Originally published at: http://www.howtogeek.com/194642/understanding-the-load-average-on-linux-and-other-unix-like-systems/
Linux, Mac, and other Unix-like systems display “load average” numbers. These numbers tell you how busy your system’s CPU, disk, and other resources are. They’re not self-explanatory at first, but it’s easy to become familiar with them.
Did you mean 509% for 15 minutes? If not then I'm really confused.
If I'm understanding, load average would be 5.09, Processes waiting would be 4.09 percentage would be expressing the amount of CPU being used at a given time so you can't go over 100% although with processes waiting, 5.09 could be expressed as overloaded by 5.09 (or 4.09?)(now I'm confused!)
Yes that's my understanding too. Load of 5.09 means 509% (for this single-CPU example). I'm pretty sure this is correct. A corollary of the example readings of "load average: 1.05, 0.70, 5.09" is that the INSTANTANEOUS load 10 or 15 minutes ago must have been much higher than 5.09, in order for the average load over 15 minutes to be 5.09, given that the more recent load (1.05 over the last minute and 0.70 over the last 5 minutes) are much lower than the average load of 5.09 over the last 15 minutes.
The System Monitor (in System Tools) is also useful in this context.
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