Increasing the number of available file descriptors on Centos and Fedora Linux Servers

While debugging an application a few weeks back, I noticed the following error in the application log:

Cannot open file : Too many open files

The application runs as an unprivileged user, and upon closer inspection I noticed that the maximum number of file descriptors available to the process was 1024:

$ ulimit -n

Increasing the maximum number of file descriptors is a two part process. First, you need to make sure the kernel’s file-max tunable is set sufficiently. This value controls the number of files that can be open system-side, and is controlled through the file-max proc setting:

$ cat /proc/sys/fs/file-max

$ echo 512000 > /proc/sys/fs/file-max

$ cat /proc/sys/fs/file-max

Once you know you have enough file descriptors available, you will need to add an entry for the user to the security limits file (/etc/security/limits.conf). This file is used to control resource limits for users and groups, and is processes when a user login session is initialized. To increase the number of file descriptors for all users to 8k, the following entry can be appended to the file:

nofile 8192

If you would prefer to set the value for a specific user, you can do so by replacing the asterisk with the username:

user1 - nofile 8192

Once the file-max proc setting and security limits file are updated, ulimit should report the increase:

$ ulimit -n

If you want to test to see how many file descriptors are available to a given user, you can run the openfds program I wrote:

$ ./openfds
Error: Too many open files Last file descriptor successfully opened: 8189

Openfds will print the string representation of the errno value that resulted from open returning -1, as well as the last file descriptor that was successfully opened. If you are curious why 8189 is reported, it’s because STDIN, STDOUT and STDERR take up 3 entries in the file descriptor table for the process.

This article was posted by Matty on 2009-07-31 12:23:00 -0400 EDT