13.10. fseek(), rewind()

Position the file pointer in anticipition of the next read or write.


#include <stdio.h>

int fseek(FILE *stream, long offset, int whence);
void rewind(FILE *stream);


When doing reads and writes to a file, the OS keeps track of where you are in the file using a counter generically known as the file pointer. You can reposition the file pointer to a different point in the file using the fseek() call. Think of it as a way to randomly access you file.

The first argument is the file in question, obviously. offset argument is the position that you want to seek to, and whence is what that offset is relative to.

Of course, you probably like to think of the offset as being from the beginning of the file. I mean, "Seek to position 3490, that should be 3490 bytes from the beginning of the file." Well, it can be, but it doesn't have to be. Imagine the power you're wielding here. Try to command your enthusiasm.

You can set the value of whence to one of three things:


offset is relative to the beginning of the file. This is probably what you had in mind anyway, and is the most commonly used value for whence.


offset is relative to the current file pointer position. So, in effect, you can say, "Move to my current position plus 30 bytes," or, "move to my current position minus 20 bytes."


offset is relative to the end of the file. Just like SEEK_SET except from the other end of the file. Be sure to use negative values for offset if you want to back up from the end of the file, instead of going past the end into oblivion.

Speaking of seeking off the end of the file, can you do it? Sure thing. In fact, you can seek way off the end and then write a character; the file will be expanded to a size big enough to hold a bunch of zeros way out to that character.

Now that the complicated function is out of the way, what's this rewind() that I briefly mentioned? It repositions the file pointer at the beginning of the file:

fseek(fp, 0, SEEK_SET); // same as rewind()
rewind(fp);             // same as fseek(fp, 0, SEEK_SET)

Return Value

For fseek(), on success zero is returned; -1 is returned on failure.

The call to rewind() never fails.


fseek(fp, 100, SEEK_SET); // seek to the 100th byte of the file
fseek(fp, -30, SEEK_CUR); // seek backward 30 bytes from the current pos
fseek(fp, -10, SEEK_END); // seek to the 10th byte before the end of file

fseek(fp, 0, SEEK_SET);   // seek to the beginning of the file
rewind(fp);               // seek to the beginning of the file

See Also

ftell(), fgetpos(), fsetpos()