How to Install and Use the ‘htop’ Command | Linux Guide

Image of a Linux terminal illustrating the installation of the htop command an interactive process viewer

Are you finding it hard to monitor system processes in Linux? Well, like a vigilant security guard, the ‘htop’ command in Linux can help you keep an eye on your system’s performance. ‘Htop’, is an incredible tool worth learning to install and use, as it enhances system monitoring and makes it easier to manage tasks on your Linux system. It’s accessible on most package management systems, simplifying the installation once you understand the process.

In this guide, we will navigate the process of installing ‘htop’ on your Linux system. We will provide you with installation instructions for both APT (Debian and Ubuntu) and YUM-based distributions (CentOS and AlmaLinux), delve into how to compile ‘htop’ from the source, and install a specific version. Finally, we will show you how to use the ‘htop’ command and ascertain that the correctly installed version is in use.

So, let’s get started with the step-by-step ‘htop’ installation on your Linux system!

TL;DR: How Do I Install and Use the ‘htop’ Command in Linux?

In most Linux distributions, you can install ‘htop’ by running the command sudo apt-get install htop for Debian based distributions or sudo yum install htop for RPM-based distributions. To use it, simply type htop in the terminal.

# For Debian based distributions
sudo apt-get install htop

# For RPM-based distributions
sudo yum install htop

# To use htop

This will give you a basic installation and usage of the ‘htop’ command in Linux, but there’s much more to learn about ‘htop’. Continue reading for more detailed information, advanced usage scenarios, and troubleshooting tips.

Understanding and Installing the ‘htop’ Command in Linux

‘htop’ is a powerful, interactive process viewer for Unix systems. It provides a real-time, dynamic view of the processes running on your system. It’s a valuable tool for system administrators and power users seeking to monitor system performance, manage processes, and troubleshoot performance issues.

Let’s dive into how to install the ‘htop’ command in Linux, focusing on two popular package management systems: APT and YUM.

Installing ‘htop’ with APT

For Debian-based distributions like Ubuntu, we use the APT (Advanced Package Tool) package manager. Here’s how to install ‘htop’ using APT:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install htop

The first command updates the package lists for upgrades and new package installations. The second command installs ‘htop’.

After running these commands, you can check the installed version using:

htop -v

# Output:
# htop 2.2.0 - (C) 2004-2019 Hisham Muhammad
# Released under the GNU GPL.

This command displays the version of ‘htop’ installed on your system, which in this case is 2.2.0.

Installing ‘htop’ with YUM

For RPM-based distributions like CentOS, we use the YUM (Yellowdog Updater, Modified) package manager. Here’s how to install ‘htop’ using YUM:

sudo yum update
sudo yum install htop

Similar to the APT commands, the first command updates your package lists, and the second installs ‘htop’. Verify the installed version using the same htop -v command as shown in the APT section.

In the next section, we’ll delve into more advanced installation methods of the ‘htop’ command.

Installing ‘htop’ from Source Code

Sometimes, you might want to install ‘htop’ from the source code. This method is beneficial when you need the latest version, which might not be available in your distribution’s repositories. Here’s how to do it:

# Download the source code

# Extract the tarball
 tar -xvf 3.1.2.tar.gz

# Navigate to the directory
 cd htop-3.1.2

# Compile and install
sudo make install

This sequence of commands downloads the source code, extracts it, navigates into the directory, and then compiles and installs ‘htop’.

Installing Different Versions of ‘htop’

Installing Different Versions from Source

To install a different version of ‘htop’ from source, simply change the version number in the download URL. For example, to download version 2.2.0, use the following command:


The rest of the steps for compiling and installing remain the same.

Installing Different Versions Using Package Managers

Using APT

In Debian-based distributions, you can install a specific version of a package using the following syntax:

sudo apt-get install htop=version

Replace ‘version’ with the desired version number.

Using YUM

In RPM-based distributions, you can list all available versions of a package using the following command:

yum --showduplicates list htop

To install a specific version, use the following syntax:

sudo yum install htop-version

Replace ‘version’ with the desired version number.

Version Comparison

Different versions of ‘htop’ come with various improvements and bug fixes. Here’s a brief comparison of the key features of some versions:

VersionKey Features
2.2.0Introduced pressure stall information for Linux, ZFS ARC statistics, more than two processor columns
3.0.0Added CPU frequency metrics, improved support for ncurses, fixed bugs
3.1.2Introduced disk I/O metrics, improved documentation, fixed bugs

Using ‘htop’ and Verifying Installation

Basic Usage of ‘htop’

After installing ‘htop’, you can start it by typing ‘htop’ in your terminal:


This command will open the ‘htop’ interactive process viewer. You can navigate using the arrow keys and press ‘F10’ to exit.

