NAME

fread - read bytes from a file

fread, fwrite - binary stream input/output

SYNOPSIS

#include <stdio.h>
size_t fread(void *ptr, size_t size, size_t nmemb, FILE *stream);

Think of void * as representing the address of the first byte of any type of data. Think of size_t as a long.

#include <stdio.h>

size_t fread(void *ptr, size_t size, size_t nmemb, FILE *stream);

size_t fwrite(const void *ptr, size_t size, size_t nmemb,
 FILE *stream);

DESCRIPTION

This function reads data from a file that has been opened via fopen. It expects as input:

  • ptr, which is the address (of the first byte) of memory into which to read the data,
  • size, which is the size (in bytes) of the type of data to read,
  • nmemb, which is the number of those types to read at once, and
  • stream, which is the pointer to a FILE returned by fopen.

For instance, if reading one char at a time, size would be sizeof(char) (i.e., 1), and nmemb would be 1.

The function fread() reads nmemb items of data, each size bytes long, from the stream pointed to by stream, storing them at the location given by ptr.

The function fwrite() writes nmemb items of data, each size bytes long, to the stream pointed to by stream, obtaining them from the location given by ptr.

For nonlocking counterparts, see unlocked_stdio(3).

RETURN VALUE

This function returns the number of items read, which equals the number of bytes read when size is 1.

If an error occurs, or the end of the file is reached, this function might return a value smaller than nmemb or even 0.

The opened file “remembers” the number of bytes that were successfully read, such that subsequent calls to this function for stream will return bytes after those already read.

On success, fread() and fwrite() return the number of items read or written. This number equals the number of bytes transferred only when size is 1. If an error occurs, or the end of the file is reached, the return value is a short item count (or zero).

The file position indicator for the stream is advanced by the number of bytes successfully read or written.

fread() does not distinguish between end-of-file and error, and callers must use feof(3) and ferror(3) to determine which occurred.

EXAMPLES

The program below demonstrates the use of fread() by parsing /bin/sh ELF executable in binary mode and printing its magic and class:

$ ./a.out
ELF magic: 0x7f454c46
Class: 0x02

Program source

#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>

#define ARRAY_SIZE(arr) (sizeof(arr) / sizeof((arr)[0]))

int
main(void)
{
    FILE *fp = fopen("/bin/sh", "rb");
    if (!fp) {
        perror("fopen");
        return EXIT_FAILURE;
    }

    unsigned char buffer[4];

    size_t ret = fread(buffer, ARRAY_SIZE(buffer), sizeof(*buffer), fp);
    if (ret != sizeof(*buffer)) {
        fprintf(stderr, "fread() failed: %zu\n", ret);
        exit(EXIT_FAILURE);
    }

    printf("ELF magic: %#04x%02x%02x%02x\n", buffer[0], buffer[1],
           buffer[2], buffer[3]);

    ret = fread(buffer, 1, 1, fp);
    if (ret != 1) {
        fprintf(stderr, "fread() failed: %zu\n", ret);
        exit(EXIT_FAILURE);
    }

    printf("Class: %#04x\n", buffer[0]);

    fclose(fp);

    exit(EXIT_SUCCESS);
}

ATTRIBUTES

For an explanation of the terms used in this section, see attributes(7).

Interface Attribute Value
fread(), fwrite() Thread safety MT-Safe

CONFORMING TO

POSIX.1-2001, POSIX.1-2008, C89.

SEE ALSO

read(2), write(2), feof(3), ferror(3), unlocked_stdio(3)

COLOPHON

This page is part of release 5.10 of the Linux man-pages project. A description of the project, information about reporting bugs, and the latest version of this page, can be found at https://www.kernel.org/doc/man-pages/.