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Time to time, while you administer servers in your day to day roles, you would wish to check how the CPU of your system is faring especially if you suspect that something might be consuming more than it is supposed to. To be able to do that, there are many Linux tools that can help you inspect how it is performing in real-time.

Before we proceed you can check your cpu details with the lscpu command.

# lscpu

 Architecture:        x86_64
 CPU op-mode(s):      32-bit, 64-bit
 Byte Order:          Little Endian
 CPU(s):              8
 On-line CPU(s) list: 0-7
 Thread(s) per core:  2
 Core(s) per socket:  4
 Socket(s):           1
 Vendor ID:           GenuineIntel
 CPU family:          6
 Model:               142
 Model name:          Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-8550U CPU @ 1.80GHz
 Stepping:            10
 CPU MHz:             1992.000
 CPU max MHz:         1992.0000
 BogoMIPS:            3984.00
 Hypervisor vendor:   Windows Subsystem for Linux
 Virtualization type: container
 Flags:               fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat     pse36 clflush dts acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss ht tm pbe syscall nx pdpe1gb rdtscp lm pni pclmulqdq est tm2 ssse3 fma cx16 xtpr pdcm pcid sse4_1 sse4_2 movbe popcnt aes xsave osxsave avx f16c rdrand hypervisor 

For more details, you can check the cpuinfo file.

# cat /proc/cpuinfo | less

Let us begin

1. Using top command

The top command displays Linux processes and has a column that details how the processes are utilizing available/allocated CPU.

top - 10:50:24 up 9 days, 23:32,  4 users,  load average: 4.50, 4.46, 4.02
Tasks: 140 total,   2 running, 138 sleeping,   0 stopped,   0 zombie
%Cpu(s): 13.8 us,  3.4 sy,  0.0 ni, 82.7 id,  0.0 wa,  0.0 hi,  0.2 si,  0.0 st
KiB Mem :  8001400 total,   126308 free,  2132428 used,  5742664 buff/cache
KiB Swap:  8257532 total,  8255732 free,     1800 used.  5508964 avail Mem

   736 root      20   0 2290772 979100  99752 S  27.2 12.2   1787:02 kesl
 61548 root      20   0 4090296 993816  27168 S   3.0 12.4 348:22.96 java
  1778 root      20   0 1312512  66428  48888 S   1.0  0.8 156:42.14 klnagent
   734 root      20   0   20720   6100   5684 S   0.7  0.1  95:48.03 wdserver
   657 root      20   0  116332   4292   3104 S   0.3  0.1  29:56.68 kesl_launcher.s

2. Using vmstat command

The vmstat command reports virtual memory statistics about processes, memory, paging, block IO, traps, and CPU utilization. Sample vmstat output is shown below. The last column is labelled cpu and should be where we are interested in here.

# vmstat

 procs -----------memory---------- ---swap-- -----io---- -system-- ------cpu-----
  r  b   swpd   free   buff  cache   si   so    bi    bo   in   cs us sy id wa st
  4  0    520 135564   2168 5859468    0    0     5     4   11   19  6  2 91  0  0
  • The cpu columns are expressed as percentages of total CPU time.
  • The first cpu column, “us” (user code) shows the percentage of time spent running non-kernel code.
  • The second cpu column, “sy” (system code) shows the percentage of time spent running kernel code.
  • The third cpu column, “id” shows the percentage of idle time.
  • The fourth cpu column, “wa” shows the percentage of time spent waiting for I/O (Input/Output).
  • The fifth cpu column, “st” (steal time) shows the percentage of time stolen from a virtual machine.

3. Using top command

From its man pages, Htop is a free (GPL) ncurses-based process viewer for Linux. It is similar to top, but allows you to scroll vertically and horizontally, so you can see all the processes running on the system, along with their full command lines, as well as viewing them as a process tree, selecting multiple processes and acting on them all at once.
Tasks related to processes (killing, renicing) can be done without entering their PIDs.


4. Using sar command

An acronym for System Activity Report, this command is used to collect, report, or save system activity information in Unix like operating system.

The sysntax for sar is as follows:

sar [options] [interval [count] ]

Install sar

-- Install sar on Ubuntu/Debian ---
$ sudo apt -y install sysstat

-- Install sar on Arch/Manjaro ---
$ sudo pacman -S sysstat

-- Install sar on Fedora / CentOS ---
$ sudo dnf install sysstat
$ sudo yum install sysstat

After installation, enable sysstat to start collecting system information. Change ENABLED=”false” to ENABLED=”true” in the config file as shown below. After the edit, restart sysstat.

$ cat /etc/default/sysstat
# Default settings for /etc/init.d/sysstat, /etc/cron.d/sysstat
# and /etc/cron.daily/sysstat files
# Should sadc collect system activity informations? Valid values
# are "true" and "false". Please do not put other values, they
# will be overwritten by debconf!

Restart sysstat after making the changes.

sudo systemctl restart sysstat

Generate CPU reports 10 times every 5 seconds

# sar 5 10

Linux 4.4.0-17134-Microsoft (Kibet-pc)  07/26/19        x86_64        (8 CPU)
10:59:40        CPU     %user     %nice   %system   %iowait    %steal     %idle
10:59:45        all      8.38      0.00     13.42      0.00      0.00     78.20

If you are using a GUI based window manager such as GNOME or KDE or others, look for the system monitor utility for your distribution. It can be easily installed if it is missing.


Checking cpu resources in your server is very essential in your day to day house-keeping. It is important for capacity planning and for checking the health of your system. Thank you for reading through and we hope the guide was helpful.

Also Read:

How to use cat and cp commands on Linux/Unix with examples

How to extract .xz files on Linux – CenOS / Ubuntu / Debian

How to use scp command to securely transfer files with examples

How to use rsync command on Linux/Unix with examples

How To Execute / Open JNLP files on Linux – Ubuntu / Debian / Fedora / Arch

Top RHCSA / RHCE Certification Study Books 2019

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