Verifying Installation

To verify that ‘htop’ is installed correctly, you can check the version number:

htop -v

# Output:
# htop 3.1.2 - (C) 2004-2021 Hisham Muhammad
# Released under the GNU GPL.

This command will display the installed version of ‘htop’, which should match the version you installed.

Exploring Alternative Commands for System Monitoring

While ‘htop’ is a powerful tool for monitoring system processes in Linux, there are alternative commands that offer different perspectives and functionalities. Let’s explore the ‘top’ and ‘ps’ commands as alternatives to ‘htop’.

The ‘top’ Command

The ‘top’ command is a real-time process monitor and system summary. It displays information about the system’s current state, such as the number of tasks running, CPU utilization, and memory usage.

Here’s a basic usage example:


# Output:
top - 18:39:01 up  2:37,  1 user,  load average: 0.00, 0.01, 0.05
Tasks: 100 total,   1 running,  99 sleeping,   0 stopped,   0 zombie
%Cpu(s):  0.7 us,  0.3 sy,  0.0 ni, 98.9 id,  0.0 wa,  0.0 hi,  0.1 si,  0.0 st
MiB Mem :   1987.0 total,   1167.2 free,    454.4 used,    365.4 buff/cache
MiB Swap:   2048.0 total,   2048.0 free,      0.0 used.   1331.4 avail Mem 

The output provides a snapshot of the system’s current state. However, ‘top’ is less user-friendly compared to ‘htop’, as it lacks ‘htop’s easy-to-use interface and color-coded visuals.

The ‘ps’ Command

The ‘ps’ command provides a snapshot of the current processes. It’s a versatile tool with various options to customize the output.

Here’s an example of using ‘ps’ to display all running processes:

ps aux

# Output:
root         1  0.0  0.1 225636  9484 ?        Ss   16:02   0:02 /sbin/init splash
root         2  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    16:02   0:00 [kthreadd]
root         3  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        I<   16:02   0:00 [rcu_gp]
root         4  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        I<   16:02   0:00 [rcu_par_gp]

The output includes details about the user, process ID, CPU and memory usage, start time, and the command that started the process.

While ‘ps’ provides detailed information, it’s not as interactive as ‘htop’ and requires knowledge of various options to customize the output.

In conclusion, while ‘htop’ is a comprehensive tool for monitoring system processes in Linux, ‘top’ and ‘ps’ are valuable alternatives that offer different perspectives. Depending on your needs, you might find one more useful than the others. Experiment with these tools, understand their advantages and limitations, and choose the ones that best fit your workflow.

Handling Common ‘htop’ Troubles

While ‘htop’ is generally straightforward to use, you might encounter some issues, especially when you’re new to it. Let’s discuss some common problems and their solutions.

‘htop’ Command Not Found

If you receive a ‘command not found’ error after trying to run ‘htop’, it means ‘htop’ isn’t installed on your system or the system can’t locate it. Here’s an example of this error:


# Output:
# Command 'htop' not found, but can be installed with:

To resolve this, you can install ‘htop’ using the instructions provided earlier in this guide. If ‘htop’ is already installed, make sure the system PATH includes the directory where ‘htop’ is installed.

Permission Denied Error

If you try to install ‘htop’ without sufficient permissions, you’ll encounter a ‘permission denied’ error. Here’s an example:

apt install htop

# Output:
# E: Could not open lock file /var/lib/dpkg/lock-frontend - open (13: Permission denied)
# E: Unable to acquire the dpkg frontend lock (/var/lib/dpkg/lock-frontend), are you root?

To resolve this, use the ‘sudo’ command to run the installation command with root permissions:

sudo apt install htop

Unable to Locate Package Error

If your package lists aren’t updated or the ‘htop’ package is unavailable in your distribution’s repositories, you might encounter an ‘unable to locate package’ error. Here’s an example:

sudo apt install htop

# Output:
# Reading package lists... Done
# Building dependency tree
# Reading state information... Done
# E: Unable to locate package htop

To resolve this, update your package lists using sudo apt update or sudo yum update before installing ‘htop’. If the error persists, consider installing ‘htop’ from the source code as explained earlier in this guide.

In conclusion, while ‘htop’ is a powerful tool for monitoring system processes in Linux, you might encounter some issues when installing or using it. The solutions provided here should help you overcome these common problems and make the most of ‘htop’.

Understanding Process Management in Linux

In Linux, every task (also known as a ‘process’) that the system runs is assigned a unique process ID (PID). These tasks could be anything from system services to user applications. The process management in Linux involves creating, scheduling, and eliminating processes.

Importance of Process Management

Managing processes is crucial in a Linux system. It helps in optimizing system performance, identifying resource-hungry tasks, and ensuring that resources are fairly distributed among processes.

