Exit Code

Definition of Exit Code

An exit code, also known as a return code or status code, is a numerical value generated by a process or program to indicate its termination status. The operating system and other processes can interpret this code to identify whether the program completed successfully or encountered an error. Typically, an exit code of zero signifies a successful termination, while non-zero codes indicate various error conditions.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Exit Code” is:EKS-it KOHD

Key Takeaways

  1. Exit codes are numerical values that indicate the success or failure of a program.
  2. They help in troubleshooting and scripting, as they provide information on why a program ended.
  3. Standard exit codes include 0 for success and non-zero values for specific types of errors.

Importance of Exit Code

Exit code, also known as return code or result code, is a significant term in technology as it communicates the success or failure of a program or a command executed in computer systems.

Programs and operating systems use these codes to report the outcome of the executed task, enabling developers, administrators, and users to understand the reason for any unexpected results or system behavior.

Being able to interpret exit codes is crucial for developers when they need to troubleshoot or optimize a codebase, and also for automating tasks in batch scripts and system administration, ensuring seamless functioning of applications and improving their reliability and efficiency.


Exit codes play a pivotal role in communicating the status of a completed process within computer programming or script execution. In essence, an exit code serves as a messenger, relaying crucial information to the system or another program about whether a particular task has been executed successfully or encountered an error or problem during the process.

Various applications, script languages, and operating systems implement exit codes to keep track of program executions and the state of the system. Mastering the art of interpreting exit codes comes in handy for debugging, streamline troubleshooting, and ensuring a smooth interaction between interconnected software components and programs.

Developers and administrators alike find value in exit codes as they provide valuable insight for scripting and automating tasks. By closely observing exit codes and using conditional statements or looping structures, programmers can make informed decisions on how their scripts should proceed during runtime.

Additionally, exit codes also enable software to self-diagnose issues and take appropriate actions in response to a failed command or buggy script. In this manner, the purpose of exit codes extends beyond simple status reporting, transforming it into a valuable tool in the quest for efficient and error-free computing.

Examples of Exit Code

Exit codes, also known as return codes or status codes, are a fundamental aspect of programming that communicate the status of a completed process or script. They provide valuable information about whether or not a specific task ended successfully, which helps in debugging. Below are three real-world examples where exit codes are utilized:

Command-line tools and scripts:In system administration, batch processes, or dealing with command-line tools like grep, cp, or mv in Unix and Linux environments, exit codes play an essential role in evaluating the success or failure of these executed commands. For example, an exit code of 0 indicates that the command executed successfully, while a non-zero exit code means an error occurred.

Build systems, continuous integration, and deployment pipelines:Exit codes are critical in managing build systems, continuous integration (CI), and deployment pipelines. CI tools like Jenkins, Travis CI, or CircleCI rely on exit codes generated by build scripts to determine the build status, for instance, pass or fail. Additionally, exit codes are used to report and diagnose issues when applications fail to deploy correctly in deployment pipelines.

Software testing and error handling:Software engineers use exit codes while testing applications and implementing error handling mechanisms. Automated testing tools like JUnit, TestNG, and PyTest report exit codes to indicate the success or failure of the executed tests. Developers can then use these codes to identify problems and take appropriate actions when exceptions or failures occur in the application’s execution.

FAQs: Exit Code

1. What is an Exit Code?

An exit code, also known as a return code or error code, is a numeric value returned by a program or process upon its completion. This value is used to signify whether the program executed successfully or encountered an error during execution, allowing other programs or scripts to react accordingly.

2. How do I interpret Exit Codes?

Typically, an exit code of 0 indicates success, while a non-zero value signifies an error. The specific meaning of a non-zero exit code depends on the program that generated it, as each program can define its own set of error codes and their meanings.

3. How do I retrieve an Exit Code in a script or command line?

In most scripting languages and command-line environments, you can retrieve the exit code of a previously executed command using a built-in variable. For example, in Bash or UNIX-like systems, the $? variable stores the exit code of the most recently executed command. Similarly, in a Windows Command Prompt, the %errorlevel% variable holds the exit code of the last executed command.

4. Can I create custom Exit Codes for my program?

Yes, when writing your own program or script, you can define and return custom exit codes. This can be helpful in providing more detailed information about success or the type of error that occurred during execution, making it easier for users or other programs to understand and react to the outcome.

5. Are there any standards for Exit Codes?

While there is no universal standard for exit codes, some common conventions exist, such as the use of 0 to indicate success. Additionally, certain programming languages, operating systems, or software packages may have their own sets of standardized exit codes for specific scenarios. It is recommended to consult the relevant documentation to determine the appropriate exit codes to use for your specific application or environment.

Related Technology Terms

  • Return Status
  • Error Code
  • Program Termination
  • Process Completion Indicator
  • Error Level

Sources for More Information


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