I want to see CPU usage.
I used this command :

top -bn1 | grep "Cpu(s)" | 
           sed "s/.*, *\([0-9.]*\)%* id.*/\1/" | 
           awk '{print 100 - $1}'

But it returns 100%.
What's the correct way?


3 Answers 3


Why not use htop [interactive process viewer]? In order to install it, open a terminal window and type:

sudo apt-get install htop

Also see man htop for more information and how to set it up.

enter image description here enter image description here


To get cpu usage, best way is to read /proc/stat file. See man 5 proc for more help.

There is a useful script written by Paul Colby i found here

# by Paul Colby (http://colby.id.au), no rights reserved ;)


while true; do

  CPU=(`cat /proc/stat | grep '^cpu '`) # Get the total CPU statistics.
  unset CPU[0]                          # Discard the "cpu" prefix.
  IDLE=${CPU[4]}                        # Get the idle CPU time.

  # Calculate the total CPU time.

  for VALUE in "${CPU[@]:0:4}"; do

  # Calculate the CPU usage since we last checked.
  echo -en "\rCPU: $DIFF_USAGE%  \b\b"

  # Remember the total and idle CPU times for the next check.

  # Wait before checking again.
  sleep 1

save it to cpu_usage, add execute permission chmod +x cpu_usage and run:


to stop the script, hit Ctrl+c

  • its always showing 0% on tx.2large EC2 instance. What's the issue? while the cloudwatch showing 23% Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 12:57

I found a solution which works nicely, here it is:

top -bn2 | grep '%Cpu' | tail -1 | grep -P  '(....|...) id,' 

I am not sure but it looks to me that the first iteration of top with the -n parameter returns some dummy data, always the same in all my tests.

If I use -n2 then the second frame is always dynamic. So the sequence is:

  1. Get the 2 first frames of top: top -bn2
  2. Then from those frames take only the lines that contain '%Cpu': grep '%Cpu'
  3. Then only take the last occurrence/line: `tail -1``
  4. Then get the idle value ( has 4 or 5 chars, a space, "id,"): grep -P '(....|...) id,'

Hope it helps, Paul

enter image description here

  • 1
    Not really "dummy data", but yes, the first iteration of top has no previous sample to compare its data to, hence the apparent nonsense. See this comment.
    – Campa
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 8:09

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