Mastering the Powerful ‘ps’ Command in Linux

ps command in Linux

The ‘ps’ command is an indispensable tool in the Linux operating system, allowing users to monitor and manage processes effectively. By understanding the various options and parameters associated with ‘ps’, you can gain valuable insights into your system’s performance and take control of process management. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the intricacies of the ‘ps’ command, providing step-by-step instructions, troubleshooting tips, and additional resources to help you harness its full potential.

Understanding the Basics of the ‘ps’ Command

The ‘ps’ command, short for “Process Status,” serves the crucial purpose of displaying information about running processes in Linux. It provides a snapshot of the active processes on your system, enabling you to analyze resource utilization, identify problematic processes, and make informed decisions for system optimization.

To execute the ‘ps’ command and obtain a list of processes, open the terminal and enter the following command:


This default command will display a concise set of information, including the process ID (PID), the terminal associated with the process, CPU, and memory usage, and the command that initiated the process.

Exploring Commonly Used Options and Parameters

A. Filtering Processes with User-defined Options

The ‘ps‘ command offers several user-defined options to filter processes based on specific criteria. By utilizing these options, you can narrow down the process list to focus on specific users, groups, or process attributes.

  • Filtering by User:

To view processes associated with a specific user, use the ‘-u‘ option followed by the username. For example:

ps -u mochie
  • Filtering by User Group:

To filter processes belonging to a particular user group, use the ‘-U‘ option followed by the group name. For example:

ps -U developers
  • Filtering by Supplementary Group:

To filter processes by a supplementary group, use the ‘-G‘ option followed by the group name. For example:

ps -G administrators

B. Sorting and Formatting Output

The ‘ps’ command allows you to sort the process list based on specific criteria and format the output to suit your requirements. These options enhance readability and enable efficient analysis of process data.

  • Sorting Output:

To sort the process list based on a particular column, use the ‘-o‘ option followed by the column name. For example:

ps -o pid,comm,%cpu,%mem --sort=-%cpu
  • Formatting Output:

You can modify the output format of ‘ps’ using various options. For example:

  1. ‘-F’ provides a full listing of process details.
  2. ‘-H’ displays a process hierarchy, showcasing parent-child relationships.
  3. ‘-O’ allows customizing the output format by specifying column names.

C. Process Hierarchy and Tree View

Understanding the hierarchy and relationships between processes can be vital in troubleshooting and analyzing system behavior. The ‘ps‘ command offers options to visualize processes in a tree view, displaying their parent-child associations.

  • Displaying Processes in Tree View:
ps -f

To view processes in a tree-like format, use the ‘-f‘ option. For example:

Advanced Usage and Examples

A. Filtering Processes with Conditions

The ‘ps’ command provides additional options to filter processes based on specific conditions such as CPU usage, memory consumption, or command name. These options enable fine-grained control over process monitoring and analysis.

  • Filtering by Command Name:

To filter processes based on a specific command name, use the ‘-C‘ option followed by the command. For example:

ps -C apache2
  • Filtering by Process ID:

To monitor specific processes by their process IDs (PIDs), use the ‘-p’ option followed by the PID(s). For example:

ps -p 1234,5678
  • Filtering by Session ID:

To filter processes based on session IDs, use the ‘-S’ option followed by the session ID(s). For example:

ps -S 2,5

B. Monitoring Processes in Real-time

Real-time monitoring of processes can be invaluable in diagnosing performance issues and tracking system behavior over time. The ‘ps’ command offers options to continuously monitor processes and update information at specified intervals.

  • Continuous Monitoring:

To continuously monitor processes, use the ‘-L‘ option followed by a time interval in seconds. For example:

ps -L 5

C. Killing Processes with ‘ps’ and ‘kill’

In certain situations, it becomes necessary to terminate specific processes. By combining the ‘ps’ and ‘kill’ commands, you can identify and terminate processes with precision.

  • Identifying Processes to Terminate:

First, use ‘ps’ to obtain the process ID (PID) of the process you want to terminate. For example:

ps -u mochie
  • Terminating Processes:
Once you have identified the PID, use the ‘kill’ command followed by the PID to terminate the process. For example:
kill 1234

Practical Example: Monitoring CPU Usage

Let’s explore a practical example of monitoring CPU usage using the ‘ps’ command.

A. Scenario:

You want to monitor CPU usage in real-time to identify processes consuming excessive resources.

B. Step-by-Step Example Command:

To monitor CPU usage, open the terminal and execute the following command:

ps -o pid,comm,%cpu --sort=-%cpu

C. Interpreting the Output:

The output will provide a detailed list of processes, with the highest CPU-consuming process appearing at the top. Analyze the CPU usage percentage (%cpu) to identify processes that demand significant resources and optimize system performance accordingly.


The ‘ps‘ command in Linux empowers users with the ability to monitor and manage processes effectively. By understanding its various options and parameters, you can gain valuable insights into system performance, troubleshoot issues, and optimize resource utilization. Through this comprehensive guide, you have learned how to filter processes, sort and format output, explore process hierarchy, utilize advanced filtering conditions, monitor processes in real time, and terminate processes when necessary. By mastering the ‘ps’ command, you can enhance your Linux experience and take control of your system like a seasoned expert.

Remember to explore additional resources, documentation, and online communities to further enhance your knowledge and proficiency with the ‘ps’ command in Linux. Continual learning and hands-on practice will allow you to unlock the full potential of this powerful tool. Happy process monitoring and management!

Marshall Anthony is a professional Linux DevOps writer with a passion for technology and innovation. With over 8 years of experience in the industry, he has become a go-to expert for anyone looking to learn more about Linux.

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