How to check running process in Linux using command line

I am a new system administrator for the Linux operating system. How do I check running process in Linux using the command line option?

Tutorial details
Difficulty level Easy
Root privileges Yes
Requirements Linux termial
Est. reading time 5m
One can use the Linux command line or terminal app to display a running process, change their priorities level, delete process and more. This page shows how to use various commands to list, kill and manage process on Linux.

Check running process in Linux

The procedure to monitor the running process in Linux using the command line is as follows:

  1. Open the terminal window on Linux
  2. For remote Linux server use the ssh command for log in purpose
  3. Type the ps aux command to see all running process in Linux
  4. Alternatively, you can issue the top command or htop command to view running process in Linux

Let us see some example and usage in details.

Please note that vivek@nixcraft:~$ is my shell prompt. You need to type commands after the $ prompt.

How to manage processes from the Linux terminal

The ps command is a traditional Linux command to lists running processes. The following command shows all processes running on your Linux based server or system:
vivek@nixcraft:~$ ps -aux
vivek@nixcraft:~$ sudo ps -a

How to Manage Processes from the Linux Terminal
The process ID (PID) is essential to kill or control process on Linux. For example consider the following outputs:

root         1  0.0  0.0 225868  9760 ?        Ss   19:10   0:13 /sbin/init splash

Where,

  1. root – User name
  2. 1 – PID (Linux process ID)
  3. 19:10 – Process start time
  4. /sbin/init splash – Actual process or command

There may be too many processes. Hence, it uses the following less command/more command as pipe to display process one screen at a time:
vivek@nixcraft:~$ ps -aux | more
vivek@nixcraft:~$ sudo ps -aux | less

Press q to exit from above Linux pagers. You can search for a particular Linux process using grep command/egrep command:
vivek@nixcraft:~$ ps aux | grep firefox
vivek@nixcraft:~$ sudo ps aux | grep vim
vivek@nixcraft:~$ sudo ps -aux | egrep 'sshd|openvpn|nginx'

Linux pgrep command

Many variants of Linux comes with the pgrep command to search/find process. The syntax is:
vivek@nixcraft:~$ pgrep {process}
vivek@nixcraft:~$ sudo pgrep sshd
vivek@nixcraft:~$ pgrep vim
vivek@nixcraft:~$ pgrep firefox
vivek@nixcraft:~$ pgrep -l nginx

Given a search term, Linux pgrep command shows the process IDs that match it
The -l option passed to the pgrep command to display long format and process name too.

Linux top command

The top command is another highly recommended method to see your Linux servers resource usage. One can see a list of top process that using the most memory or CPU or disk.
vivek@nixcraft:~$ top
vivek@nixcraft:~$ sudo top
vivek@nixcraft:~$ sudo top [options]

How to check running process in Linux using top command
Press q to exit from the top session and h to get help.

Linux htop command

The htop command is an interactive process viewer and recommended method for Linux users. One can see a list of top process that using the most memory or CPU or disk and more:
vivek@nixcraft:~$ htop
vivek@nixcraft:~$ sudo htop
vivek@nixcraft:~$ sudo htop [options]

How to view running process in Linux using htop
See how to install htop on a CentOS/RHEL system for more info.

Linux kill command

Want to kill a process? Try kill command. The syntax is:
vivek@nixcraft:~$ kill pid
vivek@nixcraft:~$ kill -signal pid

Find PID using ps, pgrep or top commands. Say you want to kill a PID # 16750, run:
vivek@nixcraft:~$ kill 16750
For some reason if the process can not be killed, try forceful killing:
vivek@nixcraft:~$ kill -9 16750
OR
vivek@nixcraft:~$ kill -KILL 16750
Linux kill command to kill a process, given its process ID

Linux pkill command

If you wish to kill a process by name, try pkill command. The syntax is:
vivek@nixcraft:~$ pkill processName
vivek@nixcraft:~$ pkill vim
vivek@nixcraft:~$ pkill firefox
vivek@nixcraft:~$ pkill -9 emacs
vivek@nixcraft:~$ sudo pkill -KILL php7-fpm

Linux killall command

The killall command kills processes by name, as opposed to the selection by PID as done by kill command:
vivek@nixcraft:~$ killall vim
vivek@nixcraft:~$ killall -9 emacs

Unix kill a process given its name

Linux nice and renice command

The primary purpose of the nice command is to run a process/command at a lower or higher priority. Use the renice command to alter the nice value of one or more running Linux processes. The nice value can range from -20 to 19, with 19 being the lowest priority. Say, you want to compile software on a busy Linux server. You can set a very low priority, enter:
vivek@nixcraft:~$ nice -n 13 cc -c *.c &
Set a very high priority for a kernel update. Before rebooting Linux server, run:

nice --10 wall <<end
System reboots in 5 minutes for Linux kernel update! 
Save all your work!!!
 
-- Sysadmin
end

To change the priority of a running process, type the following:
vivek@nixcraft:~$ renice {Priority} -p {PID}
vivek@nixcraft:~$ renice {Priority} {PID}
vivek@nixcraft:~$ pgrep vim
renice 10 69947
vivek@nixcraft:~$ sudo renice -10 $(pgrep vim)

Unix change the priority of a running process

Conclusion

This page showed how to manage the process on the Linux terminal. For further information see man pages or our example pages:


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🐧 3 comments so far... add one

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3 comments… add one
  • Wendy Jan 29, 2018 @ 18:54

    htop is the best tool, but not install on my system by default.

  • Old dog Jan 28, 2021 @ 13:32

    Very useful for new and older folk like me who don’t know much about Linux. I am learning and this page is 5 star.

  • Rupali G Feb 24, 2021 @ 4:11

    New developer here and running RHEL 8 AWS ec2 server. So I wanted to list running processes on my Linux virtual machine and kill process in Linux. This page helps me. God bless you.

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