Linux Admin - Process Management


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Following are the common commands used with Process Management–bg, fg, nohup, ps, pstree, top, kill, killall, free, uptime, nice.

Work with Processes

Quick Note − Process PID in Linux

In Linux every running process is given a PID or Process ID Number. This PID is how CentOS identifies a particular process. As we have discussed, systemd is the first process started and given a PID of 1 in CentOS.

Pgrep is used to get Linux PID for a given process name.

[root@CentOS]# pgrep systemd 
1 
[root@CentOS]#

As seen, the pgrep command returns the current PID of systemd.

Basic CentOS Process and Job Management in CentOS

When working with processes in Linux it is important to know how basic foregrounding and backgrounding processes is performed at the command line.

  • fg − Bringsthe process to the foreground

  • bg − Movesthe process to the background

  • jobs − List of the current processes attached to the shell

  • ctrl+z − Control + z key combination to sleep the current process

  • & − Startsthe process in the background

Let's start using the shell command sleep. sleep will simply do as it is named, sleep for a defined period of time − sleep.

[root@CentOS ~]$ jobs

[root@CentOS ~]$ sleep 10 & 
[1] 12454 

[root@CentOS ~]$ sleep 20 & 
[2] 12479

[root@CentOS ~]$ jobs 
[1]-  Running                 sleep 10 & 
[2]+  Running                 sleep 20 &

[cnetos@CentOS ~]$

Now, let's bring the first job to the foreground −

[root@CentOS ~]$ fg 1 
sleep 10

If you are following along, you'll notice the foreground job is stuck in your shell. Now, let's put the process to sleep, then re-enable it in the background.

  • Hit control+z
  • Type: bg 1, sending the first job into the background and starting it.
[root@CentOS ~]$ fg 1 
sleep 20 
^Z 
[1]+  Stopped                 sleep 20

[root@CentOS ~]$ bg 1 
[1]+ sleep 20 &

[root@CentOS ~]$

nohup

When working from a shell or terminal, it is worth noting that by default all the processes and jobs attached to the shell will terminate when the shell is closed or the user logs out. When using nohup the process will continue to run if the user logs out or closes the shell to which the process is attached.

[root@CentOS]# nohup ping www.google.com & 
[1] 27299 
nohup: ignoring input and appending output to ‘nohup.out’

[root@CentOS]# pgrep ping 
27299

[root@CentOS]# kill -KILL `pgrep ping` 
[1]+  Killed                  nohup ping www.google.com

[root@CentOS rdc]# cat nohup.out  
PING www.google.com (216.58.193.68) 56(84) bytes of data. 
64 bytes from sea15s07-in-f4.1e100.net (216.58.193.68): icmp_seq = 1 ttl = 128
time = 51.6 ms 
64 bytes from sea15s07-in-f4.1e100.net (216.58.193.68): icmp_seq = 2 ttl = 128
time = 54.2 ms 
64 bytes from sea15s07-in-f4.1e100.net (216.58.193.68): icmp_seq = 3 ttl = 128
time = 52.7 ms

ps Command

The ps command is commonly used by administrators to investigate snapshots of a specific process. ps is commonly used with grep to filter out a specific process to analyze.

[root@CentOS ~]$ ps axw | grep python 
762   ?        Ssl    0:01 /usr/bin/python -Es /usr/sbin/firewalld --nofork -nopid 
1296  ?        Ssl    0:00 /usr/bin/python -Es /usr/sbin/tuned -l -P 
15550 pts/0    S+     0:00 grep --color=auto python

In the above command, we see all the processes using the python interpreter. Also included with the results were our grep command, looking for the string python.

Following are the most common command line switches used with ps.

Switch Action
a Excludes constraints of only the reporting processes for the current user
x Shows processes not attached to a tty or shell
w Formats wide output display of the output
e Shows environment after the command
-e Selects all processes
-o User-defined formatted output
-u Shows all processes by a specific user
-C Shows all processes by name or process id
--sort Sorts the processes by definition

To see all processes in use by the nobody user −

[root@CentOS ~]$ ps -u nobody 
PID TTY          TIME CMD 
1853 ?        00:00:00 dnsmasq 

[root@CentOS ~]$

To see all information about the firewalld process −

[root@CentOS ~]$ ps -wl -C firewalld 
F   S   UID   PID   PPID   C   PRI   NI   ADDR   SZ   WCHAN   TTY   TIME      CMD
0   S     0   762      1   0    80   0     -   81786  poll_s   ?   00:00:01 firewalld 

