Getting ssh to execute a command in the background on target machine


This is a follow-on question to the How do you use ssh in a shell script? question. If I want to execute a command on the remote machine that runs in the background on that machine, how do I get the ssh command to return? When I try to just include the ampersand (&) at the end of the command it just hangs. The exact form of the command looks like this:

ssh [email protected] "cd /some/directory; program-to-execute &"

Any ideas? One thing to note is that logins to the target machine always produce a text banner and I have SSH keys set up so no password is required.

This question is tagged with bash ssh csh

~ Asked on 2008-08-26 22:55:58

16 Answers


I had this problem in a program I wrote a year ago -- turns out the answer is rather complicated. You'll need to use nohup as well as output redirection, as explained in the wikipedia artcle on nohup, copied here for your convenience.

Nohuping backgrounded jobs is for example useful when logged in via SSH, since backgrounded jobs can cause the shell to hang on logout due to a race condition [2]. This problem can also be overcome by redirecting all three I/O streams:

nohup myprogram > foo.out 2> foo.err < /dev/null &

~ Answered on 2008-08-26 23:18:41


This has been the cleanest way to do it for me:-

ssh -n -f [email protected] "sh -c 'cd /whereever; nohup ./whatever > /dev/null 2>&1 &'"

The only thing running after this is the actual command on the remote machine

~ Answered on 2010-05-14 02:11:16


Redirect fd's

Output needs to be redirected with &>/dev/null which redirects both stderr and stdout to /dev/null and is a synonym of >/dev/null 2>/dev/null or >/dev/null 2>&1.


The best way is to use sh -c '( ( command ) & )' where command is anything.

ssh askapache 'sh -c "( ( nohup chown -R ask:ask /www/ &>/dev/null ) & )"'

Nohup Shell

You can also use nohup directly to launch the shell:

ssh askapache 'nohup sh -c "( ( chown -R ask:ask /www/ &>/dev/null ) & )"'

Nice Launch

Another trick is to use nice to launch the command/shell:

ssh askapache 'nice -n 19 sh -c "( ( nohup chown -R ask:ask /www/ &>/dev/null ) & )"'

~ Answered on 2012-03-17 08:09:14


If you don't/can't keep the connection open you could use screen, if you have the rights to install it.

[email protected] $ screen -t remote-command
[email protected] $ ssh [email protected] # now inside of a screen session
[email protected] $ cd /some/directory; program-to-execute &

To detach the screen session: ctrl-a d

To list screen sessions:

screen -ls

To reattach a session:

screen -d -r remote-command

Note that screen can also create multiple shells within each session. A similar effect can be achieved with tmux.

[email protected] $ tmux
[email protected] $ ssh [email protected] # now inside of a tmux session
[email protected] $ cd /some/directory; program-to-execute &

To detach the tmux session: ctrl-b d

To list screen sessions:

tmux list-sessions

To reattach a session:

tmux attach <session number>

The default tmux control key, 'ctrl-b', is somewhat difficult to use but there are several example tmux configs that ship with tmux that you can try.

~ Answered on 2008-08-27 17:00:48


I just wanted to show a working example that you can cut and paste:

ssh REMOTE "sh -c \"(nohup sleep 30; touch nohup-exit) > /dev/null &\""

~ Answered on 2012-09-05 19:50:27


Quickest and easiest way is to use the 'at' command:

ssh [email protected] "at now -f /home/"

~ Answered on 2014-07-11 11:19:10


I think you'll have to combine a couple of these answers to get what you want. If you use nohup in conjunction with the semicolon, and wrap the whole thing in quotes, then you get:

ssh [email protected] "cd /some/directory; nohup myprogram > foo.out 2> foo.err < /dev/null"

which seems to work for me. With nohup, you don't need to append the & to the command to be run. Also, if you don't need to read any of the output of the command, you can use

ssh [email protected] "cd /some/directory; nohup myprogram > /dev/null 2>&1"

to redirect all output to /dev/null.

