iotop: Disk I/O Monitor for Ubuntu Linux

“iotop” is a small but a powerful disk I/O (input/output) monitor that can be used in Ubuntu Linux. It’s an extremely useful tool if you want to know what programs are using your disk’s read/write bandwidth at an any given moment.

Or, if you have one of those never notebooks that doesn’t have a HDD LED indicator (such as the Acer Aspire One 722 for instance), then this utility will too come in handy.

It’s written in Python and as you can see from the below screenshot, it shows the processes that use the most of your disk I/O at top, so you could easily locate the ones that aggressively use disk I/O.

Man features …

*. At the top, it displays the sum of all Disk Read and Write.

I’ve highlighted a HDD I/O activity of Nautilus (file manager) just for “show” 😉 …

*. T displays the individual program name and few other components of it such as the thread ID (TID), disk read and write speeds, percentage value for the current I/O of the thread, program name etc.

*. Also shows the disk read-write usage of a program rather than speeds (disabled by default, more at the end).

Well, that’s pretty much it!.

If interested, you can install “iotop” in Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin, 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot, 11.04 Natty Narwhal, 10.10 and 10.04 by using the below command in your Terminal window.

sudo apt-get install iotop

After that, whenever you want to launch it, put the below command in your Terminal window.


Few usage tips …

By default it shows all the processes that are assigned for disk I/O. But if you want, you can also make “iotop” to only show the active ones as well. For that, once opened, press the “o” key and it should switch to that mode automatically.

If you prefer it to start in that mode by default, then use the below command.

iotop -o

The default update interval is “1” second. But you can easily change that. For that, please use the below command (make sure to replace “.5” with your preferred value).

iotop -d .5

If you want “iotop” to only monitor processes of a specific user, then you can use it in the below format (again, make sure to replace “gayan” with your preferred user’s name).

iotop -u gayan

Retrieving the dis Read/Write data …

Rather than getting the disk read/write speeds, if you wanted to get the amount of data being read or written to disks by a particular program (as shown below), then you can use the below command or you can press the “a” key once its loaded and you can use it to change between those two modes interactively.

iotop -a


It has few other tweaks as well. For that please refer to its manual by using the below command.

man iotop

Well, that’s it. Enjoy!.

An RHCE, 'Linux' user with 14+ years of experience. Extreme lover of Linux and FOSS. He is passionate to test every Linux distribution & compare with the previous release to write in-depth articles to help the FOSS community.

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