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Table of contents
What Is tmpfile()?
What's a temporary file?
Why use tmpfile()?
How does tmpfile() Work?
Use cases
When to Use tmpfile()?
Frequently Asked Questions 
Do I need to specify a filename?
Can two separate calls to tmpfile() generate the same filename?
What file permissions does the temporary file have?
What happens if my program crashes before deleting the temporary file?
Last Updated: Mar 27, 2024

C++ tmpfile()

Author Arya Singh
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The tmpfile() function in C++ provides a convenient way to generate temporary files within your programs. These files serve as short-lived storage for data that might not require a permanent presence. Using tmpfile() simplifies creating and managing these files, offering a seamless solution for tasks like testing, caching, or handling intermediate data without cluttering your system with unnecessary files.

tmpfile() creates a temporary file deleted automatically when your program exits. No more worrying about cleaning up temporary files or filling your hard drive with unused data. tmpfile() handles it all under the hood.

What Is tmpfile()?

In C++, the tmpfile() function creates a temporary file that is automatically removed once it's no longer needed or when the program ends. This is beneficial when you require a temporary space to store data, such as for caching or intermediate processing. The file is managed seamlessly: as soon as it's closed or your program finishes, it vanishes on its own, sparing you the task of manual cleanup. This simplifies coding and ensures you will be free of unnecessary or cluttered files after fulfilling their purpose.


FILE* tempFile = tmpfile();

In this example, the tmpfile() function creates a temporary file, and you can perform file operations using the returned tempFile pointer. Just remember to close the file with fclose() when you're finished to ensure proper cleanup.


In C++, the tmpfile() function does not take any parameters. 

The tmpfile() function creates a temporary file without additional inputs.

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What's a temporary file?

A temporary file is a file that is created and used for a short period. Once the file is no longer needed and your program closes it, it is automatically deleted. This is useful when creating files for temporary storage or processing.

Why use tmpfile()?

There are a few benefits to using tmpfile():

1.  Automatic cleanup - You don't have to worry about deleting the temporary file yourself. This avoids file clutter and ensures resources are freed up.

2.  File security - It ensures that the temporary files created are accessible only to the user and processes with appropriate permissions, enhancing data privacy.

3.  Atomicity - It refers to the guarantee that the creation of temporary files occurs as a single, indivisible operation, ensuring that the file is either fully created or not created at all.

4.  Anonymity - It allows you to create temporary files without needing to provide a specific filename, streamlining the process of managing short-lived data storage.

To use tmpfile() - call the function to return a FILE pointer to the newly created temporary file. You can then use this pointer with any of the usual file I/O functions like fprintf(), fread(), fwrite(), etc. Once your program is done using the file, the pointer will go out of scope, and the file will be deleted automatically.

How does tmpfile() Work?

The tempfile() method produces a temporary file immediately removed when your application exits.

To use it, use tmpfile(), which returns a reference to a FILE object from which you may access the temporary file. This file will be opened in "wb+" mode, which means it may be read and written to.

The file is generated in the system's temp directory, commonly /tmp on Linux or C:\\temp on Windows. Because the file name is produced randomly, a filename clash is impossible.

  • C++


#include <cstdio>

int main() {
// Create a temporary file using tmpfile()
FILE* tempFile = tmpfile();

if (tempFile) {
// Write some data to the temporary file
const char* data = "This is some data to write to the temporary file.";
fprintf(tempFile, "%s\n", data);

// Read the data back from the temporary file
rewind(tempFile);  // Move the file pointer to the beginning
char buffer[100];
fgets(buffer, sizeof(buffer), tempFile);

// Print the read data
printf("Data from temporary file: %s", buffer);

// The temporary file will be automatically deleted when closed
} else {
printf("Failed to create temporary file.\n");

return 0;



Use cases

tmpfile() is great for situations where you need a temporary scratch space, like:

1.  Storing intermediate results during complex calculations.

2.  Transferring data between functions or threads in your program.

3.  Testing file I/O by your program before writing to a permanent file.

The temporary nature of the file makes tmpfile() ideal for these types of short-term uses. You'll want to use a permanent file for anything long-term or security-related.

So there you have it, a quick deep dive into the C++ tmpfile() function. Use it wisely and your programs will create temporary files in no time!

When to Use tmpfile()?

The tmpfile() function in C++ is proper when creating a temporary file that will be deleted automatically when the file is closed. This is ideal in a few situations.
 Some usage tips:

  •  The file is opened in "wb+" mode so that you can read and write.
  • You can find the path using std::getenv("TMPDIR").
  •  Multiple threads can call tmpfile() and get different temporary files.
  •  If disk space is limited, use tmpfile() judiciously since the files are not cleaned up until the program exits.
  • Check the return value in case tmpfile() fails. It will return NULL if it cannot create the temporary file.

Tmpfile() gives you an easy, secure way to work with temporary files in C++ without generating file names manually and remembering to delete the files. Use it whenever you need a short-lived, anonymous file!

Also see, Abstract Data Types in C++

Frequently Asked Questions 

Do I need to specify a filename?

No, tmpfile() generates a unique filename for you. You do not pass any filename to the function.

Can two separate calls to tmpfile() generate the same filename?

No, tmpfile() will generate a different filename each time it is called. The filenames are guaranteed to be unique.

What file permissions does the temporary file have?

The temporary file is created with only read and write permissions for the user. No other users or groups have access to the file.

What happens if my program crashes before deleting the temporary file?

The temporary file will still be deleted. tmpfile() creates the file in a unique temporary directory with permissions set to automatically delete it when your program ends, whether it usually ends or crashes.


This blog shows how tmpfile() works in C++, creates temporary files, guarantees uniqueness, and cleans up after itself. We hope this blog has helped you enhance your knowledge of C++ tmpfile(). If you want to learn more, then check out our articles.

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