Handling errors in Bash Script

3 minute read

Handling errors in Bash scripts is crucial for creating robust and reliable automation. In this tutorial, we’ll explore various techniques and best practices for error handling, providing examples to empower you with the skills to create resilient Bash scripts.

Basic Error Handling with Exit Codes


# Basic error handling with exit codes


if [ $? -ne 0 ]; then
  echo "Error: The command failed."
  exit 1

echo "Command executed successfully."

In this example, the exit code ($?) of a command is checked, and if it is not zero, an error message is displayed, and the script exits with a non-zero status.

Checking Command Success


# Checking command success using '&&'

command_that_must_succeed && echo "Command executed successfully" || echo "Error: The command failed"

Here, the script uses the && operator to execute the second command only if the first one succeeds. If the first command fails, the second command after || is executed.

Capturing and Handling Errors in Functions


# Capturing and handling errors in functions

function run_command() {

run_command || { echo "Error: Command failed"; exit 1; }

echo "Command executed successfully."

This example demonstrates how to capture errors within a function and handle them appropriately using a combination of function execution and {} grouping.

Advanced Error Handling with Trap


# Advanced error handling with trap

trap 'echo "Error: Script terminated"; exit 1' ERR


echo "Script continuing after command execution."

Here, the trap command is used to catch errors (ERR) and execute a specific action. In this case, it prints an error message and exits the script.


  1. What is the significance of exit codes in Bash error handling?
    Exit codes indicate the success or failure of a command in Bash. By checking these codes, you can determine if a command executed successfully or encountered an error.

  2. How can I check if a specific command succeeded in Bash?
    Use the && operator to execute the next command only if the previous one succeeds. Alternatively, use || to execute a command if the previous one fails.

  3. What is the difference between checking exit codes and using ‘&&’ for error handling?
    Checking exit codes allows for more nuanced error handling, while ‘&&’ is a shorthand way to execute the next command only if the previous one succeeds.

  4. Can I handle errors within functions in Bash scripts?
    Yes, errors within functions can be handled by capturing the return value of the function and incorporating appropriate error-handling logic.

  5. What are the advantages of using the ‘trap’ command for error handling?
    The trap command provides a centralized way to handle errors, allowing you to define specific actions when errors occur throughout the script.

  6. How can I log errors in Bash scripts for further analysis?
    Redirecting error messages to a log file using 2>> or using a logging function can help log errors for further analysis.

  7. Is it possible to continue script execution after encountering an error?
    Yes, you can design your script to continue execution after encountering an error, but it’s essential to handle errors appropriately to prevent unexpected behavior.

  8. What happens if a command in a script fails, but there is no error handling?
    If a command fails without error handling, the script will continue executing subsequent commands, potentially leading to undesired outcomes.

  9. Can I customize error messages in Bash scripts?
    Yes, error messages can be customized by including informative text in the error-handling logic, providing context about the nature of the error.

  10. How can I create a fallback mechanism if a critical command fails?
    Use the || operator to execute fallback commands when a critical command fails. This ensures that the script takes an alternative path in case of failure.