How to Find a Process Name Using PID Number in Linux

In this article, we will look at how to find a process name by its process identification number (PID). Before we dive into the actual solution, let us briefly talk about how processes are created and identified by Linux.

Every time a user or the system (Linux) launches a program, the kernel will create a process. A process holds execution details of the program in memory such as its input and output data, variables and so on.

Importantly, since Linux is a multitasking operating system, it executes several programs simultaneously, and this means each process process must be identified specifically.

The kernel identifies each process using a process ID (PID), a every instance of process must have a unique PID from other processes which is assigned when the process is invoked, to avoid any execution errors.

The /proc file system stores information about currently running processes on your system, it contains directories for each process.

Use the ls command to list its contents, however, the list may be long, so employ a pipeline and the less utility to view the /proc contents in a more convenient way as below:

$ ls /proc 
OR
$ ls /proc | less 
List /proc File System
1     168   2230  25    329   584   7386  83         driver        schedstat
10    169   2234  2503  33    603   74    830        execdomains   scsi
1070  17    2247  2507  34    610   7411  833        fb            self
1081  1702  2256  2523  349   611   7423  836        filesystems   slabinfo
109   1714  2258  253   35    612   745   839        fs            softirqs
11    173   2266  2551  36    613   746   84         interrupts    stat
110   1760  2273  26    362   62    75    844        iomem         swaps
1188  1763  2278  2688  3642  63    7533  85         ioports       sys
12    1769  2282  2694  3643  64    7589  86         irq           sysrq-trigger
1204  177   2283  2695  37    6436  76    860        kallsyms      sysvipc
1209  1773  2285  2698  38    65    7619  87         kcore         thread-self
1254  18    2287  2699  39    66    7689  9          keys          timer_list
13    1847  2295  27    3974  67    7690  94         key-users     timer_stats
15    1914  23    2702  3976  68    77    977        kmsg          tty
152   1917  2308  28    4273  6897  7725  981        kpagecgroup   uptime
153   1918  2309  280   4374  69    7729  987        kpagecount    version
154   1938  2310  2815  4392  6969  7733  997        kpageflags    version_signature
155   1956  2311  2817  44    6980  78    acpi       loadavg       vmallocinfo
156   1981  2315  282   45    7     79    asound     locks         vmstat
1565  1986  2316  283   4543  70    790   buddyinfo  mdstat        zoneinfo
1567  1988  2317  29    46    71    8     bus        meminfo
157   2     2324  2935  461   7102  80    cgroups    misc
1579  20    2347  2944  4686  72    808   cmdline    modules
158   2010  2354  3     47    73    81    consoles   mounts
1584  2043  2436  30    4700  7304  810   cpuinfo    mtrr
159   2044  2437  3016  5     7311  815   crypto     net
1590  21    2442  31    515   7322  82    devices    pagetypeinfo
16    2167  2443  318   5273  7347  820   diskstats  partitions
160   22    2492  32    5274  7367  823   dma        sched_debug

From the screenshot above, the numbered directories store information files about the processes in execution, where each number corresponds to a PID.

Below is the list of files for systemd process with PID 1:

$ ls /proc/1
Show SystemD Process PID
ls: cannot read symbolic link '/proc/1/cwd': Permission denied
ls: cannot read symbolic link '/proc/1/root': Permission denied
ls: cannot read symbolic link '/proc/1/exe': Permission denied
attr        coredump_filter  gid_map    mountinfo   oom_score      schedstat  status
autogroup   cpuset           io         mounts      oom_score_adj  sessionid  syscall
auxv        cwd              limits     mountstats  pagemap        setgroups  task
cgroup      environ          loginuid   net         personality    smaps      timers
clear_refs  exe              map_files  ns          projid_map     stack      uid_map
cmdline     fd               maps       numa_maps   root           stat       wchan
comm        fdinfo           mem        oom_adj     sched          statm

