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On CentOS5, I'm seeing the 'top' command showing a hover between 20% and 2% idle, but then the load says 1.20. How can that be possible? When I type 'uptime', as well, I see 3 load numbers that are generally around 1.20 - 1.35.

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You need to provide more info to understand your question. For example you need to tell us the number of processors of your server. A load of > 1 in a single processor server is consistent with a 2% idle. Check: – hmontoliu May 14 '11 at 14:18
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Things like waiting on I/O don't take any CPU time but can block other processes from running.

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Maybe you have a process in uninterruptible sleep (process state "D")?

They don't really contribute to load per se while they're sleeping but they are a constant process on the run queue thus the load is artificially inflated.


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