2. lsof and fuser

Let's say you plugged in a USB drive and starting working on some files, once you were done, you go and unmount the USB device and you're getting an error "Device or Resource Busy". How would you find out which files in the USB drive are still in use? There are actually two tools you can use for this:


Remember files aren't just text files, images, etc, they are everything on the system, disks, pipes, network sockets, devices, etc. To see what is in use by a process, you can use the lsof command (short for "list open files") this will show you a list of all the open files and their associated process.

pete@icebox:~$ lsof .
lxsession 1491 pete cwd DIR 8,6 4096 131 .
update-no 1796 pete cwd DIR 8,6 4096 131 .
nm-applet 1804 pete cwd DIR 8,6 4096 131 .
indicator 1809 pete cwd DIR 8,6 4096 131 .
xterm 2205 pete cwd DIR 8,6 4096 131 .
bash 2207 pete cwd DIR 8,6 4096 131 .
lsof 5914 pete cwd DIR 8,6 4096 131 .
lsof 5915 pete cwd DIR 8,6 4096 131 .

Now I can see what processes are currently holding the device/file open. In our USB example, you can also kill these processes so we can unmount this pesky drive.


Another way to track a process is the fuser command (short for "file user"), this will show you information about the process that is using the file or the file user.

pete@icebox:~$ fuser -v .
/home/pete: pete 1491 ..c.. lxsession
pete 1796 ..c.. update-notifier
pete 1804 ..c.. nm-applet
pete 1809 ..c.. indicator-power
pete 2205 ..c.. xterm
pete 2207 ..c.. bash

We can see which processes are currently using our /home/pete directory. The lsof and fuser tools are very similar, familiarize yourself with these tools and try using them next time you need to track a file or process down.


Read the manpages for lsof and fuser, there is a lot of information that we didn't cover that allows you to have greater flexibility with these tools.


What command is used to list open files and their process information?