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30 Useful Linux Commands for System Administrators

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In this article we are going to review some of the useful and frequently used Linux or Unix commands for Linux System Administrators that are used in their daily life. This is not a complete but it’s a compact list of commands to refer when needed. Let us start one by one how we can use those commands with examples.

Linux System Administration Commands

30 Useful Linux System Administration Commands

1. Uptime Command

In Linux uptime command shows since how long your system is running and the number of users are currently logged in and also displays load average for 1,5 and 15 minutes intervals.

# uptime

08:16:26 up 22 min,  1 user,  load average: 0.00, 0.03, 0.22

Check Uptime Version

Uptime command don’t have other options other than uptime and version. It gives information only in hours:mins if it less than 1 day.

[tecmint@tecmint ~]$ uptime -V
procps version 3.2.8

2. W Command

It will displays users currently logged in and their process along-with shows load averages. also shows the login name, tty name, remote host, login time, idle time, JCPU, PCPU, command and processes.

# w

08:27:44 up 34 min,  1 user,  load average: 0.00, 0.00, 0.08
USER     TTY      FROM              LOGIN@   IDLE   JCPU   PCPU WHAT
tecmint  pts/0     07:59    0.00s  0.29s  0.09s w

Available options

  1. -h : displays no header entries.
  2. -s : without JCPU and PCPU.
  3. -f : Removes from field.
  4. -V : (upper letter) – Shows versions.

3. Users Command

Users command displays currently logged in users. This command don’t have other parameters other than help and version.

# users


4. Who Command

who command simply return user name, date, time and host information. who command is similar to w command. Unlike w command who doesn’t print what users are doing. Lets illustrate and see the different between who and w commands.

# who

tecmint  pts/0        2012-09-18 07:59 (
# w

08:43:58 up 50 min,  1 user,  load average: 0.64, 0.18, 0.06
USER     TTY      FROM              LOGIN@   IDLE   JCPU   PCPU WHAT
tecmint  pts/0     07:59    0.00s  0.43s  0.10s w

Who command Options

  1. -b : Displays last system reboot date and time.
  2. -r : Shows current runlet.
  3. -a, –all : Displays all information in cumulatively.

5. Whoami Command

whoami command print the name of current user. You can also use “who am i” command to display the current user. If you are logged in as a root using sudo command “whoami” command return root as current user. Use “who am i” command if you want to know the exact user logged in.

# whoami


6. ls Command

ls command display list of files in human readable format.

# ls -l

total 114
dr-xr-xr-x.   2 root root  4096 Sep 18 08:46 bin
dr-xr-xr-x.   5 root root  1024 Sep  8 15:49 boot

Sort file as per last modified time.

# ls -ltr

total 40
-rw-r--r--. 1 root root  6546 Sep 17 18:42 install.log.syslog
-rw-r--r--. 1 root root 22435 Sep 17 18:45 install.log
-rw-------. 1 root root  1003 Sep 17 18:45 anaconda-ks.cfg

For more examples of ls command, please check out our article on 15 Basic ‘ls’ Command Examples in Linux.

7. Crontab Command

List schedule jobs for current user with crontab command and -l option.

# crontab -l

00 10 * * * /bin/ls >/ls.txt

Edit your crontab with -e option. In the below example will open schedule jobs in VI editor. Make a necessary changes and quit pressing :wq keys which saves the setting automatically.

# crontab -e

For more examples of Linux Cron Command, please read our earlier article on 11 Cron Scheduling Task Examples in Linux.

8. Less Command

less command allows quickly view file. You can page up and down. Press ‘q‘ to quit from less window.

# less install.log

Installing setup-2.8.14-10.el6.noarch
warning: setup-2.8.14-10.el6.noarch: Header V3 RSA/SHA256 Signature, key ID c105b9de: NOKEY
Installing filesystem-2.4.30-2.1.el6.i686
Installing ca-certificates-2010.63-3.el6.noarch
Installing xml-common-0.6.3-32.el6.noarch
Installing tzdata-2010l-1.el6.noarch
Installing iso-codes-3.16-2.el6.noarch

9. More Command

more command allows quickly view file and shows details in percentage. You can page up and down. Press ‘q‘ to quit out from more window.

# more install.log

Installing setup-2.8.14-10.el6.noarch
warning: setup-2.8.14-10.el6.noarch: Header V3 RSA/SHA256 Signature, key ID c105b9de: NOKEY
Installing filesystem-2.4.30-2.1.el6.i686
Installing ca-certificates-2010.63-3.el6.noarch
Installing xml-common-0.6.3-32.el6.noarch
Installing tzdata-2010l-1.el6.noarch
Installing iso-codes-3.16-2.el6.noarch

10. CP Command

Copy file from source to destination preserving same mode.

