Skip to content

Click on each book below to review & buy on Amazon.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

CompTIA Linux+ XK0-005 - 4.3 - High Load Averages

When working with a Linux system, it's important to keep an eye on how busy your computer is. This is where load averages come into play. They give you a quick snapshot of the system's activity over time. Let's dive into how you can view these load averages.

uptime command

This is your go-to tool for checking load averages. When you enter uptime in the terminal, the system will display several pieces of information, including how long the system has been running (its uptime), the number of users currently logged in, and, most importantly for our purposes, the load averages.

The command looks like this in your terminal:


The output of the uptime command might seem a bit cryptic at first, but it's quite straightforward once you break it down. Here's an example of what you might see:

11:00:14 up  1:18,  2 users,  load average: 0.00, 0.23, 0.41

In this example:

  • 11:00:14 is the current time.
  • up 1:18 shows that the system has been running for 1 hour and 18 minutes.
  • 2 users indicates that there are two users currently logged into the system.
  • The most interesting part for us is load average: 0.00, 0.23, 0.41. These three numbers represent the load averages.

What are Load Averages?

Load averages are numbers that tell you how busy your system's processor is. They are given for three different time frames: 1 minute, 5 minutes, and 15 minutes. In our example, 0.00 is the 1-minute load average, 0.23 is the 5-minute load average, and 0.41 is the 15-minute load average.

  • The 1-minute load average gives you a snapshot of the very recent system activity. It's the most current but can fluctuate greatly.
  • The 5-minute load average smooths out these fluctuations and gives a more balanced view.
  • The 15-minute load average gives the broadest view of the system's activity, showing you the trend over a longer period.

In simple terms, these numbers tell you the average number of processes that were either running or waiting to run during these time periods. Lower numbers mean the system isn't very busy, and higher numbers indicate more activity.

Analyze Load Average Values

Once you have the load averages from the uptime command, the next step is to understand what these numbers mean for your system.

A key factor in interpreting load averages is the number of CPU cores your system has. Generally, you can consider a system to be handling its workload well if the load averages are less than or around the number of CPU cores.

For instance, if your system has 4 CPU cores, load averages below 4.00 generally indicate that your system isn't overloaded. Here's how to make sense of the numbers:

  • Load averages lower than CPU cores: If your load averages are consistently lower than the number of CPU cores, your system is in a good state. It means your system can handle more work if needed. For example, if your system has 4 CPU cores and the load averages are around 2.00, your system is only using half of its potential processing power.
  • Load averages around the number of CPU cores: If the load averages are roughly equal to the number of CPU cores, your system is efficiently utilizing its resources. This is an ideal state where your system is busy but not overloaded.
  • Load averages higher than CPU cores: When the load averages exceed the number of CPU cores, it indicates that your system is handling more work than it can comfortably manage. This can lead to slower performance as processes have to wait longer to get their turn on the CPU.

It's normal for load averages to fluctuate. Short-term spikes are common, especially when running resource-intensive tasks. However, consistently high load averages over a longer period (like the 15-minute average) can be a sign that your system is under too much stress.

It's important to consider what your system is being used for when interpreting these numbers. For a server handling multiple requests, higher load averages might be expected. For a personal computer, lower averages are more typical.

Keeping an eye on the load averages over time can help you spot trends. If you notice a gradual increase in the load averages, it might be time to investigate what processes are consuming more resources or consider upgrading your hardware.


In conclusion, understanding and monitoring load averages in a Linux system is a vital aspect of ensuring efficient system performance. These averages, accessible through the simple uptime command, offer insight into how the system manages its workload relative to its CPU capacity. Regularly checking these values, especially in relation to the number of CPU cores, allows for proactive management of system resources, helping to maintain optimal performance and avoid potential overloads.

Support DTV Linux

Click on each book below to review & buy on Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

NordVPN ®: Elevate your online privacy and security. Grab our Special Offer to safeguard your data on public Wi-Fi and secure your devices. I may earn a commission on purchases made through this link.