exec is a builtin command of the Bash shell which allows you to execute a command that completely replaces the current process, i.e., the current shell process is destroyed, and entirely replaced by the command you specify. It is useful when you want to run a command, but you don’t want a bash shell to be the parent process. When you exec a command, it replaces bash entirely – no new process is forked, no new PID is created, and all memory controlled by bash is destroyed and overwritten. This can be useful if, for instance, you want to give a user restricted access to a certain command. If the command exits because of an error, the user will not be returned to the privileged shell that executed it.
exec may also be used without any command, to redirect all output of the current shell to a file. Here is the definition from man bash:
exec [-cl] [-a name] [command [arguments]] If command is specified, it replaces the shell. No new process is created. The arguments become the arguments to command. If the -l option is supplied, the shell places a dash at the beginning of the zeroth argument passed to command. This is what login(1) does. The -c option causes command to be executed with an empty environment. If -a is supplied, the shell passes name as the zeroth argument to the executed command. If command cannot be executed for some reason, a non-interactive shell exits, unless the exec fail shell option is enabled. In that case, it returns failure. An interactive shell returns failure if the file cannot be executed. If command is not specified, any redirections take effect in the current shell, and the return status is 0. If there is a redirection error, the return status is 1.
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