# cp -p fileA fileB

You will be prompted before overwrite to file.

# cp -i fileA fileB

11. MV Command

Rename fileA to fileB. -i options prompt before overwrite. Ask for confirmation if exist already.

# mv -i fileA fileB

12. Cat Command

cat command used to view multiple file at the same time.

# cat fileA fileB

You combine more and less command with cat command to view file contain if that doesn’t fit in single screen / page.

# cat install.log | less

# cat install.log | more

For more examples of Linux cat command read our article on 13 Basic Cat Command Examples in Linux.

13. Cd command (change directory)

with cd command (change directory) it will goes to fileA directory.

# cd /fileA

14. pwd command (print working directory)

pwd command return with present working directory.

# pwd


15. Sort command

Sorting lines of text files in ascending order. with -r options will sort in descending order.

#sort fileA.txt

#sort -r fileA.txt

16. VI Command

Vi is a most popular text editor available most of the UNIX-like OS. Below examples open file in read only with -R option. Press ‘:q‘ to quit from vi window.

# vi -R /etc/shadows

17. SSH Command (Secure Shell)

SSH command is used to login into remote host. For example the below ssh command will connect to remote host ( using user as narad.

# ssh narad@

To check the version of ssh use option -V (uppercase) shows version of ssh.

# ssh -V

OpenSSH_5.3p1, OpenSSL 1.0.0-fips 29 Mar 2010

18. Ftp or sftp Command

ftp or sftp command is used to connect to remote ftp host. ftp is (file transfer protocol) and sftp is (secure file transfer protocol). For example the below commands will connect to ftp host (

# ftp

# sftp

Putting multiple files in remote host with mput similarly we can do mget to download multiple files from remote host.

# ftp > mput *.txt

# ftp > mget *.txt

19. Service Command

Service command call script located at /etc/init.d/ directory and execute the script. There are two ways to start the any service. For example we start the service called httpd with service command.

# service httpd start
# /etc/init.d/httpd start

20. Free command

Free command shows free, total and swap memory information in bytes.

# free
             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:       1030800     735944     294856          0      51648     547696
-/+ buffers/cache:     136600     894200
Swap:      2064376          0    2064376

Free with -t options shows total memory used and available to use in bytes.

# free -t
             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:       1030800     736096     294704          0      51720     547704
-/+ buffers/cache:     136672     894128
Swap:      2064376          0    2064376
Total:     3095176     736096    2359080

21. Top Command

top command displays processor activity of your system and also displays tasks managed by kernel in real-time. It’ll show processor and memory are being used. Use top command with ‘u‘ option this will display specific User process details as shown below. Press ‘O‘ (uppercase letter) to sort as per desired by you. Press ‘q‘ to quit from top screen.

# top -u tecmint

top - 11:13:11 up  3:19,  2 users,  load average: 0.00, 0.00, 0.00
Tasks: 116 total,   1 running, 115 sleeping,   0 stopped,   0 zombie
Cpu(s):  0.0%us,  0.3%sy,  0.0%ni, 99.7%id,  0.0%wa,  0.0%hi,  0.0%si,  0.0%st
Mem:   1030800k total,   736188k used,   294612k free,    51760k buffers
Swap:  2064376k total,        0k used,  2064376k free,   547704k cached

1889 tecmint   20   0 11468 1648  920 S  0.0  0.2   0:00.59 sshd
1890 tecmint   20   0  5124 1668 1416 S  0.0  0.2   0:00.44 bash
6698 tecmint   20   0 11600 1668  924 S  0.0  0.2   0:01.19 sshd
6699 tecmint   20   0  5124 1596 1352 S  0.0  0.2   0:00.11 bash

For more about top command we’ve already compiled a list of 12 TOP Command Examples in Linux.

22. Tar Command

tar command is used to compress files and folders in Linux. For example the below command will create a archive for /home directory with file name as archive-name.tar.

# tar -cvf archive-name.tar /home

To extract tar archive file use the option as follows.

# tar -xvf archive-name.tar

To understand more about tar command we’ve created a complete how-to guide on tar command at 18 Tar Command Examples in Linux.

23. Grep Command

grep search for a given string in a file. Only tecmint user displays from /etc/passwd file. we can use -i option for ignoring case sensitive.

# grep tecmint /etc/passwd


24. Find Command

Find command used to search files, strings and directories. The below example of find command search tecmint word in ‘/‘ partition and return the output.

