Load Average in Linux

What is Load Average in Linux?

Linux users track and monitor system resources to control them. To do this, they need a metric and also knowledge of reading the result. Load Average in Linux is an important metric that helps Linux users to monitor system resources. To use system resources, it is important to keep an eye on the system’s resources. In Linux, the load average is displayed as three different decimal values. Join us with this article to learn what is Load Average in Linux and the way you can monitor it in your system.

Depending on the number of cores your server has, how many CPUs are integrated into the system server, and the load average number itself, the load average can be high or low. So, consider it while purchasing your own Linux VPS hosting plan.

What is Load Average and Why is Important?

Firstly, let’s see what load means. The load on a Linux system is a representation of how much CPU is being used at any given moment and describes the number of processes that are either awaiting execution or are now being run by the CPU. The load on an unloaded system is 0. The load increases by 1 for each process that is active or waiting to be run. When the load average is less than the total number of CPUs in the Linux server, it is regarded as ideal. For instance, it’s optimal if the load average is lower than 1 on a Linux server with only one CPU.

Due to the fluctuating number of processes utilizing or requesting CPU time, the load changes in split seconds. So, it doesn’t provide the user with any information that is helpful on its own. For this reason, Linux’s load average is used to track resource usage.

Load Average in Linux is the average proportion of processes that have been in a runnable state for the last 1, 5, or 15 minutes. Higher resource utilization is indicated by a higher load average.

7 Commands to Check/Monitor Load Average in Linux

Linux’s typical load varies depending on the system’s CPU and core number. The average load increases if a system runs more processes than CPUs. Users can monitor performance and improve the use of system resources by looking at the load average in Linux. There are several methods to look for the load average:

  1. Uptime Command
  2. Glances Tool
  3. Top Command
  4. cat Command
  5. w Command
  6. vmstat Command
  7. mpstat Command

Stay with us to go through this guide and discuss the three methods individually.

Method 1: Using Uptime Command

The first method we explain is the uptime command which is the most used one to check the Load Average in your Linux system. All you need to do is run the following command.


The output of the uptime command helps you to view the duration of your system uptime, the number of logged-in users, and the load average for our system.

Method 2: Using the glances Tool

To have a perfect overview of your system resource usage, using the glance tool is a good idea. To use this system monitoring tool, first, install its package by running the command below since it is not preinstalled on Linux.

sudo apt-get install glances

When you are done with the installation, type the command below to open the glances interface in your terminal:


The output must display the number of processor cores available along with the Load Average for your system in the top right corner.

Method 3: Using the Top Command

The third method is using the top command that helps you to monitor the Load Average in your Linux system. Using the top command is as easy as using the two above methods. Open the terminal and run the command below to have a detailed analysis of your system’s resource usage.


This method gives you a real-time view of running processes.

Method 4: Using the cat Command

The cat command is also a way to view the Load Average in Linux. Run the following command to view the load average of your system in its first three numbers and the numbers of currently running processes, the total number of processes, and the ID of the most recently created process, in the last three represent.

cat /proc/loadavg

Method 5: Using the w Command

As the 5th way of checking the Load Average in Linux, this tutorial introduces the w command. Running this command displays the load average in the first line of output.


The first line displays details about users who are presently logged in, such as system time, uptime, user count, and the average Linux load.

6. Method 6: Using the vmstast Command

The command vmstat will display a list of values if you type it without any parameters. These numbers represent the statistics’ averages throughout the pastime period since your machine last restarted. These numbers do not represent the values as of “right now.”


In the output, Procs, Memory, Swap, IO, System, and CPU have respective columns. The information on the CPU is found in the last column, which is the column on the most right.

7. Method 7: Using the mpstat Command

The command mpstat is used to report statistics pertaining to processors. It displays data on the system’s CPU utilization with accuracy. It provides details on CPU performance and consumption. The first processor is started with CPU 0, the second with CPU 1, and so forth.

To display CPU activity, you can use the mpstat command which is part of a software bundle called sysstat.

To install the mpstat command in Red Hat-based Linux, run:

sudo yum install sysstat

And in Ubuntu-based Linux:

sudo apt install sysstat

Use the command below to display processor and CPU statistics.


Methods of Increasing Load Average in Linux

Since increasing the load average might be useful, let’s see how to increase it. The below methods help you to increase the load average in Linux.

  1. Optimize code or run processes in parallel to decrease the time each process takes to complete.
  2. Increase the number of threads a process uses to work.
  3. Increase the number of processes by running more applications or starting processes that use more resources.
  4. Run more CPU-intensive tasks, such as programs that perform mathematical calculations, encryption, or compression.
  5. Schedule more tasks to run automatically using a scheduler like cron.
  6. Increase the number of concurrent users.

Use one of the above methods to increase the load average in your Linux system.

High Load Average Reasons

To solve a high load average, you need to know the reason first. Let’s see the most common reasons of facing a high load average.

  1. Running numerous threads by the server.
  2. Lack of RAM forces the server to use swap memory.
  3. A high number of I/O traffic

Methods of Decreasing Load Average in Linux

Once you identified the reason for the high load average in your Linux system, you are ready to decrease the load average in Linux. Most Linux servers are designed to manage average loads that are lower than the total number of CPU cores. If the load is higher, though, the system might be put under a lot of stress. So, check the below ways to decrease the load average in Linux.

  1. Optimize running processes’ performance by fine-tuning the configuration, reducing memory usage, or running tasks at a lower priority.
  2. Upgrade the system with a more capable CPU.
  3. Limit the number of concurrent users or encourage them to use the system at different times.
  4. Use containerization technology, like Docker or Kubernetes, to isolate and manage processes.
  5. Increase RAM to reduce swapping and improve system performance.
  6. Kill unnecessary processes. Use the top or ps command to print a list of running processes and the kill command to terminate them.
  7. Use a scheduler like corn, anacron,or at to schedule background tasks to run at specific times, reducing the number of processes running simultaneously.

On a Linux system, increasing the load average might be harmful because it makes the system work harder. However, in some circumstances, such as when running system stress testing, increasing the load average is the intended outcome.

When the load is high, your system will be under heavy stress. You can use some tools like top, htop, and ps to identify the source of the high load.

Yes, it does. You are recommended to limit the number of users using the system simultaneously or ask them to use it intermittently.

When the load average is less than the number of CPUs in the Linux server, it's considered ideal load average.


In this article, you learned What is Load Average in Linux and the methods you can monitor system resources. As an essential metric of monitoring the system resources usage, the Load Average in Linux allows you to keep track of system resources and avoid crashes or sluggish sessions.

By reading this article, you learned the definition of the Load Average in Linux and the way it works. Seven methods were taught to help you check your Linux Load Average to decrease it if necessary.

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