[root@CentOS ~]$

Let's see which processes are consuming the most memory −

[root@CentOS ~]$ ps aux  --sort=-pmem | head -10 
USER       PID   %CPU   %MEM   VSZ     RSS   TTY   STAT   START   TIME   COMMAND 
cnetos     6130   0.7   5.7   1344512 108364  ?      Sl   02:16   0:29  /usr/bin/gnome-shell 
cnetos     6449   0.0   3.4   1375872 64440   ?      Sl   02:16   0:00  /usr/libexec/evolution-calendar-factory 
root       5404   0.6   2.1   190256  39920 tty1     Ssl+ 02:15   0:27  /usr/bin/Xorg :0 -background none -noreset -audit 4 -verbose -auth /run/gdm/auth-for-gdm-iDefCt/database -seat seat0 -nolisten tcp vt1 
cnetos     6296   0.0   1.7   1081944 32136   ?      Sl   02:16   0:00  /usr/libexec/evolution/3.12/evolution-alarm-notify 
cnetos     6350   0.0   1.5   560728  29844   ?      Sl   02:16   0:01  /usr/bin/prlsga 
cnetos     6158   0.0   1.4   1026956 28004   ?      Sl   02:16   0:00  /usr/libexec/gnome-shell-calendar-server 
cnetos     6169   0.0   1.4   1120028 27576   ?      Sl   02:16   0:00  /usr/libexec/evolution-source-registry 
root       762    0.0   1.4   327144  26724   ?      Ssl  02:09   0:01  /usr/bin/python -Es /usr/sbin/firewalld --nofork --nopid 
cnetos     6026   0.0  1.4 1090832 26376      ?      Sl   02:16   0:00  /usr/libexec/gnome-settings-daemon

[root@CentOS ~]$

See all the processes by user centos and format, displaying the custom output −

[cnetos@CentOS ~]$ ps -u cnetos -o pid,uname,comm 
   PID    USER     COMMAND 
   5802  centos   gnome-keyring-d 
   5812  cnetos   gnome-session 
   5819  cnetos   dbus-launch 
   5820  cnetos   dbus-daemon 
   5888  cnetos   gvfsd 
   5893  cnetos   gvfsd-fuse 
   5980  cnetos   ssh-agent   
   5996  cnetos   at-spi-bus-laun

pstree Command

pstree is similar to ps but is not often used. It displays the processes in a neater tree fashion.

[centos@CentOS ~]$ pstree 
  systemd─┬─ModemManager───2*[{ModemManager}] 
          ├─NetworkManager─┬─dhclient 
          │                └─2*[{NetworkManager}] 
          ├─2*[abrt-watch-log] 
          ├─abrtd 
          ├─accounts-daemon───2*[{accounts-daemon}] 
          ├─alsactl 
          ├─at-spi-bus-laun─┬─dbus-daemon───{dbus-daemon} 
          │                 └─3*[{at-spi-bus-laun}] 
          ├─at-spi2-registr───2*[{at-spi2-registr}] 
          ├─atd 
          ├─auditd─┬─audispd─┬─sedispatch 
          │        │         └─{audispd} 
          │        └─{auditd} 
          ├─avahi-daemon───avahi-daemon 
          ├─caribou───2*[{caribou}] 
          ├─cgrulesengd 
          ├─chronyd 
          ├─colord───2*[{colord}] 
          ├─crond 
          ├─cupsd

The total output from pstree can exceed 100 lines. Usually, ps will give more useful information.

top Command

top is one of the most often used commands when troubleshooting performance issues in Linux. It is useful for real-time stats and process monitoring in Linux. Following is the default output of top when brought up from the command line.

Tasks: 170 total,   1 running, 169 sleeping,   0 stopped,   0 zombie 
%Cpu(s):  2.3 us,  2.0 sy,  0.0 ni, 95.7 id,  0.0 wa,  0.0 hi,  0.0 si,  0.0 st 
KiB Mem :  1879668 total,   177020 free,   607544 used,  1095104 buff/cache 
KiB Swap:  3145724 total,  3145428 free,      296 used.  1034648 avail Mem 
 
PID    USER     PR   NI    VIRT     RES   SHR    S  %CPU  %MEM   TIME+   COMMAND
5404   root     20   0    197832   48024  6744   S   1.3   2.6  1:13.22   Xorg
8013   centos   20   0    555316   23104  13140  S   1.0   1.2  0:14.89   gnome-terminal-
6339   centos   20   0    332336   6016   3248   S   0.3   0.3  0:23.71   prlcc
6351   centos   20   0    21044    1532   1292   S   0.3   0.1  0:02.66   prlshprof

Common hot keys used while running top (hot keys are accessed by pressing the key as top is running in your shell).

