How do you kill all Linux processes that are older than a certain age?


Linux Problem Overview

I have a problem with some zombie-like processes on a certain server that need to be killed every now and then. How can I best identify the ones that have run for longer than an hour or so?

Linux Solutions

Solution 1 - Linux

Found an answer that works for me:

warning: this will find and kill long running processes

ps -eo uid,pid,etime | egrep '^ *user-id' | egrep ' ([0-9]+-)?([0-9]{2}:?){3}' | awk '{print $2}' | xargs -I{} kill {}

(Where user-id is a specific user's ID with long-running processes.)

The second regular expression matches the a time that has an optional days figure, followed by an hour, minute, and second component, and so is at least one hour in length.

Solution 2 - Linux

If they just need to be killed:

if [[ "$(uname)" = "Linux" ]];then killall --older-than 1h someprocessname;fi

If you want to see what it's matching

if [[ "$(uname)" = "Linux" ]];then killall -i --older-than 1h someprocessname;fi

The -i flag will prompt you with yes/no for each process match.

Solution 3 - Linux

For anything older than one day,

ps aux

will give you the answer, but it drops down to day-precision which might not be as useful.

root         1  0.0  0.0   7200   308 ?        Ss   Jun22   0:02 init [5]
root         2  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    Jun22   0:02 [migration/0]
root         3  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        SN   Jun22   0:18 [ksoftirqd/0]
root         4  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    Jun22   0:00 [watchdog/0]

If you're on linux or another system with the /proc filesystem, In this example, you can only see that process 1 has been running since June 22, but no indication of the time it was started.

stat /proc/<pid>

will give you a more precise answer. For example, here's an exact timestamp for process 1, which ps shows only as Jun22:

ohm ~$ stat /proc/1
  File: `/proc/1'
  Size: 0               Blocks: 0          IO Block: 4096   directory
Device: 3h/3d   Inode: 65538       Links: 5
Access: (0555/dr-xr-xr-x)  Uid: (    0/    root)   Gid: (    0/    root)
Access: 2008-06-22 15:37:44.347627750 -0700
Modify: 2008-06-22 15:37:44.347627750 -0700
Change: 2008-06-22 15:37:44.347627750 -0700

Solution 4 - Linux

In this way you can obtain the list of the ten oldest processes:

ps -elf | sort -r -k12 | head -n 10

Solution 5 - Linux

Jodie C and others have pointed out that killall -i can be used, which is fine if you want to use the process name to kill. But if you want to kill by the same parameters as pgrep -f, you need to use something like the following, using pure bash and the /proc filesystem.

max_age=120 # (seconds)                                                                                                                                 
naughty="$(pgrep -f offlineimap)"                                                                                                                       
if [[ -n "$naughty" ]]; then # naughty is running                                                                                                       
  age_in_seconds=$(echo "$(date +%s) - $(stat -c %X /proc/$naughty)" | bc)                                                                              
  if [[ "$age_in_seconds" -ge "$max_age" ]]; then # naughty is too old!                                                                                 
    kill -s 9 "$naughty"                                                                                                                                

This lets you find and kill processes older than max_age seconds using the full process name; i.e., the process named /usr/bin/python2 offlineimap can be killed by reference to "offlineimap", whereas the killall solutions presented here will only work on the string "python2".

Solution 6 - Linux

Perl's Proc::ProcessTable will do the trick:

You can install it in debian or ubuntu with sudo apt-get install libproc-processtable-perl

Here is a one-liner:

perl -MProc::ProcessTable -Mstrict -w -e 'my $anHourAgo = time-60*60; my $t = new Proc::ProcessTable;foreach my $p ( @{$t->table} ) { if ($p->start() < $anHourAgo) { print $p->pid, "\n" } }'

Or, more formatted, put this in a file called

#!/usr/bin/perl -w
use strict;
use Proc::ProcessTable;
my $anHourAgo = time-60*60;
my $t = new Proc::ProcessTable;
foreach my $p ( @{$t->table} ) {
    if ($p->start() < $anHourAgo) {
        print $p->pid, "\n";

then run perl

This gives you more versatility and 1-second-resolution on start time.

