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How do I find the exit status of a remote command executed via ssh?

After writing about “Execute Commands on Multiple Linux or UNIX Servers“, I received couple of emails asking about “how to find out the exit status of a remote command executed via ssh command.” Well I never ever used exit status of a remote command executed via ssh. However, here is simple way to find out exit status:

$ ssh user@ras.nixcraft.in date;echo $?

Sun Feb  5 19:01:01 IST 2006

First line is nothing but output of date command, zero (0) is exit status of date command. Try another command

$ ssh user@ras.nixcraft.in today;echo $?

bash: today: command not found

Please note that ssh exits with the exit status of the remote command or with 255 if an error occurred. For example:

$ ssh user@ras.nixcraft.in today
$ echo $?

bash: today: command not found

Since today is not a valid command bash exited with 127 exit code. However, you cannot use conditional control operator:

  • && : Execute command only if command returns an exit status of zero
  • || : Execute command only if command returns an exit status of non zero

So following command will never display Command failed message:

$ ssh root@ today;echo $? || echo “Command failed”

What you can do is create a shell script wrapper that will execute a remote command and returns the status locally. So if you are using scripts then last line will be always using to determine the exit status of a remote command executed via ssh.

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{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Jafar March 23, 2008, 8:56 am

    Suppose I put a job to run on remote server (in the background and logged. How can I check later whether the job is done or not.
    Suppose if i know the Job ID ??

  • nixCraft March 23, 2008, 9:53 am

    Use ps and jobs commands

  • Greg Wells October 24, 2008, 7:33 pm

    You can use conditional control operators if you omit the echo $? command. The conditional operator evaluates the exit status from the echo $? command which should always be 0.

    This version should work:

    $ ssh root@ today || echo “Command failed”

  • vishal November 27, 2008, 3:13 pm

    I am using remsh to execute remote command.
    How to obtain exit status of remotely executed command .In remote program i am using exit(number) to differinciate b/w exit status.But all time i get exit status as 0.
    Even if i use abort() the exit status is 0.
    SOme one help???????????/

  • Olivier February 10, 2011, 9:11 pm

    There is an error in the article.
    You have to wrap the command in quotes like this :
    $ ssh user@ras.nixcraft.in ‘today ; echo $?’

  • Leonel May 19, 2011, 7:35 am

    Additional note:
    After trying this one. i found out that if ssh cannot resolve the host, the exit status is 255.

  • Shane Holder June 21, 2013, 8:04 pm

    Um, I think the reason that

    ssh root@ today;echo $? || echo "Command failed"

    doesn’t work is because the echo $? changes the exit status, not because of weirdness with SSH.

  • Rahul July 23, 2013, 12:43 pm

    @Vivek / all
    I want something like

    ssh user@ras.nixcraft.in ” [ -e /some/path ] ”
    and then $? = 0 then print file exists

    “this is my first comment in your site, Jus wanna say you are doing a nice job”

  • zaid Ahmed January 23, 2014, 8:24 am

    how can we pass the parameter to file which is also in command with ssh for remote execution

  • Daniele Salvatore Albano April 17, 2014, 12:51 pm

    Just do
    (ssh user@ras.nixcraft.in “command_does_not_exists” >/dev/null 2>&1) || echo “Command doesn’t exists! HOSTNAME: $(hostname)”

    you can pass -i /path/to/private-key to authenticate to the remote machine using an ssh key if you don’t want to use ssh-agent or other stuff like that (useful when doing remote automations, you can use in rsync too with -e or in git using a simple wrapper)

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