Move a running process to a new screen shell

The purpose of this article is to show you how to move a process from your traditional shell to a new screen session.

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The necessary tools are:


Sometimes I have to restart my X server. In these cases, I would like to keep my text based IRC client (Irssi) running. Of course, I didn't launched Irssi into a screen session. So I will move the process to screen in order to get it back later:

  1. The first thing to do is to suspend the process. In my case, Irssi can be suspended by typing ctrl+z.

  2. Secondly, resume the process in background:

    $ bg
  3. Now, we will detach the process from its parent (the shell). So, when the parent process will be terminated, the child (Irssi) will be able to continue. For this, we use the disown builtin:

    $ disown irssi
  4. Launch a screen session:

    $ screen
  5. As we are in a screen session, we will retrieve the irssi process. To do so, we use the reptyr command which take a pid:

    $ reptyr <pid>
  6. To avoid the tedious pid research, we can use the pgrep command:

    $ reptyr $(pgrep irssi)

Now the process is in a screen shell, we can safely detach our session and no longer worry about killing our X server or close our ssh connection.

Here screen is used but the example should works with another terminal multiplexer like tmux.

A note about retty and reptyr

In this article I use reptyr but retty is a similar program which does exactly the same. Indeed, this article was written with retty in the first place. However, reptyr seems to be a better alternative:

Nevertheless, I used these tools on multiple machines according to their availability in the package repository and they always worked fine.


$ ctrl+z                # Suspend the current process
$ disown irssi          # Detach irssi from the shell
$ screen                # Launch screen
$ reptyr $(pgrep irssi) # Get back the process