My friend recently wanted a demonstration and a simple explanation of fread() function in C and when I checked the manual, it was pretty hard to understand for a beginner programmer. So, I am going to give a short definition and example here that could be useful to you.


This is the format in which fread() can be used.

       #include <stdio.h>

       size_t fread(void *restrict ptr, size_t size, size_t nmemb,
                    FILE *restrict stream);

What is it?

This function is used read data from a file pointed by a FILE pointer. The function usually takes arguments like this,

fread(pointer to a buffer,
      size of bytes per item in the buffer,
      size of the amount of bytes to be collected from the file to the buffer,
      pointer to the file)

This returns a size_t or you can just call it an int with the amount of data read from the file. If it didn’t read data amounting equal to nmemb that means there must’ve been something wrong while reading. Fix it!


test.txt: beautiful


    #include <stdio.h>

        char buf[2];
        FILE *file = fopen("test.txt", "r");

        int ret = fread(buf, 1, 2, file);
        printf("%s\n", buf);


Here, fread reads 2 bytes from file and stores it in buf. Per item in buf equals to exactly 1 byte since it is an array of char.

Output of the program: be. Which is the first two bytes in the file.

Do not forget to close the FILE pointer after the work is done! This is a good practice and can save a large program from boatloads of vulnerabilities.

Materials and information taken from linux man-pages project.

written in neovim, powered by ssg6