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When trying to run the top command on my quad core mac, I see periodically that there are 5 running processes. How could it be possible to have 5 running processes on a quad core machine?

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That's explained in the top man page:

Tasks shown as running should be more properly thought of as 'ready to run' – their task_struct is simply represented on the Linux run-queue. Even without a true SMP machine, you may see numerous tasks in this state depending on top's delay interval and nice value.

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