Fortran writing to `/dev/null` or `NUL`

Writing to /dev/null can save significant time on legacy Fortran programs that dump unneeded data to disk. This is lower risk than making modifications to non-standards compliant code, and certainly less programmer time consuming. I have seen 10x speedup from programs that had unneeded intensive file writing. It’s also particularly useful for Fortran code called from Python via f2py.

Null filename

Most OS use /dev/null, except for Windows NUL or NUL:.

  • Linux, Mac, BSD, Cygwin, Windows Subsystem for Linux: /dev/null
  • Windows: NUL


Null-writing Fortran: devnull.f90

The test below has /dev/null 3x - 5x faster than scratch file, even with fast SSD.

program nulltest
use, intrinsic:: iso_fortran_env, only: int64
implicit none

integer(int64) :: tic,toc,rate
character(*), parameter :: nulunix='/dev/null', nulwin='NUL',fout='out.txt'
integer, parameter :: N=1000
integer :: ios,u,i
real :: tnul, tscr

! --- benchmark NUL
call system_clock(tic,count_rate=rate)

open(newunit=u,file=nulunix,status='replace',iostat=ios, action='write')
if (ios /= 0) open(newunit=u,file=nulwin,status='replace',iostat=ios, action='write')
if (ios /= 0) error stop 'could not open a NULL file handle'

do i = 1,N
    write(u,*) 'blah blah blah'
call system_clock(toc)

tnul = (toc-tic)/real(rate)

print *,tnul,' seconds to write to NUL'

!---- benchmark scratch
call system_clock(tic)
open(newunit=u, status='scratch')
do i = 1,N
    write(u,*) 'blah blah blah'
call system_clock(toc)

tscr = (toc-tic)/real(rate)

print *,tscr,' seconds to write to scratch file'

print '(A,F7.3,A)','NUL is ',tscr/tnul,' times faster than scratch.'

end program



Written by Michael Hirsch, Ph.D. //