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When typing ps aux, what does each column of the output mean? For example

$ ps aux  
timothy  29217  0.0  0.0 11916 4560 pts/21   S+   08:15   0:00 pine  
root     29505  0.0  0.0 38196 2728 ?        Ss   Mar07   0:00 sshd: can [priv]   
can      29529  0.0  0.0 38332 1904 ?        S    Mar07   0:00 sshd: can@notty   

Thanks and regards!

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nice question.. –  TheIndependentAquarius Apr 16 '12 at 5:01

3 Answers 3

up vote 59 down vote accepted
$ ps aux  
USER       PID  %CPU %MEM  VSZ RSS     TTY   STAT START   TIME COMMAND
timothy  29217  0.0  0.0 11916 4560 pts/21   S+   08:15   0:00 pine  
root     29505  0.0  0.0 38196 2728 ?        Ss   Mar07   0:00 sshd: can [priv]   
can      29529  0.0  0.0 38332 1904 ?        S    Mar07   0:00 sshd: can@notty  

USER = user owning the process
PID = process ID of the process
%CPU = It is the CPU time used divided by the time the process has been running.
%MEM = ratio of the process’s resident set size to the physical memory on the machine
VSZ = virtual memory usage of entire process
RSS = resident set size, the non-swapped physical memory that a task has used
TTY = controlling tty (terminal)
STAT = multi-character process state
START = starting time or date of the process
TIME = cumulative CPU time
COMMAND = command with all its arguments

See the ps man page for more info.

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4  
You could add e.g. that VSZ and RSS are output in KiB, not bytes as I first thought... –  Christian Davén Oct 22 '12 at 8:57

In Linux the command:

ps -aux

Means show all processes for all users. You might be wondering what the x means? The x is a specifier that means 'any of the users'. So you could type this:

ps -auroot

Which displays all the root processes, or

ps -auel

which displays all the processes from user el. The technobabble in the 'man ps' page is: "ps -aux prints all processes owned by a user named 'x' as well as printing all processes that would be selected by the -a option.

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1  
-1 this is totally orthogonal to the question. –  naught101 Jul 7 at 0:27

The first row of the output tells you. Beyonds that try man ps for more details.

$ ps aux | more
USER       PID %CPU %MEM    VSZ   RSS TTY      STAT START   TIME COMMAND
root         1  0.0  0.0  10312   716 ?        Ss    2009   0:41 init [2]         
root         2  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S<    2009   0:00 [kthreadd]
...
root     25568  0.0  0.0  19884  1144 ?        S    09:36   0:00 hald-addon-storage: poll
mctaylor 25607 12.3  2.1 730920 175924 ?       Sl   09:37   1:13 /usr/lib/iceweasel/firef
mctaylor 25698  0.0  0.0 241500  7596 ?        S    09:45   0:00 kio_http [kdeinit] http 
mctaylor 25699  0.0  0.0 175964  7728 ?        S    09:45   0:00 kio_http [kdeinit] http 
mctaylor 25710  0.0  0.0  17432  1100 pts/5    R+   09:47   0:00 ps aux
mctaylor 25711  0.0  0.0  10736   648 pts/5    S+   09:47   0:00 tail
root     26130  0.0  0.0  26564  1140 ?        Ss   Feb04   0:00 /usr/bin/system-tools-b
root     27915  0.0  0.0  48864  1176 ?        Ss   Feb05   0:00 /usr/sbin/sshd
mctaylor 31607  0.0  0.0 149188  3864 ?        Ssl  Feb23   0:00 /usr/lib/bonobo-activati
root     32149  0.0  0.0   3796   580 tty1     Ss+  Feb26   0:00 /sbin/getty 38400 tty1
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