top command on multi core processor

top command shows CPU usage as a percentage of a single CPU by default. That’s why you can have percentages that are >100. On a system with 4 physical or virtual cores, you can see up to 400% CPU usage.

You can change this behavior by pressing I (that’s Shift + i and toggles “Irix mode”) while top is running. That will cause it to show the percentage of available CPU power being used. As explained in man top:

    1. %CPU  --  CPU Usage
       The task's share of the elapsed CPU time since the last screen
       update, expressed as a percentage of total  CPU  time.   In  a
       true  SMP environment, if 'Irix mode' is Off, top will operate
       in 'Solaris mode' where a task's cpu usage will be divided  by
       the  total  number  of  CPUs.  You toggle 'Irix/Solaris' modes
       with the 'I' interactive command.

Alternatively, you can press 1 which will show you a breakdown of CPU usage per CPU:

top - 13:12:58 up 21:11, 17 users,  load average: 0.69, 0.50, 0.43
Tasks: 248 total,   3 running, 244 sleeping,   0 stopped,   1 zombie
%Cpu0  : 33.3 us, 33.3 sy,  0.0 ni, 33.3 id,  0.0 wa,  0.0 hi,  0.0 si,  0.0 st
%Cpu1  : 16.7 us,  0.0 sy,  0.0 ni, 83.3 id,  0.0 wa,  0.0 hi,  0.0 si,  0.0 st
%Cpu2  : 60.0 us,  0.0 sy,  0.0 ni, 40.0 id,  0.0 wa,  0.0 hi,  0.0 si,  0.0 st
%Cpu3  :  0.0 us,  0.0 sy,  0.0 ni,100.0 id,  0.0 wa,  0.0 hi,  0.0 si,  0.0 st
KiB Mem:   8186416 total,  6267232 used,  1919184 free,   298832 buffers
KiB Swap:  8191996 total,        0 used,  8191996 free,  2833308 cached

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