The Best System Monitor For Linux

Linux has a few different options for monitoring your system's resources, but our favourite is definitely the lightweight, super-configurable Conky, which sits right on your desktop.

Screenshot by Ben Bradley.


Platform: Linux Price: Free Download Page

  • Displays statistics for CPU, disk, memory, top processes, network, and more anywhere on your desktop
  • Built-in POP and IMAP support for displaying email notifications
  • Supports many popular Linux music players
  • Text-based configuration allows for a high level of customization
  • Very light on system resources

Conky is quite versatile, letting you configure every piece of data that shows up on your desktop overlay, from things like system stats to email and music. And, even though you configure everything through a text file, it's surprisingly easy to catch on. You can even download sample configuration files from the Conky website and just load those up, without ever having to dig into them yourself -- it literally only takes a few clicks. Of course, if you have some coding knowledge, you can get more advanced, but the great thing about Conky is that you don't need to unless you want to.

While versatile, Conky's display is fairly simple, showing just text and graphs. You can customise what shows up, the fonts, the colours and other small things, but you can't really go as all-out as you could with something like Rainmeter for Windows. However, it still serves its purpose very well.

Its other downside is that because it was designed for GNOME, it can sometimes be a little weird in other desktop environments, like KDE. So, if you're using something other than GNOME, you might have to search around to see what tweaks you need to get it working on your desktop.

GKrellM is a super easy, but less configurable desktop system monitor if Conky seems like overkill. It can monitor a load of different things, though, so it's worth checking out if you have a lot of things you want to keep up with.

If you prefer something more widget-like, you can check out Screenlets, which not only have transparent overlays like Conky, but colourful widgets like those found in Windows and Mac OS X.

And, of course, this is Linux, so it wouldn't be complete without a command line option. If you just want to check up on your system, you can easily run a command like top to see your CPU usage, free to check your memory usage, or iostat to check CPU and disk usage. Your distro probably also comes with a system monitor of its own, like the GNOME System Monitor in Ubuntu, for quick checks.

Know of a good system monitor we didn't mention? Let us know about it in the comments.

Lifehacker's App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories.


    one main advantage of conky is how incredibly light weight it is. I had it running on a 200mhz machine with 32mb of ram without it measurably impacting anything.

    By contrast, Gnome System Monitor uses a good 10% of of my CPU whenever I open it up.

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