What do "Load Average" Numbers in Terminal Mean?


macrumors 601
Original poster
Jan 10, 2005
Hey there. I usually run the "uptime" command in Terminal to check how many days my Mac has been on, but it also shows 3 strange numbers and I dont seem to understand them Those numbers are "load averages:" and currently they look like this:

22:25 up 1 day, 12:20, 2 users, load averages: 3.02 3.14 2.46

Can somebody explain how these numbers work?

Thanks :)


Moderator emeritus
Mar 10, 2004
Bergen, Norway
Wikipedia said:
The system load is a UNIX computing term that describes the amount of work that a computer system is doing. The load average is the system load over a period of time. It is conventionally given as three numbers that represent the system load during the last one, five, and fifteen minute periods.
[Link to more details]


macrumors G3
Aug 30, 2003
On Unix-like systems, the load is the number of processes waiting for CPU time at any given moment (the running process is counted too). The three numbers are weighted averages of the load over the past 1, 5 and 15 minutes.

Echo toxin

macrumors newbie
Aug 13, 2006
From what I can gather, the load figures represent how much of a CPU is required. For instance, if your load is under 1.0, then your single CPU is handling the work well. If you are above 1.0 and don't have dual-core then you've got a bottleneck at that time. So on my Mac mini for example, a load less than 2.0 is fine.

If your load is on 3+ and you only have a single-core, single-CPU then it is quite overloaded.