Server Fault is a question and answer site for system and network administrators. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

We are hosting possibly hundreds of hosting accounts on our dedicated hosting, however they are very niche and most of them are development accounts, unused or low traffic websites.

However we have infrequent crashes, caused by lack of memory (our web hosts tell us). I'm no expert on servers and stuff, but a ps aux turns up this line:

root     11905 95.5 55.0 1151616 1135256 pts/0 R+   09:05  40:38 vim error_log

Now I'm no expert, but 95.5% cpu and 55% ram usage seems pretty high for an error log. Is this right?

Could it be this that is causing the out of memory errors?

I've tried to add the rest of the ps aux output, but it doesn't format very nicely. I can take a screenshot if you think that it would be useful.

Otherwise, we're running a pretty standard server set up I think. Ubuntu, 2gb ram. I don't think that hdd space is running low, I assume our host would pick up on that (df says "no file systems processed"). A lot of our websites are Wordpress websites, I've heard that this can cause problems, but they're not high traffic at all.

It could be a rogue plugin we have used in a Wordpress installation somewhere, but how would I pinpoint that? (We had this problem a while back and it seemed to be a guessing game until we found a plugin on one of our sites that was reading and writing to a db table with 250,000 rows - and increasing). Deleting this plugin made the server work again, no more crashes, till last night when we got the dreaded out of memory error again.

Any pointers would be good, thanks.

share|improve this question
How large is your error_log? And why in the world is anybody trying to edit it with vim? – the-wabbit Feb 14 '12 at 10:27
Ah, I see, I thought that vim error_log was a background process that was running (i.e. vim was creating an error log or something), but actually it is a command that someone has run right? I haven't accessed error logs for a very long time (and I normally use cat, although may have used vim in the past - bit of a linux newbie!). Apache error_log was about 18gb(!) (again, newbie on that too, I'm just a programmer really!) so I've deleted that, killed the vim process and hopefully that should help! – Thomas Clayson Feb 14 '12 at 10:37
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Your vim is opening a ginourmos file. Stop doing that, use tools like tail, less, grep to read only the parts you need.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.