/proc/timer_list: Explanation & Insights

Contains information about kernel timers

The /proc/timer_list file provides information about all the timers currently active in the Linux kernel. It is part of the /proc filesystem, a virtual filesystem that presents information about system resources.

Importance of /proc/timer_list

Timers are essential in a Linux system as they schedule actions to be performed after a specific period of time. They are used in various scenarios like putting a process to sleep for a certain time, scheduling a task to run after a specific time, and more. The /proc/timer_list file can be used to debug issues related to these timers.

Understanding /proc/timer_list

The /proc/timer_list file contains detailed information about different types of timers, which includes but not limited to:

  • HRTIMER - High-resolution kernel timers
  • TICK - Periodic timer tick
  • TIMER - Regular kernel timers

It also provides information about the number of expired timers, currently running timers, and much more.

Reading /proc/timer_list

To view the contents of this file, use the cat command as shown below:

sudo cat /proc/timer_list

The output will be a detailed list of all active timers, which can be quite lengthy and complex to understand for beginners.

Typical Problems and Diagnoses

One typical problem that can be diagnosed using /proc/timer_list is the high CPU utilization caused by an excessive number of timers. By inspecting the file, you can see if there are any unusually high counts of active timers which might be causing the high CPU usage.

Practical Usage of /proc/timer_list

Here's a practical example of how you can use /proc/timer_list. Let's say you want to monitor the number of active timers over a period of time. This can be done with a simple bash script:

while true
    echo "$(date) $(grep 'active timers' /proc/timer_list)"
    sleep 1

This script will print the current date and the number of active timers every second.


The /proc/timer_list file is a powerful tool for understanding and debugging timer-related issues in the Linux kernel. A thorough understanding of this file can be highly beneficial for system administrators and Linux enthusiasts alike.

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