously by an oper-
ator, it is expected that implementations process any timed wait expir-
ing at an intervening time as if that time had actually occurred.
Cancellation and Condition Wait
A condition wait, whether timed or not, is a cancellation point. That
is, the functions pthread_cond_wait() or pthread_cond_timedwait() are
points where a pending (or concurrent) cancellation request is noticed.
The reason for this is that an indefinite wait is possible at these
points-whatever event is being waited for, even if the program is
totally correct, might never occur; for example, some input data being
awaited might never be sent. By making condition wait a cancellation
point, the thread can be canceled and perform its cancellation cleanup
handler even though it may be stuck in some indefinite wait.
A side effect of acting on a cancellation request while a thread is
blocked on a condition variable is to re-acquire the mutex before call-
ing any of the cancellation cleanup handlers. This is done in order to
ensure that the cancellation cleanup handler is executed in the same
state as the critical code that lies both before and after the call to
the condition wait function. This rule is also required when interfac-
ing to POSIX threads from languages, such as Ada or C++, which may
choose to map cancellation onto a language exception; this rule ensures
that each exception handler guarding a critical section can always
safely depend upon the fact that the associated mutex has already been
locked regardless of exactly where within the critical section the
exception was raised. Without this rule, there would not be a uniform
rule that exception handlers could follow regarding the lock, and so
coding would become very cumbersome.
Therefore, since some statement has to be made regarding the state of
the lock when a cancellation is delivered during a wait, a definition
has been chosen that makes application coding most convenient and error
When acting on a cancellation request while a thread is blocked on a
condition variable, the implementation is required to ensure that the
thread does not consume any condition signals directed at that condi-
tion variable if there are any other threads waiting on that condition
variable. This rule is specified in order to avoid deadlock conditions
that could occur if these two independent requests (one acting on a
thread and the other acting on the condition variable) were not pro-
Performance of Mutexes and Condition Variables
Mutexes are expected to be locked only for a few instructions. This
practice is almost automatically enforced by the desire of programmers
to avoid long serial regions of execution (which would reduce total
When using mutexes and condition variables, one tries to ensure that
the usual case is to lock the mutex, access shared data, and unlock the
mutex. Waiting on a condition variable should be a relatively rare sit-
uation. For example, when implementing a read-write lock, code that
acquires a read-lock typically needs only to increment the count of
readers (under mutual-exclusion) and return. The calling thread would
actually wait on the condition variable only when there is already an
active writer. So the efficiency of a synchronization operation is
bounded by the cost of mutex lock/unlock and not by condition wait.
Note that in the usual case there is no context switch.
This is not to say that the efficiency of condition waiting is unimpor-
tant. Since there needs to be at least one context switch per Ada ren-
dezvous, the efficiency of waiting on a condition variable is impor-
tant. The cost of waiting on a condition variable should be little more
than the minimal cost for a context switch plus the time to unlock and
lock the mutex.
Features of Mutexes and Condition Variables
It had been suggested that the mutex acquisition and release be decou-
pled from condition wait. This was rejected because it is the combined
nature of the operation that, in fact, facilitates realtime implementa-
tions. Those implementations can atomically move a high-priority thread
between the condition variable and the mutex in a manner that is trans-
parent to the caller. This can prevent extra context switches and pro-
vide more deterministic acquisition of a mutex when the waiting thread
is signaled. Thus, fairness and priority issues can be dealt with
directly by the scheduling discipline. Furthermore, the current condi-
tion wait operation matches existing practice.
Scheduling Behavior of Mutexes and Condition Variables
Synchronization primitives that attempt to interfere with scheduling
policy by specifying an ordering rule are considered undesirable.
Threads waiting on mutexes and condition variables are selected to pro-
ceed in an order dependent upon the scheduling policy rather than in
some fixed order (for example, FIFO or priority). Thus, the scheduling
policy determines which thread(s) are awakened and allowed to proceed.
Timed Condition Wait
The pthread_cond_timedwait() function allows an application to give up
waiting for a particular condition after a given amount of time. An
example of its use follows:
ts.tv_sec += 5;
rc = 0;
while (! mypredicate(&t) && rc == 0)
rc = pthread_cond_timedwait(&t.cond, &t.mn, &ts);
if (rc == 0) setmystate(&t);
By making the timeout parameter absolute, it does not need to be recom-
puted each time the program checks its blocking predicate. If the
timeout was relative, it would have to be recomputed before each call.
This would be especially difficult since such code would need to take
into account the possibility of extra wakeups that result from extra
broadcasts or signals on the condition variable that occur before
either the predicate is true or the timeout is due.
pthread_cond_signal() , pthread_cond_broadcast() , the Base Definitions
volume of IEEE Std 1003.1-2001, <pthread.h>
Portions of this text are reprinted and reproduced in electronic form
from IEEE Std 1003.1, 2003 Edition, Standard for Information Technology
-- Portable Operating System Interface (POSIX), The Open Group Base
Specifications Issue 6, Copyright (C) 2001-2003 by the Institute of
Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc and The Open Group. In the
event of any discrepancy between this version and the original IEEE and
The Open Group Standard, the original IEEE and The Open Group Standard
is the referee document. The original Standard can be obtained online
at http://www.opengroup.org/unix/online.html .
IEEE/The Open Group 2003 PTHREAD_COND_TIMEDWAIT(P)