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What does load average mean in unix/linux?

I'm confused by the load averages produced by the 'uptime' command. I know it might be a stupid question but what are they out of?

(My guess is that they are out of 1)

marked as duplicate by Sathyajith Bhat, DMA57361, nhinkle, BinaryMisfit Dec 21 '10 at 7:30

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.


In short it is the average sum of the number of processes waiting in the run-queue plus the number currently executing over 1, 5, and 15 minute time periods.

This page is old but explains it well enough.

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