How to Check Execution Time of a Process in Linux

Last updated: July 11, 2022

Have you been wondering how you can find an execution time of a process in a Linux or Unix system? This guide will show you a number of tools that comes in handy when trying to find the execution time of a process in Linux.

At times you may have to work on slow executing processes or having slow internet or running a program that you need to track its execution time. Let's look at the top tools that you should try out for this.

Check Linux process time using Gnomon

Gnomon is a utility used to annotate console logging statements with timestamps and find slow processes on a Linux system. This tool is useful for long-running processes where you'd like a historical record of what's taking so long.

Installing Gnomon

Since Gnomon is a tool written in Node.js, you need Node.js installed on your system so that you can install gnomon with npm package manager. Once you have npm tool present on your Linux system, then proceed to install  them using:

$ npm install -g gnomon
/usr/local/bin/gnomon -> /usr/local/lib/node_modules/gnomon/bin/gnomon
+ [email protected]
added 56 packages in 13.076s

Using Gnomon

To prepend a timestamp to each line, you need to pipe the command to gnomon.  It will indicate how long the process took to execute. By default, gnomon will display the seconds elapsed between each line, but that is configurable.

Take a look at the below example which prints the time taken to do 5 times ping request to google DNS server.

$ ping -c 5 | gnomon 0.0049s PING ( 56 data bytes
 0.3603s 64 bytes from icmp_seq=0 ttl=59 time=179.114 ms
 1.0025s 64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=59 time=182.345 ms
 1.0008s 64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=59 time=183.636 ms
 1.0119s 64 bytes from icmp_seq=3 ttl=59 time=181.139 ms
 0.0002s 64 bytes from icmp_seq=4 ttl=59 time=190.970 ms
 0.0001s --- ping statistics ---
 0.0001s 5 packets transmitted, 5 packets received, 0.0% packet loss
 0.0020s round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 179.114/183.441/190.970/4.048 ms
 Total 3.3842s

The total time elapsed is 3.3842s.

Available Options are:

Below is a list of options available:

-t | --type=<elapsed-line|elapsed-total|absolute> : 

Type of timestamp to display.
elapsed-line: Number of seconds that displayed line was the last line.
elapsed-total: Number of seconds since the start of the process.
absolute: An absolute timestamp in UTC.


$ ping -c 3 | gnomon --type=elapsed-total
 0.0049s PING ( 56 data bytes
 0.2336s 64 bytes from icmp_seq=0 ttl=59 time=46.288 ms
 1.2798s 64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=59 time=35.811 ms
 1.2801s 64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=59 time=80.783 ms
 1.2804s --- ping statistics ---
 1.2805s 3 packets transmitted, 3 packets received, 0.0% packet loss
 1.2821s round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 35.811/54.294/80.783/19.213 ms
 Total 1.2824s

-f | --format="format": Format the absolute timestamp, using PHP date format strings. If the type is elapsed-line or elapsed-total, this option is ignored. The default format is "H:i:s.u O"

-r  | --real-time=<number|false>

Example to disable real-time update:

# ping -c 3 | gnomon --real-time=false
 0.0040s PING ( 56 data bytes
 0.7847s 64 bytes from icmp_seq=0 ttl=59 time=69.803 ms
 0.9316s 64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=59 time=140.597 ms
 0.0001s 64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=59 time=68.122 ms
 0.0001s --- ping statistics ---
 0.0001s 3 packets transmitted, 3 packets received, 0.0% packet loss
 0.0020s round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 68.122/92.841/140.597/33.776 ms
 Total 1.7229s

-h | --high=seconds : High threshold

-m | --medium=seconds : Medium threshold. Works just like the high threshold described above, but colors the timestamp bright instead.

Check running process time using ps

You can use ps command to check the time a particular process has been running. You need to first find process ID then use it to find elapsed time.

To identify process ID, you can use a tool like pidof

$ pidof mpd 

Then use ps with options -o etime to find elapsed running time.

$ ps -p 1388 -o etime


etime option displays elapsed time since the process was started, in the form [[DD-]hh:]mm: ss. So from above example, the process has been running for days, 11 hours and minutes. Use etimes option to get elapsed time in seconds.

This command option can also be used for multiple processes. The example below will display start time and the execution time of all processes on my Ubuntu server.

$ ps -eo pid,lstart,etime,args

The output has 4 columns:

PID --> ID of the running process

STARTED --> The time the process was initially started

ELAPSED --> Total running time of the process

COMMAND --> Process executed command

Using time command on Ubuntu

The time command reports how long the command took to execute on a Linux system. You can install it if missing on Ubuntu system using:

$ sudo apt-get install time

time command Usage:

# time [-p] command [arguments...]

The output of time will have:

  • The elapsed real time between command invocation and termination.
  • The user CPU time.
  • The system CPU time.

Consider the below example to check disk usage of /root directory.

# time du -sh /root/
464K /root/
real 0m0.007s
user 0m0.002s

From the output, the actual time the command took to execute is 0m0.007s.

Let's do one more, a ping to

# time ping -c 3

PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.
64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=60 time=7.28 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=60 time=11.9 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=3 ttl=60 time=7.54 ms
--- ping statistics ---
3 packets transmitted, 3 received, 0% packet loss, time 2003ms
rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 7.281/8.925/11.952/2.145 ms

real 0m2.059s
user 0m0.001s
sys 0m

The actual execution time is 2.059 seconds.


Now you know how to get the Linux Process execution time on Linux. The first method is ideal for interactive processes. For processes that run in the background, you can always get their execution time using ps command.

About The Author

Bobbin Zachariah

Bobbin Zachariah

Bobbin started his career in IT in the year 2000 as a computer science instructor and worked as a Linux system engineer and senior analyst roles. Currently working in DevOps environments to increase efficiency and improve delivery time in AWS Cloud infrastructure. He is certified in RHEL, CCNA, and MCP and holds a Masters's in computer science. When in his free time love playing cricket, blogging, and listening to music.



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