How to execute a command and get return code stdout and stderr of command in C++

There is kind of workaround possible. You may redirect the stderr to stdout by appending "2>&1" to your cmd. Would this suit your needs?

From the man-page of popen:

The pclose() function waits for the associated process to terminate  and returns the exit status of the command as returned by wait4(2).

So, calling pclose() yourself (instead of using std::shared_ptr<>'s destructor-magic) will give you the return code of your process (or block if the process has not terminated).

std::string exec(const char* cmd) {
    std::array<char, 128> buffer;
    std::string result;

    auto pipe = popen(cmd, "r"); // get rid of shared_ptr

    if (!pipe) throw std::runtime_error("popen() failed!");

    while (!feof(pipe)) {
        if (fgets(, 128, pipe) != nullptr)
            result +=;

    auto rc = pclose(pipe);

    if (rc == EXIT_SUCCESS) { // == 0

    } else if (rc == EXIT_FAILURE) {  // EXIT_FAILURE is not used by all programs, maybe needs some adaptation.

    return result;

Getting stderr and stdout with popen(), I'm afraid you'd need to redirect the output of stderr to stdout from the command-line you're passing to popen() by adding 2>&1. This has the inconvinience that both streams are unpredictably mixed.

If you really want to have two distinguished file-descriptors for stderr and stdout, one way to do it is to do the forking yourself and to duplicate the new processes stdout/stderr to two pipes which are accessible from the parent process. (see dup2() and pipe()). I could go into more detail here, but this is quite a tedious way of doing things and much care must be taken. And the internet is full of examples.

You can get the return code from the pipe by using a custom deleter as such:

#include <cstdio>
#include <iostream>
#include <memory>
#include <string>
#include <array>
#include <utility>

using namespace std;
pair<string, int> exec(const char* cmd) {
    array<char, 128> buffer;
    string result;
    int return_code = -1;
    auto pclose_wrapper = [&return_code](FILE* cmd){ return_code = pclose(cmd); };
    { // scope is important, have to make sure the ptr goes out of scope first
    const unique_ptr<FILE, decltype(pclose_wrapper)> pipe(popen(cmd, "r"), pclose_wrapper);
    if (pipe) {
        while (fgets(, buffer.size(), pipe.get()) != nullptr) {
            result +=;
    return make_pair(result, return_code);

int main(int argc, char* argv[]) {
    if (argc <= 1) return 0;
    cout << "calling with " << argv[1] << '\n';
    const auto process_ret = exec(argv[1]);
    cout << "captured stdout : " << '\n' << process_ret.first << endl;
    cout << "program exited with status code " << process_ret.second << endl;
    return 0;