How does one use exit(EXIT_SUCCESS) or exit(EXIT_FAILURE) in microcontroller C programming. I know it works on application level C programs when you include #include<stdlib.h>.

The idea is to exit the main loop altogether when some unexpected value is returned, for example. What exactly would be the common approach in such a case? I could do a Reset but i want to see if somethings gone wrong in main. Is it a good practice to use goto: exit_main or something similar?


2 Answers 2


exit() is not the proper way to handle unexpected results in embedded platforms. You could use it, but it will cause a system reset. Either by design, or by timeout of the watchdog. Or just simply enter an infinite loop.

For example, ARM will do this, after a few library exit jumps.
(see for yourself in the simulator)

0x08000258 4901      LDR      r1,[pc,#4]  ; @0x08000260
0x0800025A 2018      MOVS     r0,#0x18
0x0800025C BEAB      BKPT     0xAB
0x0800025E E7FE      B        0x0800025E
0x08000260 0026      DCW      0x0026
0x08000262 0002      DCW      0x0002

BKPT is a hardcoded breakpoint. Else, the B instruction here will form an infinite loop.

On cricital errors that cannot be recovered you can instead do NVIC_SystemReset() on arm, or let the watchdog timeout. I believe AVR, as mention in an answer, does not have a dedicated system reset bit.



The effect of program termination in a freestanding environment is implementation-defined.

exit() may or,may not, do what you want.


looks like it will halt sort-of.

if you want a restart do this instead:



#include <avr/wdt.h>


#define soft_reset()        \
do                          \
{                           \
    wdt_enable(WDTO_15MS);  \
    for(;;)                 \
    {                       \
    }                       \
} while(0)

Other microcontrollers will have other means of performing a software-triggered reset.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I learnt a while ago thats what Arduino does on exit(0), does a cli();//disabling interrupts and while(1)//Infinite loop, did not know it was valid for avr as well. In assembly, i would just write a goto and jump in an implemented routine, to leave the main loop. I am just not sure if its a good practice in C. \$\endgroup\$
    – Abel Tom
    Jun 7, 2017 at 5:29
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ the stub that runs before main() assumes that the processor has just come out of reset so all the I/O registers are in known states, so you can't just branch to that and always get a good result, atmel reccomends triggering the watchdog, (edit to aswer). \$\endgroup\$ Jun 26, 2017 at 5:01

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