Command Action
b Enables / disables bold highlighting on top menu
z Cycles the color scheme
l Cycles the load average heading
m Cycles the memory average heading
t Task information heading
h Help menu
Shift+F Customizes sorting and display fields

Following are the common command line switches for top.

Command Action
-o Sorts by column (can prepend with - or + to sort ascending or descending)
-u Shows only processes from a specified user
-d Updates the delay time of top
-O Returns a list of columns which top can apply sorting

Sorting options screen in top, presented using Shift+F. This screen allows customization of top display and sort options.

Fields Management for window 1:Def, whose current sort field is %MEM 
Navigate with Up/Dn, Right selects for move then <Enter> or Left commits, 
 'd' or <Space> toggles display, 's' sets sort.  Use 'q' or <Esc> to end!
 
* PID     = Process Id             TGID    = Thread Group Id      
* USER    = Effective User Name    ENVIRON = Environment vars     
* PR      = Priority               vMj     = Major Faults delta   
* NI      = Nice Value             vMn     = Minor Faults delta   
* VIRT    = Virtual Image (KiB)    USED    = Res+Swap Size (KiB)  
* RES     = Resident Size (KiB)    nsIPC   = IPC namespace Inode  
* SHR     = Shared Memory (KiB)    nsMNT   = MNT namespace Inode
* S       = Process Status         nsNET   = NET namespace Inode  
* %CPU    = CPU Usage              nsPID   = PID namespace Inode  
* %MEM    = Memory Usage (RES)     nsUSER  = USER namespace Inode 
* TIME+   = CPU Time, hundredths   nsUTS   = UTS namespace Inode  
* COMMAND = Command Name/Line 
PPID    = Parent Process pid
UID     = Effective User Id

top, showing the processes for user rdc and sorted by memory usage −

 PID   USER  %MEM  PR  NI    VIRT    RES    SHR    S %CPU     TIME+    COMMAND
 6130  rdc    6.2  20   0  1349592  117160  33232  S  0.0   1:09.34    gnome-shell
 6449  rdc    3.4  20   0  1375872   64428  21400  S  0.0   0:00.43    evolution-calen
 6296  rdc    1.7  20   0  1081944   32140  22596  S  0.0   0:00.40    evolution-alarm
 6350  rdc    1.6  20   0   560728   29844   4256  S  0.0   0:10.16    prlsga
 6281  rdc    1.5  20   0  1027176   28808  17680  S  0.0   0:00.78    nautilus
 6158  rdc    1.5  20   0  1026956   28004  19072  S  0.0   0:00.20    gnome-shell-cal

Showing valid top fields (condensed) −

[centos@CentOS ~]$ top -O 
PID 
PPID 
UID 
USER 
RUID 
RUSER 
SUID 
SUSER 
GID 
GROUP 
PGRP 
TTY 
TPGID

kill Command

The kill command is used to kill a process from the command shell via its PID. When killing a process, we need to specify a signal to send. The signal lets the kernel know how we want to end the process. The most commonly used signals are −

  • SIGTERM is implied as the kernel lets a process know it should stop soon as it is safe to do so. SIGTERM gives the process an opportunity to exit gracefully and perform safe exit operations.

  • SIGHUP most daemons will restart when sent SIGHUP. This is often used on the processes when changes have been made to a configuration file.

  • SIGKILL since SIGTERM is the equivalent to asking a process to shut down. The kernel needs an option to end a process that will not comply with requests. When a process is hung, the SIGKILL option is used to shut the process down explicitly.

For a list off all signals that can be sent with kill the -l option can be used −