~ Answered on 2008-09-11 14:34:14


This worked for me may times:

ssh -x remoteServer "cd yourRemoteDir; ./ </dev/null >/dev/null 2>&1 & " 

~ Answered on 2013-07-25 16:01:01


You can do this without nohup:

ssh [email protected] 'myprogram >out.log 2>err.log &'

~ Answered on 2020-02-27 16:19:16


You can do it like this...

sudo /home/ -opt1 > /tmp/script.out &

~ Answered on 2019-03-19 11:02:59


Actually, whenever I need to run a command on a remote machine that's complicated, I like to put the command in a script on the destination machine, and just run that script using ssh.

For example:

# (located on remote server)


cat /var/log/messages | grep <some value> | awk -F " " '{print $8}'

And then I just run this command on the source machine:

ssh [email protected] "/path/to/"

~ Answered on 2017-06-13 15:13:05


I was trying to do the same thing, but with the added complexity that I was trying to do it from Java. So on one machine running java, I was trying to run a script on another machine, in the background (with nohup).

From the command line, here is what worked: (you may not need the "-i keyFile" if you don't need it to ssh to the host)

ssh -i keyFile [email protected] bash -c "\"nohup ./script arg1 arg2 > output.txt 2>&1 &\""

Note that to my command line, there is one argument after the "-c", which is all in quotes. But for it to work on the other end, it still needs the quotes, so I had to put escaped quotes within it.

From java, here is what worked:

ProcessBuilder b = new ProcessBuilder("ssh", "-i", "keyFile", "bash", "-c",
 "\"nohup ./script arg1 arg2 > output.txt 2>&1 &\"");
Process process = b.start();
// then read from process.getInputStream() and close it.

It took a bit of trial & error to get this working, but it seems to work well now.

~ Answered on 2010-12-30 21:36:27


It appeared quite convenient for me to have a remote tmux session using the tmux new -d <shell cmd> syntax like this:

ssh someo[email protected] 'tmux new -d sleep 600'

This will launch new session on elsewhere host and ssh command on local machine will return to shell almost instantly. You can then ssh to the remote host and tmux attach to that session. Note that there's nothing about local tmux running, only remote!

Also, if you want your session to persist after the job is done, simply add a shell launcher after your command, but don't forget to enclose in quotes:

ssh [email protected] 'tmux new -d "~/; bash"'

~ Answered on 2019-05-20 14:03:05



This should run the command and assign a process id you can simply tail -f YOUR-LOG.log to see results written to it as they happen. you can log out anytime and the process will carry on

~ Answered on 2020-02-21 15:53:10


I think this is what you need: At first you need to install sshpass on your machine. then you can write your own script:

while read pass port user ip; do
sshpass -p$pass ssh -p $port [email protected]$ip <<ENDSSH1
done <<____HERE
    PASS    PORT    USER    IP
      .      .       .       .
      .      .       .       .
      .      .       .       .
    PASS    PORT    USER    IP    

~ Answered on 2014-01-25 09:41:08


First follow this procedure:

Log in on A as user a and generate a pair of authentication keys. Do not enter a passphrase:

[email protected]:~> ssh-keygen -t rsa
Generating public/private rsa key pair.
Enter file in which to save the key (/home/a/.ssh/id_rsa): 
Created directory '/home/a/.ssh'.
Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase): 
Enter same passphrase again: 
Your identification has been saved in /home/a/.ssh/id_rsa.
Your public key has been saved in /home/a/.ssh/
The key fingerprint is:
3e:4f:05:79:3a:9f:96:7c:3b:ad:e9:58:37:bc:37:e4 [email protected]

Now use ssh to create a directory ~/.ssh as user b on B. (The directory may already exist, which is fine):

[email protected]:~> ssh [email protected] mkdir -p .ssh
[email protected]'s password: 

Finally append a's new public key to [email protected]:.ssh/authorized_keys and enter b's password one last time:

[email protected]:~> cat .ssh/ | ssh [email protected] 'cat >> .ssh/authorized_keys'
[email protected]'s password: 

From now on you can log into B as b from A as a without password:

[email protected]:~> ssh [email protected]

then this will work without entering a password

ssh [email protected] "cd /some/directory; program-to-execute &"

~ Answered on 2011-06-24 07:07:10

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