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beep - beep the PC loudspeaker on Linux

Build Status

beep allows you to have the PC speaker issue beeps and beep patterns with given frequencies, durations, and spacing on Linux systems.

Beginning in 2019, this version of beep can be found at Please report bugs and other problems at

This version of beep has been forked from Johnathan Nightingales' original beep when CVE-2018-0492 and CVE-2018-1000532 required fixes in 2018, while Johnathan Nightingales' and was only maintained from around 2000 until around 2013.

What beep does

  • Parse the command line arguments

  • Find a suitable device file and API to use on it.

  • Set up signal handlers to silence the beeping in case the beep process is interrupted or killed before it has a chance to silence the PC speaker again.

  • Depending on the command line arguments, either

    • beep in the frequencies, sequencing and timing given on the command line until the sequence has finished.

    • when used in a pipe, beep for every character or line passing through the pipe until said pipe is finished.

What beep does not do

  • beep does not serialize or multiplex access to the one PC speaker hardware. The sound from a beep process playing a very long note will be silenced as soon as another short beep process starts its note, and after the short beep finishes, the PC speaker will remain silent for the remainder of the long note's duration.

  • beep does not work on platforms and systems without a PC speaker or compatible hardware.

How beep works internally

The evdev API

The Linux evdev API uses write(2) to write EV_SND/SND_TONE input_event data to the /dev/input/by-path/platform-pcspkr-event-spkr device file.

The system administrator can set up normal file permissions on the device file to allow beeping access for certain users and groups.

See for more details on permission setup.

The console API

In order to be allowed to run the KIOCSOUND ioctl(2) of the classical Linux console API, the Linux kernel insists you must either be root or own the current TTY (e.g. non-root user logged in on /dev/tty4).

beep only uses this API as a fallback.


The documentation files shipped with the beep source tree, sorted alphabetically:

    The licensing text.

    Giving credit where credit is due.

    Information for developers working on improving beep.

    How to build and install beep from source tree.

    Contains a list of the high level changes between beep releases.

    How to package beep for a Linux distribution.

    How to set up the permissions to allow non-root users to run beep. Covers installing from source tree, and distro package following and not following the beep suggested udev rule setup.

    This basic overview on beep including the history kept over from the old README file.

The history of beep

In late 2018, while trying to come up with a fix for CVE-2018-1000532 for the Fedora package, Hans Ulrich Niedermann had to find find out exactly how beep works, and found out that the API to use in this day and age (the evdev API) was not even in available beep's default configuration, or documented with the proper device name. So a few bits in the code had to be changed, a lot of documentation had to be changed, and eventually the changes had accumulated to so much that the result could not really be called beep-1.3 any more.

However, with the last repository activity in early 2013, Jonathan's github beep repository had been basically unmaintained for almost 6 years, so Hans Ulrich created as a new home for beep. All contributors are welcome there, old and new.

This following part has been taken from the original README by original beep author Johnathan Nightingale where he tells how beep came about.

I just got so tired of being limited to printf("\a"); when I wanted a terminal beep. This program isn't supposed to be anything stupendous, it's just supposed to get the job done. Its intended purpose in life is to live inside shell/perl scripts, and allow a little more granularity than you get with the default terminal bell. Maybe I'm the only one who thinks this is useful. :)

If for any reason you decide you need to, contact me:

And beep can generally be found at:

For installation instructions, see INSTALL. For copying and (non-)warranty information, see COPYING. For usage information, check the man page.

There is a github repository of this code at: git://

Playing Songs

A surprising number of people have sent in requests, or even patches, to help beep play multiple, different sounds off a single invocation. I had always thought that if people wanted a more complex melody, they would just do something like:

$ cat << EOF >
beep <first beep's options>
beep <second beep's options>

Nevertheless, because of repeated and vociferous demand, version 1.2 (and presumably all later versions) include the -n/--new switch which allows you to use one command line to create multiple beeps. Check the man page for details. I have also had a couple people suggest that I encourage the development of such shell scripts/command lines, even collect the particularly melodious ones. Certainly if anyone feels like sending some to me, I will put them somewhere visible, or even include them as a sample. I think Dvorak's New World Symphony, 4th Movement, for example, would make a lovely shell script. I also wouldn't mind a rendition of BNL's If I had a million dollars. But by all means, be creative.

All files copyright (C) Johnathan Nightingale, 2002. All files distributed under the GNU general public license.