If I can see a process running using ps -e, how can I find the file which launched it?

  • 2
    What OS is this? Linux, BSD, Solaris...
    – phemmer
    Dec 29, 2011 at 12:59
  • linux ... but cross-unix solutions welcome.
    – interstar
    Dec 29, 2011 at 16:33

3 Answers 3


On Linux: if you know the PID, you can cat the cmdline file for that file. E.g.:

cat /proc/PID/cmdline

This will probably fail if the binary was moved after the program was started.

And of course:

lsof -n | grep PID | grep ' txt '


ls -la /proc/PID/exe

which is a symbolic link to the executable.

  • 1
    Note that /proc/PID/cmdline doesn't have a newline character, so you'll probably want to do something like cat /proc/PID/cmdline ; echo ''. Dec 30, 2011 at 0:56
  • 1
    Actually, it has NUL characters separating the arguments, so you might want something even more elaborate like tr '\0' ' ' < /proc/PID/cmdline ; echo '' Dec 30, 2011 at 1:00

Copy the process id from ps -e command and then run the following:

ps x | grep <process-id>
  • Won't that fail if an application edits argv[0]? iirc sendmail does that. Dec 29, 2011 at 13:14
  • Yes, it is a probability. None the less this comes handy almost every time. Dec 29, 2011 at 13:22

None of the methods (ls, lsof or cat) in the other answers work for me. If I do:

$ nano test.txt

This is my winner,:

$ pgrep -f -l test
3074 nano test.txt

Or, in order to obtain only the PID to use it in programming:

$ pgrep -f test

Tested on Kali Linux v1.0.6 (Debian based).
Compared to a simple ls, I must admit it is not a so portable solution, but at least it works.

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