If we redirect a command such as sar -r 1> a_file.txt how does this works with opening, writing the output of the command and closing the file?

In other words, how does redirecting a command output works in the background opening writing and closing the file? (specially a command such as the above that periodically and continually sends data to output)

I am wondering if there is some cacheing involved and if some flushing (writing the contents to the file) occurs at the end

  • The file is opened, then the command runs and only when the command ends, the file is closed. But what is your actual problem?
    – pLumo
    Jun 9, 2020 at 13:59
  • My actual problem is quite complex but it is basically I am redirecting a command to a file, the file gets created but with 0 bytes. I am guessing perhaps it is because it was not correctly closed so I want to understand the mechanics of redirecting Jun 9, 2020 at 14:08
  • that is the normal behavior.
    – pLumo
    Jun 9, 2020 at 14:10
  • so, does the "flushing" of data occurs at the end when the command ends? Jun 9, 2020 at 14:11
  • no, it writes to the file when output comes. You can test with something like this: ( sleep 5; echo 1; sleep 5; echo 2; ) > testfile and in a second terminal tail -f testfile
    – pLumo
    Jun 9, 2020 at 14:13

1 Answer 1


File redirection (<input, >output, 2>error) is handled by the parent shell. The executed command (sar in your example) sees only the file handle (0 => STDIN, 1 => STDOUT, 2 => STDERR) and reads/writes via the file handle. The executed program doesn't even know that anything's redirected.

Since the file (> a_file.txt) is opened by the parent shell, when the executed program exits, the parent shell simply closes it, which automatically flushes any buffers.

  • so there is only one flush at the end? Jun 9, 2020 at 20:45
  • One flush is all it takes. See man fflush
    – waltinator
    Jun 10, 2020 at 2:42

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