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man pages section 3: Basic Library Functions

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Updated: Wednesday, July 27, 2022

recvfrom (3C)


recv, recvfrom, recvmsg - receive a message from a socket


#include <sys/socket.h>

ssize_t recv(int s, void *buf, size_t len, int flags);
ssize_t recvfrom(int s, void *restrict 
buf, size_t len, int flags,
     struct sockaddr *restrict from, socklen_t *restrict fromlen);
ssize_t recvmsg(int s, struct msghdr *msg, int flags);


The recv(), recvfrom(), and recvmsg() functions are used to receive messages from another socket. The s socket is created with socket(3C).

If from is a non-NULL pointer, the source address of the message is filled in. The value-result parameter fromlen is initialized by the caller to the size of the buffer associated with from and modified on return to indicate the actual size of the address stored in the buffer. The length of the message is returned. If a message is too long to fit in the supplied buffer, excess bytes may be discarded depending on the type of socket from which the message is received. See socket(3C).

If no messages are available at the socket, the receive call waits for a message to arrive. If the socket is non-blocking, -1 is returned with the external variable errno set to EWOULDBLOCK. See fcntl(2).

For processes on the same host, recvmsg() can be used to receive a file descriptor from another process, but it cannot receive ancillary data. See socket.h(3HEAD).

If a zero-length buffer is specified for a message, an EOF condition results that is indistinguishable from the successful transfer of a file descriptor. For that reason, one or more bytes of data should be provided when recvmsg() passes a file descriptor.

The poll(2) or select(3C) calls can be used to determine when more data arrives.

The flags parameter is formed by an OR operation on one or more of the following:


Read any out-of-band data present on the socket rather than the regular in-band data.


Peek at the data present on the socket. The data is returned, but not consumed to allow a subsequent receive operation to see the same data.


Messages are blocked until the full amount of data requested is returned. The recv() function can return a smaller amount of data if a signal is caught, the connection is terminated, MSG_PEEK is specified, or if an error is pending for the socket.


Pending messages received on the connection are returned. If data is unavailable, the function does not block. This behavior is the equivalent to specifying O_NONBLOCK on the file descriptor of a socket, except that write requests are unaffected.


Set the close-on-exec flag for file descriptors received using SCM_RIGHTS message.


Set the close-on-fork flag for file descriptors received using SCM_RIGHTS message.

The recvmsg() function call uses a msghdr structure defined in socket.h(3HEAD) to minimize the number of directly supplied parameters. recvmmsg(3C) is an extension of the recvmsg() function that allows receiving multiple messages in a single call.

The contents of the msghdr structure differ depending on whether or not __USE_SUNOS_SOCKETS__ is defined before including the <sys/socket.h> header. All source files accessing msghdr structures or calling the recvmsg() function must be compiled with either __USE_SUNOS_SOCKETS__ defined or all with it undefined — mixing and matching will not work. See the socket.h(3HEAD) manual page for details.

Return Values

Upon successful completion, these functions return the number of bytes received. Otherwise, they return -1 and set errno to indicate the error.


The recv(), recvfrom(), and recvmsg() functions return errors under the following conditions:


The s file descriptor is invalid.


The MSG_OOB flag is set and no out-of-band data is available.


The operation is interrupted by the delivery of a signal before any data is available to be received.


An I/O error occurs while reading from or writing to the file system.


Insufficient user memory is available to complete operation.


Insufficient STREAMS resources are available for the operation to complete.


s is not a socket.


A stale NFS file handle exists.


The socket is marked non-blocking and the requested operation would block. EWOULDBLOCK is also set when socket option SO_RCVTIMEO is set and the requested operation failed to transfer data before the timeout expired. For more information, see the getsockopt(3C) man page.


The requested connection was refused by the peer. For connected IPv4 and IPv6 datagram sockets, this indicates that the system received an ICMP Destination Port Unreachable message from the peer.

The recv() and recvfrom() functions fail under the following conditions:


buf points to an illegal address.


The len argument overflows a ssize_t.

The recvmsg() function returns errors under the following conditions:


msg points to an illegal address.


The msg_iovlen member of the msghdr structure pointed to by msg is less than or equal to 0, or greater than {IOV_MAX}. See Intro(2) for a definition of {IOV_MAX}.


One of the iov_len values in the msg_iov array member of the msghdr structure pointed to by msg is negative, or the sum of the iov_len values in the msg_iov array overflows a ssize_t.


See attributes(7) for descriptions of the following attributes:

Interface Stability

See Also

fcntl(2), ioctl(2), poll(2), read(2), connect(3C), getsockopt(3C), recvmmsg(3C), select(3C), send(3C), socket(3C), socket.h(3HEAD), attributes(7)


These functions have been present since the initial release of Solaris.