16 Top Command Examples in Linux [Monitor Linux Processes]

In our previous articles, we have covered the basics of ls command and cat command. In this article, we are trying to explore the top command which is one of the most frequently used commands in our daily system administrative jobs.

The top command (table of processes) displays the processor activity of your Linux box and also displays tasks managed by the kernel in real-time. It also shows information about CPU and memory utilization of a list of running processes.

You might also be interested in the following tutorials :

1. List All Running Linux Processes

To list all running Linux Processes, simply type top on the command line to get the information of running tasks, memory, cpu, and swap. Press ‘q‘ to quit window.

# top
View Linux Running Processes
View Linux Running Processes

2. Sort Linux Processes by PID

To sort all Linux running processes by Process ID, press M and T keys.

List of Linux Processes by PID
List of Linux Processes by PID

3. Sort Linux Processes by Memory and CPU Usage

To sort all Linux running processes by Memory usage, press M and P keys.

Sort Linux Processes by Memory CPU Usagae
Sort Linux Processes by Memory CPU Usage

4. Sort Linux Processes by Running Time

To sort all Linux running processes by running time, press M and T keys.

Sort Linux Processes by Running Time
Sort Linux Processes by Running Time

5. Display Linux Processes By Specific User

To display all user-specific running processes information, use the -u option will list specific User process details.

# top -u tecmint
List Linux Processes By Specific User
List Linux Processes By Specific User

6. Highlight Running Process in Top

Press ‘z‘ option will display the running process in color which may help you to identify the running process easily.

Highlight Linux Process
Highlight Linux Process

7. List Absolute Path of Running Linux Processes

Press ‘c‘ option in running top command will display the absolute path of the running process.

List Linux Processes by Path
List Linux Processes by Path

8. Set Refresh Interval for Top Command

By default screen refresh interval is set to 3.0 seconds, the same can be changed by pressing the ‘d‘ option in running the top command to set desired interval time.

Set Top Command Refresh Time
Set Top Command Refresh Time

9. Kill Running Linux Process Using Top Command

You can kill a process after finding the PID of the process by pressing the ‘k‘ option in running the top command without closing the top window as shown below.

Kill Linux Process Using PID
Kill Linux Process Using PID

10. Sort Linux Processes by CPU Utilisation

To sort all running processes by CPU utilization, simply press Shift+P key.

Sort Linux Processes by CPU Usage
Sort Linux Processes by CPU Usage

11. Renice a Linux Process

You can use the ‘r‘ option to change the priority of the process also called Renice.

Renice Linux Process
Renice Linux Process

12. Check Linux CPU Cores

To list the load information of your CPU cores, simply press 1 to list the CPU core details.

List Linux CPU Cores
List Linux CPU Cores

13. Save Top Command Results in File

To save the running top command results output to a file /root/.toprc use the following command.

# top -n 1 -b > top-output.txt

14. List Linux Idle Processes

Press 'i' to get the list of idle/sleeping processes.

List Linux Idle Processes
List Linux Idle Processes

15. Getting Top Command Help

Press the ‘h‘ option to obtain the top command help.

Linux Top Command Help
Linux Top Command Help

16. Exit Top Command After Specific Repetition

The output of the top command keeps refreshing until you press ‘q‘. With the below command, it will automatically exit after 10 repetitions.

# top -n 10

There is a number of arguments to know more about the top command, you may refer man page of the top command. Please share it if you find this article useful or share your thoughts using our comment box below.

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Ravi Saive
I am an experienced GNU/Linux expert and a full-stack software developer with over a decade in the field of Linux and Open Source technologies

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    • @Madhav,

      The -n option specifies the maximum number of iterations and -b enables batch mode operation, which could be useful for sending output from top to a file.

  1. basically I want this output to a file.. for 10 mins..

    top – 13:29:09 up 1 day, 20:30, 1 user, load average: 0.65, 0.70, 0.69
    Tasks: 1022 total, 1 running, 1020 sleeping, 0 stopped, 1 zombie
    %Cpu0 : 13.0 us, 2.7 sy, 0.0 ni, 84.3 id, 0.0 wa, 0.0 hi, 0.0 si, 0.0 st
    %Cpu1 : 49.3 us, 3.6 sy, 0.0 ni, 45.7 id, 0.3 wa, 0.3 hi, 0.0 si, 0.7 st
    %Cpu2 : 2.0 us, 2.0 sy, 0.0 ni, 95.4 id, 0.0 wa, 0.3 hi, 0.3 si, 0.0 st
    %Cpu3 : 7.6 us, 2.0 sy, 0.0 ni, 90.4 id, 0.0 wa, 0.0 hi, 0.0 si, 0.0 st
    %Cpu4 : 1.3 us, 2.3 sy, 0.0 ni, 96.0 id, 0.0 wa, 0.0 hi, 0.3 si, 0.0 st
    %Cpu5 : 26.1 us, 2.6 sy, 0.0 ni, 70.3 id, 0.3 wa, 0.3 hi, 0.0 si, 0.3 st
    KiB Mem : 41042384 total, 1621820 free, 6024132 used, 33396432 buff/cache
    KiB Swap: 21946356 total, 21946308 free, 48 used. 9811332 avail Mem

    34389 root 20 0 967380 57812 8156 S 91.7 0.1 243:41.66 java
    4295 oracle 20 0 4517788 497680 9364 S 0.0 1.2 4:15.28 java

  2. Can someone please help me to gather only the top 20 processes information from the top command into a file after each 60 seconds of interval?

