Understanding Exit Status Code 255


When a process or command terminates in CircleCI, it provides an exit status code that indicates whether it completed successfully or encountered an error. The exit status code 255 typically signifies an abnormal termination, indicating that the process did not exit as expected.

In the case of CircleCI, receiving exit code 255 signifies that the build process exited with this particular status. However, it's important to note that this exit code is likely the result of converting a negative value, -1, to an unsigned 8-bit value, which becomes 255. This conversion is commonly observed in "normal" bash/shell scripts.

Wrapping Behavior of Exit Codes Above 254

In bash/shell scripts, exit codes typically range from 0 to 255, with 0 indicating successful execution and non-zero values indicating various errors or exceptions. However, when an exit code exceeds 254 (or 11111110 in binary form), it wraps around and becomes a value within the range of 0-255.

As a result, when CircleCI reports an exit code of 255, it suggests that the actual exit code may have been -1. This wrap-around behavior allows the exit code to fit into an unsigned 8-bit value without causing an overflow or other issues.

Troubleshooting Steps

To troubleshoot the exit code 255 and any associated issues in your CircleCI builds, consider the following steps:

1. Confirm Environment Setup: Ensure that the environment for your CircleCI build is correctly set up, including dependencies, variables, and required tools. Validate that all necessary prerequisites are in place for successful execution.

2. Inspect Error Logs: Check the error logs and any accompanying error messages or stack traces to gain further insights into the cause of the abnormal termination. Look for specific error messages that could indicate the origin of the issue.

3. Review the Build Configuration: Carefully inspect your CircleCI configuration file (.circleci/config.yml) for any misconfigurations, syntax errors, or incorrect command invocations. Verify that the commands and processes are set up correctly to prevent abnormal terminations.

4. Isolate the Failing Step: If multiple steps or commands are being executed, isolate the failing step to identify the specific cause of the abnormal exit. This can help narrow down the potential issues and determine if any specific command or process is causing the problem.

5. Inspect Dependencies and Third-Party Tools: If your build relies on external dependencies or third-party tools, ensure they are up-to-date and compatible with your configuration and requirements. Incompatibilities or outdated versions can cause errors and abnormal terminations.


Understanding the exit status code 255 and its conversion from -1 to an unsigned 8-bit value is important when interpreting CircleCI build results. By following the troubleshooting steps outlined above, you can effectively investigate and address any issues associated with abnormal terminations and exit code 255. Remember to review your configuration, check logs for error messages, and verify any dependencies or third-party tools. If you require further assistance, don't hesitate to reach out to the CircleCI Support team for guidance.

Additional Resources

Exit and Exit Status

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