Java – How to timeout a thread


I want to run a thread for some fixed amount of time. If it is not completed within that time, I want to either kill it, throw some exception, or handle it in some way. How can it be done?

One way of doing it as I figured out from this thread
is to use a TimerTask inside the run() method of the Thread.

Are there any better solutions for this?

EDIT: Adding a bounty as I needed a clearer answer. The ExecutorService code given below does not address my problem. Why should I sleep() after executing (some code – I have no handle over this piece of code)? If the code is completed and the sleep() is interrupted, how can that be a timeOut?

The task that needs to be executed is not in my control. It can be any piece of code. The problem is this piece of code might run into an infinite loop. I don't want that to happen. So, I just want to run that task in a separate thread. The parent thread has to wait till that thread finishes and needs to know the status of the task (i.e whether it timed out or some exception occured or if its a success). If the task goes into an infinite loop, my parent thread keeps on waiting indefinitely, which is not an ideal situation.

Best Solution

Indeed rather use ExecutorService instead of Timer, here's an SSCCE:

package com.stackoverflow.q2275443;

import java.util.concurrent.Callable;
import java.util.concurrent.ExecutorService;
import java.util.concurrent.Executors;
import java.util.concurrent.Future;
import java.util.concurrent.TimeUnit;
import java.util.concurrent.TimeoutException;

public class Test {
    public static void main(String[] args) throws Exception {
        ExecutorService executor = Executors.newSingleThreadExecutor();
        Future<String> future = executor.submit(new Task());

        try {
            System.out.println(future.get(3, TimeUnit.SECONDS));
        } catch (TimeoutException e) {


class Task implements Callable<String> {
    public String call() throws Exception {
        Thread.sleep(4000); // Just to demo a long running task of 4 seconds.
        return "Ready!";

Play a bit with the timeout argument in Future#get() method, e.g. increase it to 5 and you'll see that the thread finishes. You can intercept the timeout in the catch (TimeoutException e) block.

Update: to clarify a conceptual misunderstanding, the sleep() is not required. It is just used for SSCCE/demonstration purposes. Just do your long running task right there in place of sleep(). Inside your long running task, you should be checking if the thread is not interrupted as follows:

while (!Thread.interrupted()) {
    // Do your long running task here.