  3. Hi Ravi

    Point 10 saving top’s output to a file saves it configuration instead.
    Please suggest in that,correct it if its wrong.
    PFB output.

    RCfile for “top with windows” # shameless braggin’
    Id:a, Mode_altscr=0, Mode_irixps=0, Delay_time=3.000, Curwin=0
    Def fieldscur=AEHIOQTWKNMbcdfgjPlrsuvyzX
    winflags=62777, sortindx=15, maxtasks=0
    summclr=1, msgsclr=1, headclr=3, taskclr=1
    Job fieldscur=ABcefgjlrstuvyzMKNHIWOPQDX
    winflags=62777, sortindx=0, maxtasks=0
    summclr=6, msgsclr=6, headclr=7, taskclr=6
    Mem fieldscur=ANOPQRSTUVbcdefgjlmyzWHIKX
    winflags=62777, sortindx=13, maxtasks=0
    summclr=5, msgsclr=5, headclr=4, taskclr=5
    Usr fieldscur=ABDECGfhijlopqrstuvyzMKNWX
    winflags=62777, sortindx=4, maxtasks=0
    summclr=3, msgsclr=3, headclr=2, taskclr=3

    • @Abishek,

      Yes its just only saves top configuration, to save the top running output to a file use the following command.

      # top -n 1 -b > top-output.txt
  4. If server has multiple processor suppose (3) is CPU usage will show 300% in top command or consolidate under 100%, and How can we see individual CPU Usage if server has multiple processors

  5. Hello, I was wondering if anyone could help me by evaluating the usefulness of the top command to a technician when using it with ps and kill in order to investigate a system that is misbehaving. Thank you.

  6. I don’t know if it’s just my setup, but, every image in the article body is duplicated (each image is shown twice, the 2nd copy of the image is immediately below the first image

  7. Hi,
    How do I specify TOP to only one or two software? for example, I need the information about Hashcat and John to be appear on screen and the rest disappear.

    Thank you!

  8. Are these commands work on all type of Linux Operating system and What about sudo which is used in VPS having Linux operating system?

    • @Shees,

      Top command is the default built-in process monitoring tool in Linux and sudo is used to in VPS to grand root privileges to normal users to execute certain system commands on Linux.

  9. Good documentation !!

    Given Above: Press (Shift+W) to save the running top command results under /root/.toprc.
    Correct: Press “W” or “Shift+w” to save current configuration in ~/.toprc.

  10. Can anyone say how to extract and write only the timestamp value and its corresponding cpu,memory, and swap value into text

  11. Hi Ravi,

    It is very usefull options you shared with us. Thanks lot for this
    what is recommend if memory utilization is high in the server and server getting very slow.

  12. Hi Ravi… If we save the top command results in /root/.toprc …. how to view this file next time. what exactly is .toprc … is this a configuration file..

  13. if load average is going very high due to a particular process and i can’t stop the process.in that case what other alternate step i can take?

    • @Shivam,
      You can kill the process by its PID or you can take appropriate steps to troubleshoot why exactly the load is too high for particular process.

  14. @Wchen,

    Command to pause the job

    kill -s STOP pid number

    Command to resume the job

    kill -s CONT pid number

    Hope this should work.

  15. Hi Ravi,

    Article is very good .

    One thing I didn’t see any difference when I tried this Sorting with -O (Uppercase Letter ‘O’

    If possible can you please explain a bit more .


  16. Hi,

    i have req like i need to get Total CPU consmued by all processes is for particular user:

    i have used command :
    ps -eo pcpu | grep fa1dev |awk ‘BEGIN { printf “Total CPU consmued by all processes is: ” } /^ *[0-9]/ { total_pcpu +=$1 } END { printf total_pcpu }’

    output i m getting like:Total CPU consmued by all processes is:

    can you please update me command

    • Does it support feature like filter such as sort by, renice a process, or such above features ?

      No, it does not support.

      I hope you are getting my point! :)

  17. Thanks.
    Nice tutorial.
    I m recently joined as system engineer.
    Actually I dont know what top command performs, i have followed what you did in the screen. I got same result.
    Can you explain what is the purpose of this command?
    How do I identify any wrong(process) in the terminal?



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