top: find out what programs are running in the background

In Windows, you can simply open up Task Manager and see what is running in the background, how much RAM is being consumed, network usage, etc. Luckily for Linux users, that is also the case. We can see everything running in the background with more detail thanks to top.


top allows us to see running processes(programs) in real-time. Simply type in the following in shell:

sudo top

The first thing displayed at the top(no pun intended) is your computer’s uptime which is 4 hours and 29 minutes as displayed in this example. 1 user is currently logged in which is you. The load average displays your average CPU %s but in decimal form. There are currently 139 different processes/tasks running on the system. This may seem like a very big number, but they are just simply very tiny and consume little to no resources on your computer.

For each process, you can also see what user is running it. For most system processes, root will always be the front runner here. Just like Windows, each process displays their CPU usage % and RAM. Though, you may find this version of top not really ideal due to the way it refreshes on the Linux shell. There is a better way of displaying running processes.


htop is an alternative to top, which can be installed onto Linux through your package manager. It is available on most Linux distributions. In order to install it, type in the following command:

sudo apt-get install htop

htop will now install. Once you’re done, go ahead and run it with sudo htop.

htop looks alot more cleaner and organized. The top left displays your CPU usage for each core running, and right below it RAM usage, as well as for swap memory. At the bottom there are options to utilize and make it easier to sort through running processes.

You can also terminate processes by hitting the F9 key on your keyboard. First, you must select a process from the list with the up/down keys before you do.

After, you will be presented with a list of options on how to terminate the program. Use your up/down keys once more to navigate to number 9. Press Enter to terminate the process.