I'm looking for an alternative to iotop. Here's my situation:

  1. I want to find out if a program is accessing the hard drive a lot while running.
  2. iotop requires root/sudo privileges.
  3. My account is on someone else's system so I'm not allowed to have root or sudo privileges.

Is there an alternative to iotop I could use?

  • You could use a combination of top, specifically watching for 'wait' states, and vmstat.
    – DopeGhoti
    Nov 21, 2014 at 17:42

2 Answers 2


To reference a few more tools.


Command line tool, packaged in most distributions, is able to show the I/O without root privileges but only for your processes.

  • run htop(1), you'll find an interface similar to top(1)
  • hit F2 to enter the configuration
  • use to select "Columns"
  • use to select "Available Columns"
  • use / to select the I/O informations you want (ie: IO_READ_RATE, IO_WRITE_RATE, IO_RATE) and F5 to add them to the "Active Columns"
  • save with F10
  • use < / > to select the I/O column to affect the sort order


Command line tool with a web mode, not widely packaged but easy to install (ie: pip install glances).


Web interface, can be run without root privileges, not yet packaged (require compilation).

  • 4
    I have been using htop for so long and didn't know about this feature. Thanks!
    – ilija139
    Mar 13, 2017 at 1:39
  • There are also iptraf and iptraf-ng, nice ncurses consol tools. But these projects seem to be abandoned. :(
    – oHo
    Jun 23, 2017 at 14:59
  • iptraf* does only monitor network I/O
    – bufh
    Jul 10, 2017 at 12:24
  • 2
    When I do as suggested for htop, it only displays "no permission" in the respective columns. Seems like I still need sudo rights for viewing this information. Mar 15, 2019 at 8:30
  • 1
    erm, that's what I wrote "you can see IO* for your processes" or more exactly "Permission to access this file is governed by a ptrace access mode PTRACE_MODE_READ_FSCREDS check" (from procfs)
    – bufh
    Aug 25, 2022 at 9:29

The only thing that comes close is iostat from the sysstat suite which also works for regular users, or maybe atop -d (fails with a floating pointing exception here).

A very similar question was asked on ServerFault: In absence of iotop, which command is most appropriate for finding I/O-bound processes?

iotop doesn't work for regular users any more due to a security fix in the kernel: see e.g. Red Hat bug report: Netlink error: Operation not permitted

For the same reason, you probably cannot display other processes' I/O stats on that level as regular user.

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