Too many defunct processes; kill -9 not working

Giorgos Keramidas keramida at
Wed Jun 9 12:46:58 UTC 2010

On Wed, 9 Jun 2010 14:08:58 +0300, Eitan Adler <lists at> wrote:
> Lately I've been getting a considerable number of defunct processes. I
> do not know of any major event that changed my computer (ie it is not
> related to an ports update or a freeBSD upgrade).
> This is often caused by me killing the process using kill -15 or kill
> -3 or kill -9.
> What can I do to determine why processes are not getting killed by kill -9?
> % ps -o ppid -o comm|grep defunct|cut -d ' ' -f 1 |xargs kill -9
> typically gets rid of them (by killing their parent)

That's the only way to kill zombies...

You can't signal the zombie/defunct process itself, because it's gone
already.  But you can kill the process who spawned it.

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