# find / -name tecmint


For complete guide on Linux find command examples fount at 35 Practical Examples of Linux Find Command.

25. lsof Command

lsof mean List of all open files. Below lsof command list of all opened files by user tecmint.

# lsof -u tecmint

sshd    1889 tecmint  cwd    DIR      253,0     4096      2 /
sshd    1889 tecmint  txt    REG      253,0   532336 298069 /usr/sbin/sshd
sshd    1889 tecmint  DEL    REG      253,0          412940 /lib/libcom_err.so.2.1
sshd    1889 tecmint  DEL    REG      253,0          393156 /lib/ld-2.12.so
sshd    1889 tecmint  DEL    REG      253,0          298643 /usr/lib/libcrypto.so.1.0.0
sshd    1889 tecmint  DEL    REG      253,0          393173 /lib/libnsl-2.12.so
sshd    1889 tecmint  DEL    REG      253,0          412937 /lib/libkrb5support.so.0.1
sshd    1889 tecmint  DEL    REG      253,0          412961 /lib/libplc4.so

For more lsof command examples visit 10 lsof Command Examples in Linux.

26. last command

With last command we can watch user’s activity in the system. This command can execute normal user also. It will display complete user’s info like terminal, time, date, system reboot or boot and kernel version. Useful command to troubleshoot.

# last

tecmint  pts/1     Tue Sep 18 08:50   still logged in
tecmint  pts/0     Tue Sep 18 07:59   still logged in
reboot   system boot  2.6.32-279.el6.i Tue Sep 18 07:54 - 11:38  (03:43)
root     pts/1     Sun Sep 16 10:40 - down   (03:53)
root     pts/0        :0.0             Sun Sep 16 10:36 - 13:09  (02:32)
root     tty1         :0               Sun Sep 16 10:07 - down   (04:26)
reboot   system boot  2.6.32-279.el6.i Sun Sep 16 09:57 - 14:33  (04:35)
narad    pts/2     Thu Sep 13 08:07 - down   (01:15)

You can use last with username to know for specific user’s activity as shown below.

# last tecmint

tecmint  pts/1     Tue Sep 18 08:50   still logged in
tecmint  pts/0     Tue Sep 18 07:59   still logged in
tecmint  pts/1     Thu Sep 13 08:07 - down   (01:15)
tecmint  pts/4     Wed Sep 12 10:12 - 12:29  (02:17)

27. ps command

ps command displays about processes running in the system. Below example show init process only.

# ps -ef | grep init

root         1     0  0 07:53 ?        00:00:04 /sbin/init
root      7508  6825  0 11:48 pts/1    00:00:00 grep init

28. kill command

Use kill command to terminate process. First find process id with ps command as shown below and kill process with kill -9 command.

# ps -ef | grep init
root         1     0  0 07:53 ?        00:00:04 /sbin/init
root      7508  6825  0 11:48 pts/1    00:00:00 grep init

# kill- 9 7508

29. rm command

rm command used to remove or delete a file without prompting for confirmation.

# rm filename

Using -i option to get confirmation before removing it. Using options ‘-r‘ and ‘-f‘ will remove the file forcefully without confirmation.

# rm -i test.txt

rm: remove regular file `test.txt'?

30. mkdir command example.

mkdir command is used to create directories under Linux.

# mkdir directoryname

This is a handy day to day useable basic commands in Linux / Unix-like operating system. Kindly share through our comment box if we missed out.

Ravi Saive

Owner at TecMint.com
Simple Word a Computer Geek and Linux Guru who loves to share tricks and tips on Internet. Most Of My Servers runs on Open Source Platform called Linux.

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49 Responses

  1. mesuutt says:

    Good commands but I think these commands for begginers (:

  2. Felicio says:

    Nice for beginners, but I disagree whit your choice for the kill command sample…

    Please, don’t kill init!!!

    • Ravi Saive says:


      I agree with you, but it’s just an example of kill command. I suggest all don’t ever try to kill “init”. It’s not a best practice..

    • ike says:

      Also, don’t “kill -9″ except as a last resort. “kill” is usually sufficient. “kill -9″ terminates the process immediately & unconditionally, giving no chance to clean up or release resources.

  3. Rather than use an unnecessary cat:

    cat install.log | less


    less install.log

    • Ravi Saive says:


      Linux has bunch of options to use. So, its up-to you which way you choose, but the results would be same.

      • Some Guy says:

        Of course Linux (and Unix) has a bunch of options, but if you are setting an example, do it correctly.

