Can I get memory usage per process with Linux? we monitor our servers with sysstat/sar. But besides seeing that memory went off the roof at some point, we can't pinpoint which process was getting bigger and bigger. is there a way with sar (or other tools) to get memory usage per process? and look at it, later on?

  • 3
    You can parse /proc for this, there's an answer of me about swap easily adaptable for any other memory metric. Can't get the link right now
    – Tensibai
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 19:02
  • 1
    Starting point: stackoverflow.com/a/32327705/3627607
    – Tensibai
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 20:12
  • @kokito were you able to solve the issue?
    – 030
    Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 13:26

2 Answers 2


As Tensibai mentioned, you can extract this info from the /proc filesystem, but in most cases you need to determine the trending yourself. There are several places which could be of interest:

  • /proc/[pid]/statm
          Provides information about memory usage, measured in pages.
          The columns are:

              size       (1) total program size
                         (same as VmSize in /proc/[pid]/status)
              resident   (2) resident set size
                         (same as VmRSS in /proc/[pid]/status)
              shared     (3) number of resident shared pages (i.e., backed by a file)
                         (same as RssFile+RssShmem in /proc/[pid]/status)
              text       (4) text (code)
              lib        (5) library (unused since Linux 2.6; always 0)
              data       (6) data + stack
              dt         (7) dirty pages (unused since Linux 2.6; always 0)
cat /proc/31520/statm
1217567 835883 84912 29 0 955887 0
  • memory-related fields in /proc/[pid]/status (notably Vm* and Rss*), might be preferable if you also collect other info from this file
          * VmPeak: Peak virtual memory size.

          * VmSize: Virtual memory size.

          * VmLck: Locked memory size (see mlock(3)).

          * VmPin: Pinned memory size (since Linux 3.2).  These are
            pages that can't be moved because something needs to
            directly access physical memory.

          * VmHWM: Peak resident set size ("high water mark").

          * VmRSS: Resident set size.  Note that the value here is the
            sum of RssAnon, RssFile, and RssShmem.

          * RssAnon: Size of resident anonymous memory.  (since Linux

          * RssFile: Size of resident file mappings.  (since Linux 4.5).

          * RssShmem: Size of resident shared memory (includes System V
            shared memory, mappings from tmpfs(5), and shared anonymous
            mappings).  (since Linux 4.5).

          * VmData, VmStk, VmExe: Size of data, stack, and text

          * VmLib: Shared library code size.

          * VmPTE: Page table entries size (since Linux 2.6.10).

          * VmPMD: Size of second-level page tables (since Linux 4.0).

          * VmSwap: Swapped-out virtual memory size by anonymous private
            pages; shmem swap usage is not included (since Linux
server:/> egrep '^(Vm|Rss)' /proc/31520/status
VmPeak:  6315376 kB
VmSize:  4870332 kB
VmLck:         0 kB
VmPin:         0 kB
VmHWM:   5009608 kB
VmRSS:   3344300 kB
VmData:  3822572 kB
VmStk:      1040 kB
VmExe:       116 kB
VmLib:    146736 kB
VmPTE:      8952 kB
VmSwap:        0 kB

Some processes can, through their behaviour and not through their actual memory footprint, contribute to the overall system memory starvation and eventual demise. So it might also be of interest to look at the OOM Killer related information, which already takes into account some trending information:

  • /proc/[pid]/oom_score
          This file displays the current score that the kernel gives to
          this process for the purpose of selecting a process for the
          OOM-killer.  A higher score means that the process is more
          likely to be selected by the OOM-killer.  The basis for this
          score is the amount of memory used by the process, with
          increases (+) or decreases (-) for factors including:

          * whether the process creates a lot of children using fork(2)

          * whether the process has been running a long time, or has
            used a lot of CPU time (-);

          * whether the process has a low nice value (i.e., > 0) (+);

          * whether the process is privileged (-); and

          * whether the process is making direct hardware access (-).

          The oom_score also reflects the adjustment specified by the
          oom_score_adj or oom_adj setting for the process.
server:/> cat proc/31520/oom_score
  • /proc/[pid]/oom_score_adj (or its deprecated predecessor /proc/[pid]/oom_adj, if need be)
          This file can be used to adjust the badness heuristic used to
          select which process gets killed in out-of-memory conditions.

          The badness heuristic assigns a value to each candidate task
          ranging from 0 (never kill) to 1000 (always kill) to determine
          which process is targeted.  The units are roughly a proportion
          along that range of allowed memory the process may allocate
          from, based on an estimation of its current memory and swap
          use.  For example, if a task is using all allowed memory, its
          badness score will be 1000.  If it is using half of its
          allowed memory, its score will be 500.

          There is an additional factor included in the badness score:
          root processes are given 3% extra memory over other tasks.

          The amount of "allowed" memory depends on the context in which
          the OOM-killer was called.  If it is due to the memory
          assigned to the allocating task's cpuset being exhausted, the
          allowed memory represents the set of mems assigned to that
          cpuset (see cpuset(7)).  If it is due to a mempolicy's node(s)
          being exhausted, the allowed memory represents the set of
          mempolicy nodes.  If it is due to a memory limit (or swap
          limit) being reached, the allowed memory is that configured
          limit.  Finally, if it is due to the entire system being out
          of memory, the allowed memory represents all allocatable

          The value of oom_score_adj is added to the badness score
          before it is used to determine which task to kill.  Acceptable
          values range from -1000 (OOM_SCORE_ADJ_MIN) to +1000
          (OOM_SCORE_ADJ_MAX).  This allows user space to control the
          preference for OOM-killing, ranging from always preferring a
          certain task or completely disabling it from OOM killing.  The
          lowest possible value, -1000, is equivalent to disabling OOM-
          killing entirely for that task, since it will always report a
          badness score of 0.

          Consequently, it is very simple for user space to define the
          amount of memory to consider for each task.  Setting an
          oom_score_adj value of +500, for example, is roughly
          equivalent to allowing the remainder of tasks sharing the same
          system, cpuset, mempolicy, or memory controller resources to
          use at least 50% more memory.  A value of -500, on the other
          hand, would be roughly equivalent to discounting 50% of the
          task's allowed memory from being considered as scoring against
          the task.

          For backward compatibility with previous kernels,
          /proc/[pid]/oom_adj can still be used to tune the badness
          score.  Its value is scaled linearly with oom_score_adj.

          Writing to /proc/[pid]/oom_score_adj or /proc/[pid]/oom_adj
          will change the other with its scaled value.
server:/> cat proc/31520/oom_score_adj 
  • this is an amazing response, thanks a lot. we were starting to have a bunch of oom but weren't sure which process(es) was causing it since they didn't happen that often before. the purpose of this question was to look for an "easy" way to log the memory usage of the system and its evolution and correlate it with operations before and after an oom. anyhoo learn a lot with your reply, so thanks again.
    – kokito
    Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 0:28

Is it a hard requirement to use only sar and sysstat? If not you might want to look at collectl or collectd. These will enable you to study memory usage over time on a per-process granularity. It's really not worth wasting your time writing your own scripts to parse /proc as the other answer suggests; this is a solved problem.

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