Process management tools like ‘htop’ provide valuable insights into how resources are being used in your system, allowing you to make informed decisions on resource allocation.

Understanding ‘htop’ in the Context of Process Management

‘htop’ is a process viewer for Linux that provides a real-time, dynamic view of the processes running on your system. It’s an improvement over the ‘top’ command, offering more features and a more user-friendly interface.

Let’s take a closer look at the ‘htop’ interface to understand its role in process management:


# Output:
# 1  [||||||||||||||||||||||||||||100.0%]     Tasks: 31, 59 thr; 1 running
# 2  [||||||||||||||||||||||||||||100.0%]     Load average: 0.00 0.01 0.05
# Mem[|||||||||||||||||||387M/1.94G]     Uptime: 00:03:46
# Swp[|0K/2.00G]

#  PID USER      PRI  NI  VIRT   RES   SHR S CPU% MEM%   TIME+  Command
# 1081 root       20   0  570M  387M 26916 S  0.0 19.4  0:02.90 /usr/lib/packagekit/packagekitd
# 1356 root       20   0  428M  111M  8432 S  0.0  5.5  0:01.10 /usr/bin/dockerd -H fd:// --containerd=/run/containerd/containerd.sock
# 1447 root       20   0  404M  101M  6068 S  0.0  5.0  0:00.73 /usr/sbin/NetworkManager --no-daemon

The ‘htop’ interface is divided into two main sections. The top section displays statistics about processes and resource usage, including CPU usage, memory usage, and swap usage. The bottom section lists all the processes currently running on the system, along with detailed information like the PID, user, CPU usage, memory usage, and the command that started the process.

In conclusion, understanding process management is essential for using ‘htop’ effectively. By monitoring and managing processes, you can ensure optimal system performance and resource utilization.

The Relevance of Process Management in System Administration and Security

The ‘htop’ command, while simple, plays a crucial role in system administration and security. Understanding and managing processes is a fundamental aspect of Linux system administration. It allows administrators to monitor system health, optimize performance, and troubleshoot issues.

In terms of security, knowing what’s happening on your system is essential. Unusual processes or high resource usage can be indicators of a security breach. Tools like ‘htop’ provide visibility into system processes, helping you detect and investigate suspicious activity.

Deep Dive into System Load and Memory Usage

While ‘htop’ provides a lot of information, focusing on system load and memory usage can provide valuable insights. System load is a measure of the amount of computational work that a system performs. High system load can lead to slow performance or even system crashes.

Memory usage is another critical metric. Insufficient memory can also lead to poor performance, as the system may need to use swap space, which is slower than RAM.

Here’s an example of how to use ‘htop’ to monitor system load and memory usage:


# Output:
# 1  [||||||||||||||||||||||||||||100.0%]     Tasks: 31, 59 thr; 1 running
# 2  [||||||||||||||||||||||||||||100.0%]     Load average: 0.00 0.01 0.05
# Mem[|||||||||||||||||||387M/1.94G]     Uptime: 00:03:46
# Swp[|0K/2.00G]

In this example, the ‘Load average’ line shows the system load, and the ‘Mem’ line shows memory usage. By keeping an eye on these metrics, you can detect potential performance issues before they become serious problems.

Further Resources for Mastering Linux Process Management

If you want to delve deeper into Linux process management and related concepts, here are some resources that can help:

  1. Linux Performance: This site by Brendan Gregg, a senior performance architect at Netflix, offers a wealth of information on Linux performance, including process management.

  2. The Geek Stuff: This site offers numerous tutorials on Linux and Unix, including detailed guides on commands like ‘htop’.

  3. Linux Journal: This online magazine covers all things Linux, including system administration, security, and performance.

By exploring these resources and practicing with tools like ‘htop’, you can become proficient in Linux process management, improving your skills as a system administrator or power user.

Wrapping Up: Installing ‘htop’ for Linux Process Monitoring

In this comprehensive guide, we’ve delved into the world of the ‘htop’ command, an essential tool for monitoring system processes in Linux.

We kicked off with the basics, learning how to install and use ‘htop’ in Linux. We then explored more advanced topics, such as installing ‘htop’ from the source code and installing specific versions of ‘htop’. We also addressed common issues you might encounter when using ‘htop’, providing practical solutions to help you overcome these challenges.

Furthermore, we examined alternative methods for system monitoring in Linux, comparing ‘htop’ with the ‘top’ and ‘ps’ commands. Here’s a quick comparison of these tools:

ToolUser-FriendlinessInteractivityDetail Level

Whether you’re new to Linux system monitoring or looking to enhance your skills, we hope this guide has deepened your understanding of the ‘htop’ command and its alternatives.

By mastering ‘htop’ and understanding its alternatives, you’re well-equipped to monitor and manage system processes effectively in Linux. Happy monitoring!