        What you have put would be a prime candidate for the “Useless use of cat” award (back in the 90′s Usenet days) — Check: http://partmaps.org/era/unix/award.html#cat

      • David says:

        Wrong. In a pipe, less does not know the size of the file and will be missing stats. It also will need to buffer content in memory instead of being able to rely on rereading it. So no, the results would not be the same. Using a pipe makes things worse.

      • DocJ says:

        With the unnecessary cat, we are also spawning 2 processes (cat and less) instead of 1 (just less). USUALLY, this is not a big deal, but why spawn more processes than necessary?

        Just use less, and let the cat go back to bed.

      • ajay says:

        good work ravi……….


  4. “Using options ‘-r‘ and ‘-f‘ will remove the file forcefully without confirmation.”

    Using the -f option forces removal of a file; the -r option will recursively descend through directories, deleting them as well as files.

  5. tony says:

    scp is better than ftp for simply copying a file to a remote machine.
    If you’re digging around and moving a lot of stuff, sftp is your friend, of course.

  6. vin says:

    Thanks Ravi,

    nice commands for beginners like me.

  7. deepdarkpurple says:

    Thank you for putting together this article. I am a beginner and the commands may be too basics for seasoned Linux users, it certainly is helpful for a newbie like me.

    I just not found a way to save the article in a convenient ‘print’ format for later reference. is there none ?

  8. Data above was very nice but if you like me try x12 or x22 inform me the game you will play, however i do not play kids whom use windows

  9. David says:

    find / … is much less efficient than locate …

    • True, but locate will not find files created after the last database update.

      • Aaron says:

        locate is nice to find just files as it keeps a database and searches this, updatedb will update for newer fills… however…. use find always and learn it. find is a favourite command of mine and is very powerful.. not just for finding files;

        find / -type f -iname “*aaron*” -exec chown aaron {} \;

        find any file with the name aaron in it (incase sensitive) and change the owner to the user aaron…. You still need permission on the file to change ownership though :)

  10. Kanor says:

    Im hoping this would really be for administrators. You must change your title to 30 Useful Commands for NewBies

  11. Pantuts says:

    Pretty cool commands. Let me bookmark this. Thanks :)

  12. desagree for kill command says:

    I disagree with you about the kill command. In fact, this command sends a specified signal to a specified process. that’s why you use it with the -9 option to terminate a process.
    And please don’t kill init process (I think is a bad example for biginners)

  13. Manjit says:

    Its Really good for us…Thank x.

  14. bhoopal says:

    with the help of which command ,we know that howmany databases are running in a server

    • Ravi Saive says:

      Only one way login into MySQL server and run the following command to know the list of databases running.

      show databases;
      • Aaron says:

        how about mysql -e ‘show databases;’ or mysql -u user -p -e ‘show databases;’

        save logging into mysql and needing to exit it out :-)

  15. m.ganesh says:

    pls system information(os type,processor name,os version,root name) command …send to this mail ID

  16. safeer says:

    good one.

  17. PIUS says:

    yaaaaaaa some good basic commands i have learn’t a lot

  18. seshu says:

    How to display last 50 days details in shell script.

    could you please help me if you know

  19. vikas says:

    some networking commands plz…!

  20. Lucky says:

    Good work Ravi.

  21. Mohsin Khan says:

    man command is very helpfull command

  22. umesh yadav says:

    good commands i have learn’t a lot from these commands…….

  23. Ramakrishna says:

    I am install Red Hat Enterprise Linux in VMware
    How to install software in the red hat

  24. Vishal says:

    Getting an error while connecting Linux and Windows with WinSCP “Invalid access to memory”.
    Also not able to ping from linux to windos but able to do vice versa.
    Can you please help me out…

  25. Walid says:

    Thanks for the great help very good commands

  26. Sunil Mulage says:

    Thanks Ravi.
    nice commands for beginners like me.

  27. Ravi says:

    Hi Ravi,

    How to delete last 10days log files. please help me

  28. T Anil says:

    Hi Ravi,

    These command are very helpful to me. Can you please provide me any links and website’s to learn more Linux commands fully.

    Thanks & Regards,
    T Anil

    • Ravi Saive says:

      Dear Anil, we’ve already covered almost all of the important commands in our Linux Commands section, you will find this section in our Menu. Here you will see all the commands with their practical examples.

  29. Sherjeel says:

    I like this. It is quite useful in enhancing ones LInux commands.

  30. Ateeq says:


    I have a basic knowledge on Linux and Unix server. Want to enhance my knowledge fully and become a Unix Admin or Linux Engineer. Could someone please refer me the best book which is available in India Bangalore( Indian author is better)

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