Read a whole file into memory in C

This is an example C program illustrating reading an entire file into allocated memory. It relies on the Unix system call stat to get the size of the file. The first call, to get the size of the file, is also illustrated in this example page: Get the size of a file in C.

#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <errno.h>
#include <string.h>
#include <sys/stat.h>

/* This routine returns the size of the file it is called with. */

static unsigned
get_file_size (const char * file_name)
    struct stat sb;
    if (stat (file_name, & sb) != 0) {
        fprintf (stderr, "'stat' failed for '%s': %s.\n",
                 file_name, strerror (errno));
        exit (EXIT_FAILURE);
    return sb.st_size;

/* This routine reads the entire file into memory. */

static unsigned char *
read_whole_file (const char * file_name)
    unsigned s;
    unsigned char * contents;
    FILE * f;
    size_t bytes_read;
    int status;

    s = get_file_size (file_name);
    contents = malloc (s + 1);
    if (! contents) {
        fprintf (stderr, "Not enough memory.\n");
        exit (EXIT_FAILURE);

    f = fopen (file_name, "r");
    if (! f) {
        fprintf (stderr, "Could not open '%s': %s.\n", file_name,
                 strerror (errno));
        exit (EXIT_FAILURE);
    bytes_read = fread (contents, sizeof (unsigned char), s, f);
    if (bytes_read != s) {
        fprintf (stderr, "Short read of '%s': expected %d bytes "
                 "but got %d: %s.\n", file_name, s, bytes_read,
                 strerror (errno));
        exit (EXIT_FAILURE);
    status = fclose (f);
    if (status != 0) {
        fprintf (stderr, "Error closing '%s': %s.\n", file_name,
                 strerror (errno));
        exit (EXIT_FAILURE);
    return contents;

int main ()
    unsigned char * file_contents;
    file_contents = read_whole_file ("rwf.c");

    free (file_contents);
    return 0;


In normal operation this does not output anything.

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