[root@CentOS]# kill -l 
1) SIGHUP           2) SIGINT         3) SIGQUIT        4) SIGILL         5) SIGTRAP
6) SIGABRT          7) SIGBUS         8) SIGFPE         9) SIGKILL       10) SIGUSR1
11) SIGSEGV        12) SIGUSR2       13) SIGPIPE       14) SIGALRM       15) SIGTERM
16) SIGSTKFLT      17) SIGCHLD       18) SIGCONT       19) SIGSTOP       20) SIGTSTP
21) SIGTTIN        22) SIGTTOU       23) SIGURG        24) SIGXCPU       25) SIGXFSZ
26) SIGVTALRM      27) SIGPROF       28) SIGWINCH      29) SIGIO         30) SIGPWR
31) SIGSYS         34) SIGRTMIN      35) SIGRTMIN+1    36) SIGRTMIN+2    37) SIGRTMIN+3
38) SIGRTMIN+4     39) SIGRTMIN+5    40) SIGRTMIN+6    41) SIGRTMIN+7    42) SIGRTMIN+8
43) SIGRTMIN+9     44) SIGRTMIN+10   45) SIGRTMIN+11   46) SIGRTMIN+12   47) SIGRTMIN+13 
48) SIGRTMIN+14    49) SIGRTMIN+15   50) SIGRTMAX-14   51) SIGRTMAX-13   52) SIGRTMAX-12 
53) SIGRTMAX-11    54) SIGRTMAX-10   55) SIGRTMAX-9    56) SIGRTMAX-8    57) SIGRTMAX-7
58) SIGRTMAX-6     59) SIGRTMAX-5    60) SIGRTMAX-4    61) SIGRTMAX-3    62) SIGRTMAX-2
63) SIGRTMAX-1     64) SIGRTMAX

[root@CentOS rdc]#

Using SIGHUP to restart system.

[root@CentOS]# pgrep systemd 
1 
464 
500 
643 
15071

[root@CentOS]# kill -HUP 1

[root@CentOS]# pgrep systemd
1 
464 
500 
643 
15196 
15197 
15198

[root@CentOS]#

pkill will allow the administrator to send a kill signal by the process name.

[root@CentOS]# pgrep ping 
19450 
[root@CentOS]# pkill -9 ping 
[root@CentOS]# pgrep ping 
[root@CentOS]#

killall will kill all the processes. Be careful using killall as root, as it will kill all the processes for all users.

[root@CentOS]# killall chrome

free Command

free is a pretty simple command often used to quickly check the memory of a system. It displays the total amount of used physical and swap memory.

[root@CentOS]# free 
             total       used      free      shared      buff/cache      available 
Mem:        1879668     526284    699796     10304        653588          1141412 
Swap:       3145724          0    3145724

[root@CentOS]# 

nice Command

nice will allow an administrator to set the scheduling priority of a process in terms of CPU usages. The niceness is basically how the kernel will schedule CPU time slices for a process or job. By default, it is assumed the process is given equal access to CPU resources.

First, let's use top to check the niceness of the currently running processes.

PID   USER   PR   NI    VIRT    RES    SHR   S  %CPU  %MEM     TIME+    COMMAND
28    root   39   19       0      0      0   S  0.0   0.0    0:00.17    khugepaged
690   root   39   19   16808   1396   1164   S  0.0   0.1    0:00.01    alsactl]
9598  rdc    39   19  980596  21904  10284   S  0.0   1.2    0:00.27    tracker-extract
9599  rdc    39   19  469876   9608   6980   S  0.0   0.5    0:00.04    tracker-miner-a
9609  rdc    39   19  636528  13172   8044   S  0.0   0.7    0:00.12    tracker-miner-f
9611  rdc    39   19  469620   8984   6496   S  0.0   0.5    0:00.02    tracker-miner-u
27    root   25    5       0      0      0   S  0.0   0.0    0:00.00    ksmd
637   rtkit  21    1  164648   1276   1068   S  0.0   0.1    0:00.11    rtkit-daemon
1     root   20    0  128096   6712   3964   S  0.3   0.4    0:03.57    systemd
2     root   20    0       0      0      0   S  0.0   0.0    0:00.01    kthreadd
3     root   20    0       0      0      0   S  0.0   0.0    0:00.50    ksoftirqd/0
7     root   20    0       0      0      0   S  0.0   0.0    0:00.00    migration/0
8     root   20    0       0      0      0   S  0.0   0.0    0:00.00    rcu_bh
9     root   20    0       0      0      0   S  0.0   0.0    0:02.07    rcu_sched

We want to focus on the NICE column depicted by NI. The niceness range can be anywhere between -20 to positive 19. -20 represents the highest given priority.

nohup nice --20 ping www.google.com &

PID USER    PR NI  VIRT    RES  SHR  S %CPU %MEM  TIME+    COMMAND
30727 root  0 -20  132108 1640  1264 S 0.0   0.1  0:00.06   ping

renice

renice allows us to change the current priority of a process that is already running.

renice 17 -p 30727

The above command will lower the priority of our ping process command.

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