Too many defunct processes; kill -9 not working

Robert Bonomi bonomi at
Thu Jun 10 17:25:24 UTC 2010

> From owner-freebsd-questions at  Wed Jun  9 06:09:36 2010
> From: Eitan Adler <lists at>
> Date: Wed, 9 Jun 2010 14:08:58 +0300
> To: questions at
> Cc: 
> Subject: Too many defunct processes; kill -9 not working
> 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)

A 'defunct' process _has_ been killed.  What you see is the 'remains' of 
the dead process,  because the parent process has not yet 'reaped' the 
exit status of the dead child.  

All the resources of the child have been released, _except_ for the job-
table slot entry.  THAT is needed because that is where the child's exit
status is kept.

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