What’s Special With Pid 1?

The first process started by the linux kernel gets PID 1. Similarly when new PID namespace is created first process started in that namespace gets PID 1 (the PID as seen by the processes in that namespace, in the parent namespace it gets assigned other PID).

The process with PID 1 differs from the other processes in the following ways:

  1. When the process with pid 1 die for any reason, all other processes are killed with KILL signal
  2. When any process having children dies for any reason, its children are reparented to process with PID 1
  3. Many signals which have default action of Term do not have one for PID 1.

At a glance, first issue looks like the most annoying. But in practice the most inconvenient one is the last one. For development purposes it effectively means you can’t stop process by sending SIGTERM or SIGINT, if process have not installed a signal handler.

At the end of the day, all above means most processes that were not explicitly designed to run as PID 1 (which are all applications except supervisors), do not run well. Vagga fixes that by not running process as PID 1.


The following text is outdated. Vagga doesn’t support any pid modes since version 0.2.0. This may be fixed in future. We consider this as mostly useless feature for development purposes. If you have a good use case please let us know.

In fact there are three modes of operation of PID 1 supported by vagga (set by pid1mode).

  • wait – (default) run command (usually it gets PID 2) and wait until it exits
  • wait-all-children – run command, then wait all processes in namespace to finish
  • exec – run the command as PID 1, useful only if command itself is process supervisor like upstart, systemd or supervisord

Note that in wait and exec modes, when you kill vagga itself with a signal, it will propagate the signal to the command itself. In wait-all-children mode, signal will be propagated to all processes in the container (even if it’s some supplementary command run as a child of some intermediary process). This is rarely the problem.