4 of the best system monitors to check system resources in Linux

One of the biggest aspects of Linux is its efficiency in terms of using system resources. However, there are often times when you tax your Linux system like compiling large code bases, running multiple virtual machines, playing intense video games, or editing 4K videos. In these situations, you may want to keep an eye on your system’s resources to make sure your processor is not getting too hot. Here are some of the best system monitors you can use to check your system resources in Linux.

1. System monitor

One of the easiest ways to examine your system’s resource usage is to use the built-in GUI System Monitor. Most desktop environments come with one, and they’re generally good at getting a decent overview of your resource usage. Most of them have multiple tabs, much like Windows Task Manager, which can make each given view easier and less overwhelming.

System resources Process Sys Mon
The Processes tab of the GNOME System Monitor
System resources Sys Mon resourcesSystem resources Sys Mon resources
The Resources tab of the GNOME System Monitor
System Resources Sys Mon FsSystem resources Sys Mon Fs
The File Systems tab of the GNOME System Monitor

However, if you’re the type of person who wants to see everything on one screen, this is usually not for you. Also, they can tend to be inaccurate, so use them with caution and double check your information.

2. Ytop

Top is a command line tool for monitoring system resources and comes pre-installed in almost all Linux distributions. However, it is a very basic tool. Ytop is a much better program than top. It has an excellent CPU graphics at the top; an easy-to-read memory graph; reports file system usage, network usage, and processor temperature; and moves a list of running processes all the way to the bottom so that it doesn’t get in the way and distract you.

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It refreshes quickly and allows a quick glance at your system’s resource usage while staying out of your way. It’s also very light on resources itself, so it’s a great candidate for an older or weaker system that needs to be careful about how it distributes its power.

Ytop system resourcesYtop system resources
ytop in action

Overall, ytop is one of the best system monitors on the list, and I highly recommend giving it a try.

3. Cockpit

We wrote an article on how to manage your Linux system using Cockpit before, but it’s such a great tool that it’s worth mentioning again. Cockpit is also a great web-based tool for managing remote systems, but when used on a local system, it gives you a very simple user interface to manage your systems.

On the main overview page, there is an option to display graphs of system resource usage. The graphics are pretty straightforward, but there are so many options available to dive deep into disk I / O, network usage, and more. It is also useful for managing things like virtual machines and containers.

System resources cockpitSystem resources cockpit
Cockpit usage graphics.

4. Netdata

Another web based system monitor for Linux, Netdata is an amazing tool. It’s easily the most granular of all the tools on the list, automatically pulling information about hardware usage on the machine as well as graphs of CPU usage by core, tracing network packets separated by IPv4 against to IPv6, and much more.

One of the advantages is that apart from the necessary dependencies, this is basically a command to install. Additionally, it can be installed as a container through Docker, so those who are interested are more than welcome to extract the container and run it with a simple command. Netdata is an amazing tool that gives you very accurate resource usage statistics with the ability to configure alerts as well.

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Netdata system resourcesNetdata system resources
The Netdata System Overview dashboard.

Honorable Mentions

These are great tools that weren’t quite on the list for one reason or another.

1. Htop

Htop is a tool which relies a little on top without complicating matters. It has become sort of a standard in the community as a performance demonstration on a system.

Htop system resourcesHtop system resources
Htop is a simple tool that provides a simple interface.

2. BashTOP

BashTOP is quite similar to ytop, but there is a pretty significant difference in terms of user experience. It has a particular look and feel, and overall I think ytop is a bit more usable. However, the CPU usage report in BashTOP is really excellent, and I recommend it for that.

Bashtop system resourcesBashtop system resources
I really like the Bashtop CPU reports, but everything else is a bit hard for me to read

3. Look

Looks is another tool which has a slightly complicated interface but gives a lot of information about your system. It’s supposed to be all ‘at a glance’, hence the name. It just reports usage, but it’s the easiest tool to track network sessions (here it’s reporting on TCP connections), which can be useful, depending on your usage.

System resource overviewSystem resource overview
Looks at my system at one point.

Now that you know how to check system resource usage, be sure to check out our guides on how to find the cause of poor Linux system performance, how to improve Linux PC performance, and how to monitor your Nvidia GPU running. Linux.

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John perkins
John perkins

John is a young technical professional passionate about educating users on the best ways to use their technology. He holds technical certifications covering subjects ranging from computer hardware to cybersecurity to Linux system administration.

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