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Age comparison in Bash for files and processes

By Kiel Christofferson
May 22, 2017

You want your script to run a command only if elapsed-time for a given process is greater than X?

Well, bash does not inherently understand a time comparison like:

if [ 01:23:45 -gt 00:05:00 ]; then

However, bash can compare timestamps of files using -ot and -nt for “older than” and “newer than”, respectively. If the launch of our process includes creation of a PID file, then we are in luck! At the beginning of our loop, we can create a file with a specific age and use that for quick and simple comparison.

For example, if we only want to take action when the process we care about was launched longer than 24 hours ago, try:

touch -t $(date --date=yesterday +%Y%m%d%H%M.%S) $STAMPFILE

Then, within your script loop, compare the PID file with the $STAMPFILE, like this:

if [ $PIDFILE -ot $STAMPFILE ]; then

And of course if you want to be sure you’re working with the PID file of a process which is actually responding, you can try to send it signal 0 to check:

if kill -0 `cat $PIDFILE`; then



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