CPU Utilization

When running a simple top command, you notice that while running nothing else, the User role may consume 7% of the droplet. Idle fluctuates between 92%-88%. However, when looking at the DigitalOcean dashboard I noticed that during those same instances, the droplet’s ‘CPU Usage’ statistic barely reached 1%.

I’m curious about the ‘CPU Usage’ stat in general. If an idle reading is 0% while the DigitalOcean ‘CPU Usage’ stat shows maybe 1%- does that mean that 100% of the CPU was dedicated to a task at that moment, but during that moment the CPU itself was only taxed at 1% of its total capability??

Trying to wrap my head around monitoring and system health. Thank you!!


The above may be an extreme example but for instance, I have a script that creates a connection from a remote server, then runs a top command every 1 second to get second by second CPU stats. I noticed idle percentage is usually around 87-92-100% when captured on a per-second basis. However, the CPU % in DigitalOcean shows roughly 2% during this same period.

Just curious about the disconnect. Is idle % a good characteristic to measure performance?

** In Addition- I noticed running the Top command from the droplet itself displays different results than my script that uses SSH to run the top command from a remote connection. Maybe that is not an accurate depiction of current server status

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Accepted Answer

Hi there,

Idle means that the CPU is not doing any work, for example, if the CPU is Idle at 95% then the usage is actually 5%.

I could suggest running the htop command on your server as you will get a better visual representation of the CPU utilization.

The top command shows you the load average of your CPUs. For example, roughly speaking, if you have 1 CPU, then 100% CPU usage would be represented as 1. The load average would match the Load (1/5/15) graph in your DigitalOcean metrics.

Hope that this helps. Regards, Bobby