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I know there is VmHWM entry in each process's /proc/[PID]/status file, however is there an aggregate of this that contains the high water mark for the system?

I understand the free command give the current RAM utilization, but I was hoping the system might maintain a HWM value somewhere.

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If your kernel supports cgroup v1 memory controller, and it is enabled (as far as I know all the major Linux distributions have it enabled), you should be able to use the root memory.max_usage_in_bytes value for that:

echo "$(("$(cat /sys/fs/cgroup/memory/memory.max_usage_in_bytes)" / 2**20)) MB"
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