You can monitor processes and their PIDs using traditional Linux commands such as ps, top and relatively new glances command plus many more as in the examples below:

$ ps aux
Show Running Processes with PID
USER       PID %CPU %MEM    VSZ   RSS TTY      STAT START   TIME COMMAND
root         1  0.0  0.0 185728  6268 ?        Ss   10:15   0:01 /sbin/init splash
root         2  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    10:15   0:00 [kthreadd]
root         3  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    10:15   0:00 [ksoftirqd/0]
root         5  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S<   10:15   0:00 [kworker/0:0H]
root         7  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    10:15   0:09 [rcu_sched]
root         8  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    10:15   0:00 [rcu_bh]
root         9  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    10:15   0:00 [migration/0]
root        10  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    10:15   0:00 [watchdog/0]
root        11  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    10:15   0:00 [watchdog/1]
root        12  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    10:15   0:00 [migration/1]
root        13  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    10:15   0:00 [ksoftirqd/1]
root        15  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S<   10:15   0:00 [kworker/1:0H]
root        16  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    10:15   0:00 [watchdog/2]
root        17  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    10:15   0:00 [migration/2]
root        18  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    10:15   0:00 [ksoftirqd/2]
root        20  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S<   10:15   0:00 [kworker/2:0H]
root        21  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    10:15   0:00 [watchdog/3]
root        22  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    10:15   0:00 [migration/3]
root        23  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    10:15   0:00 [ksoftirqd/3]
root        25  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S<   10:15   0:00 [kworker/3:0H]
root        26  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    10:15   0:00 [kdevtmpfs]
root        27  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S<   10:15   0:00 [netns]
root        28  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S<   10:15   0:00 [perf]
....

Monitor Linux processes using traditional top command.

$ top
Monitor Linux Processes with top Command

Monitor Linux Processes with top Command

Monitor Linux processes using glances, a new real-time process monitoring tool for Linux.

$ glances
Glances - Real Time Linux Processes Monitoring

Glances – Real Time Linux Processes Monitoring

Learn more about how to install Glances in Linux systems.

Find Out Process PID Number

To find out the PID of a process, you can use pidof, a simple command to print out the PID of a process:

$ pidof firefox
$ pidof python
$ pidof cinnamon
Find Linux Process PID

Find Linux Process PID

Coming back to our point of focus, assuming you already know the PID of a process, you can print its name using the command form below:

$ ps -p PID -o format 

Where:

  1. -p specifies the PID
  2. -o format enables a user-defined format

Find Out Process Name Using PID Number

In this section, we will see how to find out a process name using its PID number with the help of user defined format i.e comm= which means command name, same as the process name.

$ ps -p 2523 -o comm=
$ ps -p 2295 -o comm=
Find Linux Process Name

Find Linux Process Name

For additional usage information and options, look through the ps man page.

$ man ps

If you want to kill a process using its PID number, I suggest you to read Find and Kill Linux Processes Using its PID.

Thats it for the moment, if you know any other better way to find out a process name using PID, do share with us via our comment section below.

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Aaron Kili

Aaron Kili is a Linux and F.O.S.S enthusiast, an upcoming Linux SysAdmin, web developer, and currently a content creator for TecMint who loves working with computers and strongly believes in sharing knowledge.

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3 Responses

  1. Ren Yuntao says:

    Another way to find out a process name using PID:

    $ top -b -n 1 -p | tail -1 | awk ‘{print $NF}’

    • Ravi Saive says:

      @Ren,

      Thanks for the sharing the tip, hope it will helpful to other Linux users as well..

    • Aaron Kili says:

      @Ren

      It works just fine, however, you need to specify process PID , for instance:

      top -b -n 1 -p 2458 | tail -1 | awk ‘{print $NF}’

      I know this is what you meant, am simply trying to remind users(especially newbies) who may run the command just as it is above, to know that the -p flag actually requires an argument(process ID).

      Many thanks for the wonderful tip and always following us.

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