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Can anyone tell me the difference between ctrl+z and ctrl+c?

When I am in terminal , both the combinations stop the current process but what exactly is the difference between both?

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I've asked a very similar question here: unix.stackexchange.com/questions/116959/… –  ThorSummoner Aug 13 at 17:09
yes i was successful in understanding the difference between both!! –  Chaitanya Aug 16 at 9:32
One thing I want to add here, That most of guys ( in my professional circle too ) do not differentiate between them. And used CTRL-Z option to terminate command. Which is wrong practice. You must use CTRL-C on all these instances. As CTRL-Z simply put in background. So process not terminated until completed, Which may not be desire of User (most of time) when he press CTRL-Z to terminate. –  kuldeep.kamboj Aug 18 at 6:44

6 Answers 6

up vote 62 down vote accepted

If we leave edge cases to one side, the difference is simple. Control+C aborts the application almost immediately while Control+Z shunts it into the background, suspended.

The shell send different signals to the underlying applications on these combinations:

  • Control+C (control character intr) sends SIGINT which will interrupt the application. Usually causing it to abort, but this is up to the application to decide.

  • Control+Z (control character susp) sends SIGTSTP to a foreground application, effectively putting it in the background, suspended. This is useful if you need to break out of something like an editor to go and grab some data you needed. You can go back into the application by running fg (or %x where x is the job number as shown in jobs).

    We can test this by running nano TEST, then pressing Control+Z and then running ps aux | grep TEST. This will show us the nano process is still running:

    oli     3278  0.0  0.0  14492  3160 pts/4    T    13:59   0:00 nano TEST

    Further, we can see (from that T, which is in the status column) that the process has been stopped. So it's still alive, but it's not running... It can be resumed.

    Some applications will crash if they have ongoing external processes (like a web request) that might timeout while they're asleep.

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It's worth adding that it's also possible to run bg (instead of fg) to unsuspend an application that's been Ctrl+Z'ed without putting it back into the foreground; effectively giving you control of both the shell that started the application and the application itself, as if you had used & when starting the application. This often comes in handy when you forgot to start it with & :) –  Malte Skoruppa Aug 13 at 14:10
And you can get back to that process by typing fg again! –  sebleblanc Aug 14 at 3:15
In case there are several jobs suspended or in the background : "jobs" list them, and "fg %n" or "bg %n" or even "kill %n" to put job %n in foreground, background, or kill it. –  Olivier Dulac Aug 14 at 9:20
@Oli: Your second paragraph says, “The shell send[s] … signals to the underlying applications ….” No, the operating system / terminal driver sends the signals. (In a window system, the window manager may play a role.) Also, to be complete (although beyond the scope of the original question), you might want to mention Ctrl+\. –  Scott Aug 15 at 23:08

Control-Z suspends a process (SIGTSTP) and Control-C interrupts a process (SIGINT)


On Unix-like systems, Control+Z is the most common default keyboard mapping for the key sequence that suspends a process


In POSIX systems, the sequence causes the active program to receive a SIGINT signal. If the program does not specify how to handle this condition, it is terminated. Typically a program which does handle a SIGINT will still terminate itself, or at least terminate the task running inside it

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Good job posting references. But generally speaking, Wikipedia is not a very good source for technical referencing. –  BryceAtNetwork23 Aug 13 at 14:14
@BryceAtNetwork23 that is very true; I felt in this case the Wikipedia definition was decently sufficient. I will look for more technical references in the future though! –  Sleep Deprived Bulbasaur Aug 13 at 14:16

This should help

Ctrl+Z is used for suspending a process by sending it the signal SIGSTOP, which cannot be intercepted by the program. While Ctrl+C is used to kill a process with the signal SIGINT, and can be intercepted by a program so it can clean its self up before exiting, or not exit at all.

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This is not entirely correct. It sends SIGTSTP, which can be caught by the program. There are four different signals, which can suspend a program SIGSTOP, SIGTSTP, SIGTTIN, SIGTTOU. Of those only SIGSTOP cannot be blocked. The other three are used by the terminal to stop the process under different conditions. –  kasperd Aug 15 at 11:59

when you press ctrl+c, it means you send SIGINT to your process. like you type this command: kill -SIGINT <your_pid>. It will kill you your process. That why you cannot see it when issue ps command.
When you press ctrl+z, it means you send SIGSTOP to your process. like you type this command: kill -SIGKSTOP <your_pid>. It will stop your process, but the process still alive. So you can re-activate your process by sending SIGCONT to your process.

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Ctrl+C is used to kill a process with signal SIGINT , by other words it is a polite kill .

Ctrl+Z is used to suspend a process by sending it the signal SIGSTOP , which is like a sleep signal, that can be undone and the process can be resumed again.

However when a process is suspended , we can resume it again by fg (resume in forground) and bg (resume in background) , but i cant resume a killed process , that is a difference between using Ctrl+C & Ctrl+Z.

How to view suspended process ?

By using jobs command , output will be :

[1]-  Stopped                 cat
[2]+  Stopped                 vi

How to kill a suspended process in background ?

By using kill command :

kill %n where n will be numbers displayed in jobs command , so i want to kill cat : kill %1 .

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To put it simply:

  • CTRL-C requests that the program abort.

  • CTRL-Z forces the program to suspend and go into the background.

    This allows you to resume it later with the command fg. Remaining background tasks are killed when you exit the login shell.

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