10 ‘free’ Commands to Check Memory Usage in Linux

Linux is one of the most popular open source operating system and comes with huge set of commands. The most important and single way of determining the total available space of the physical memory and swap memory is by using “free” command.

The Linux “free” command gives information about total used and available space of physical memory and swap memory with buffers used by kernel in Linux/Unix like operating systems.

Linux Free command
10 Linux Free Command Examples

This article provides some useful examples of “free” commands with options, that might be useful for you to better utilize memory that you have.

1. Display System Memory

Free command used to check the used and available space of physical memory and swap memory in KB. See the command in action below.

# free

             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:       1021628     912548     109080          0     120368     655548
-/+ buffers/cache:     136632     884996
Swap:      4194296          0    4194296

2. Display Memory in Bytes

Free command with option -b, display the size of memory in Bytes.

# free -b

             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:    1046147072  934420480  111726592          0  123256832  671281152
-/+ buffers/cache:  139882496  906264576
Swap:   4294959104          0 4294959104

3. Display Memory in Kilo Bytes

Free command with option -k, display the size of memory in (KB) Kilobytes.

# free -k

             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:       1021628     912520     109108          0     120368     655548
-/+ buffers/cache:     136604     885024
Swap:      4194296          0    4194296

4. Display Memory in Megabytes

To see the size of the memory in (MB) Megabytes use option as -m.

# free -m

             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:           997        891        106          0        117        640
-/+ buffers/cache:        133        864
Swap:         4095          0       4095

5. Display Memory in Gigabytes

Using -g option with free command, would display the size of the memory in GB(Gigabytes).

# free -g
             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:             0          0          0          0          0          0
-/+ buffers/cache:          0          0
Swap:            3          0          3

6. Display Total Line

Free command with -t option, will list the total line at the end.

# free -t

            total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:       1021628     912520     109108          0     120368     655548
-/+ buffers/cache:     136604     885024
Swap:      4194296          0    4194296
Total: 5215924 912520 4303404

7. Disable Display of Buffer Adjusted Line

By default the free command display “buffer adjusted” line, to disable this line use option as -o.

# free -o

            total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:       1021628     912520     109108          0     120368     655548
Swap:      4194296          0    4194296

8. Display Memory Status for Regular Intervals

The -s option with number, used to update free command at regular intervals. For example, the below command will update free command every 5 seconds.

# free -s 5

             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:       1021628     912368     109260          0     120368     655548
-/+ buffers/cache:     136452     885176
Swap:      4194296          0    4194296

9. Show Low and High Memory Statistics

The -l switch displays detailed high and low memory size statistics.

# free -l

             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:       1021628     912368     109260          0     120368     655548
Low:        890036     789064     100972
High:       131592     123304       8288
-/+ buffers/cache:     136452     885176
Swap:      4194296          0    4194296

10. Check Free Version

The -V option, display free command version information.

# free -V

procps version 3.2.8

Read Also

Top Command, Find Command, Netstat Command.

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20 thoughts on “10 ‘free’ Commands to Check Memory Usage in Linux”

  1. Nice and neat info. I believe you meant all the mentioned kb, mb, gb are actually kibi, mebi and gibi rather than kilo, mega and giga.

    Reply
    • @Sathish,

      We already explained each switch used with free command in this article, I hope you gone through it each point, still I will update you that free -m is used to show the amount of memory in megabytes.

      Reply
  2. Hi,
    I am newbie to linux. I am practising ubuntu in vmware workstation installed in PC. How do i surf internet using ubuntu while i am in vmware workstation ? Please assist.

    Reply
  3. Thank you for the share, great read. How can I reduce the memory consumption used? I am using a virtual box with ubuntu 14.04 LTS. I have only 82M of 500M free memory left?
    I might guess it is because the low memory I have assigned to Virtual machine 512M upon initialising it.

    Reply
    • @Sinan,
      500MB is not enough to run Ubuntu 14.04, you need at least 1G or 2G of ram to run Ubuntu properly..or else you can stop some unwanted applications to reduce memory consumption, you need to use top command to trace the applications which are utilizing high ram usage..

      Reply
  4. @Sara

    That’s not related to memory as df is used to report file system disk space usage, free is the memory (RAM) and swap usage.

    Reply
  5. TQ & 5* i give to you … im newbie in linux … this is my 2nd linux (ubuntu 14.04) 1st i use (fedora19) sory my english .. i read your all your post (tecmint).. & TQ again for good post.. (y)

    Reply

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