load average with multi-core CPU's

Henry M henry95 at gmail.com
Thu Sep 22 15:22:44 UTC 2011

Hi all,

Can someone explain, or point me to correct documentation on what the load
average on top/uptime is actually displaying? Is the load the average amount
of processes waiting to execute on the server, or is it independent of CPU?

Am I correct with the below statements?

* Example 1: 1 CPU, load average of 1.00, CPU at capacity. No processes have
to wait to execute. 1 CPU, 2.00 load average, 1 process is waiting to
* Example 2: 1 CPU, 4 cores. load average of 2.00. 2 cores are working at
capacity, other 2 are idle (mostly). 1 CPU, 4 cores, load average 5.00. 4
cores are at capacity, 1 process waiting to execute.

I tried searching, but I couldn't find much besides some blog postings.


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