Solution 7 - Linux

You can use bc to join the two commands in mob's answer and get how many seconds ellapsed since the process started:

echo `date +%s` - `stat -t /proc/<pid> | awk '{print $14}'` | bc


Out of boredom while waiting for long processes to run, this is what came out after a few minutes fiddling:

#file: sincetime
init=`stat -t /proc/$1 | awk '{print $14}'`
curr=`date +%s`
seconds=`echo $curr - $init| bc`
name=`cat /proc/$1/cmdline`
echo $name $seconds

If you put this on your path and call it like this: sincetime

it will print the process cmdline and seconds since started. You can also put this in your path:

#file: greptime
pidlist=`ps ax | grep -i -E $1 | grep -v grep | awk '{print $1}' | grep -v PID | xargs echo`
for pid in $pidlist; do
    sincetime $pid

And than if you run:

greptime <pattern>

where patterns is a string or extended regular expression, it will print out all processes matching this pattern and the seconds since they started. :)

Solution 8 - Linux

do a ps -aef. this will show you the time at which the process started. Then using the date command find the current time. Calculate the difference between the two to find the age of the process.

Solution 9 - Linux

I did something similar to the accepted answer but slightly differently since I want to match based on process name and based on the bad process running for more than 100 seconds

kill $(ps -o pid,bsdtime -p $(pgrep bad_process) | awk '{ if ($RN > 1 && $2 > 100) { print $1; }}')

Solution 10 - Linux

stat -t /proc/<pid> | awk '{print $14}'

to get the start time of the process in seconds since the epoch. Compare with current time (date +%s) to get the current age of the process.

Solution 11 - Linux

Using ps is the right way. I've already done something similar before but don't have the source handy. Generally - ps has an option to tell it which fields to show and by which to sort. You can sort the output by running time, grep the process you want and then kill it.


Solution 12 - Linux

In case anyone needs this in C, you can use readproc.h and libproc:

#include <proc/readproc.h>
#include <proc/sysinfo.h>

pid_age(pid_t pid)
        proc_t proc_info;
        int seconds_since_boot = uptime(0,0);
        if (!get_proc_stats(pid, &proc_info)) {
                return 0.0;

        // readproc.h comment lies about what proc_t.start_time is. It's
        // actually expressed in Hertz ticks since boot

        int  seconds_since_1970 = time(NULL);
        int time_of_boot = seconds_since_1970 - seconds_since_boot;
        long  t = seconds_since_boot - (unsigned long)(proc_info.start_time / Hertz);

        int delta = t;
        float days = ((float) delta / (float)(60*60*24));
        return days;

Solution 13 - Linux

Came across somewhere..thought it is simple and useful

You can use the command in crontab directly ,

* * * * * ps -lf | grep "user" |  perl -ane '($h,$m,$s) = split /:/,$F
+[13]; kill 9, $F[3] if ($h > 1);'

or, we can write it as shell script ,

ps -lf | grep "user" |  perl -ane '($h,$m,$s) = split /:/,$F[13]; kill
+ 9, $F[3] if ($h > 1);'

And call it crontab like so,

* * * * *

Solution 14 - Linux

My version of sincetime above by @Rafael S. Calsaverini :

ps --no-headers -o etimes,args "$1"

This reverses the output fields: elapsed time first, full command including arguments second. This is preferred because the full command may contain spaces.


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Content TypeOriginal AuthorOriginal Content on Stackoverflow
QuestionyukondudeView Question on Stackoverflow
Solution 1 - LinuxyukondudeView Answer on Stackoverflow
Solution 2 - LinuxJodie CView Answer on Stackoverflow
Solution 3 - LinuxMark HarrisonView Answer on Stackoverflow
Solution 4 - LinuxggaspView Answer on Stackoverflow
Solution 5 - Linuxuser67416View Answer on Stackoverflow
Solution 6 - LinuxPeter V. MørchView Answer on Stackoverflow
Solution 7 - LinuxRafael S. CalsaveriniView Answer on Stackoverflow
Solution 8 - LinuxManiraj PatriView Answer on Stackoverflow
Solution 9 - LinuxRodney AmatoView Answer on Stackoverflow
Solution 10 - LinuxmobView Answer on Stackoverflow
Solution 11 - LinuxabyxView Answer on Stackoverflow
Solution 12 - LinuxDavid JeskeView Answer on Stackoverflow
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Solution 14 - LinuxPhil HudsonView Answer on Stackoverflow