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Show HN: Watch what files any Linux process accesses (github.com)
131 points by spieglt 23 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 37 comments

Not taking anything away from the worth of this tool but if you do happen to find yourself needing to quickly inspect which files a process has open you can do so using the /proc file system:

    ls -l /proc/$PID/fd/
Additionally you can also use the /proc file system to display where the cursor is in those files by outputting the contents of

which is handy if you have a long running process but forgot to pipe it into `pv` (or any other long running ingest that lacks a progress UI)

(Both tricks are Linux only)

Pv supports this directly with -d pid, http://manpages.ubuntu.com/manpages/bionic/man1/pv.1.html

I learn something new every day. Thank you

Yea it's really nice for making a progress bar for things like cp, mv, etc.

The main drawback of this is that the program may access a file too quickly for a polling strategy to notice.

On Mac, there's also lsof. (Also on Linux? I always assumed it was just a standard Unix tool, but maybe not?)

    lsof -c [process name]
    lsof -p [pid]

It is available for Linux however it's not always part of the base install of every distribution (but a worthwhile install none-the-less).

Not taking anything away from lsof as I do use it myself but I do also think there is also merit in learning the /proc file system too because it helps illuminate some of the not-so-hidden magic behind Linux. Even if you then still find lsof or similar become your preferred utility.

Admittedly my Linux skills are basic so I’m not sure how it compares, but I like the utility “progress” for monitoring things: https://github.com/Xfennec/progress/blob/master/README.md

Edit: By monitoring things, I mean like finding how far through a dd is after you have started it already.

Similarly, and perhaps obviously to some, you can use that to check how many files that process has open in total:

ls -al /proc/$PID/fd/ | wc -l

Useful for actually knowing what that specific process has open and is respecting your Max Open Files settings.

I'm looking at you Influx.

biotop and biolatency surface similar info. they come with a ton of other ridiculously awesome tools in BCC tools. they are a set of python wrapper scripts that run eBPF programs. using eBPF generally has a really low impact on performance when compared with other tools that do similar work.


bcc also has opensnoop, which is really nice for seeing which files are being opened:


How is this different from using something like,

`strace -e trace=file`

I see that you are using ptrace to monitor a process. That is also used by strace. Is there something else your application does that strace does not (In relation to files)?

From the README:

> Isn't this just a reimplementation of strace -fe trace=creat,open,openat,unlink,unlinkat ./program?

> Yes. Though it aims to be simpler and more user friendly.

For macOS, fs_usage does the same job. I find it invaluable to find out what process is churning the disk (usually mds...).

Just a heads up (read: shameless plug), there's an AUR package:


Wow, thank you very much! I've thought about trying to get a few of my projects into distribution repos but was somewhat intimidated by the process.

You're welcome - but please check out #1/#2 so i can remove that ugly patch ;)

Oh cool, was that you also? I will after work today.

nope, someone else. I just stumbled over it and it's currently part of the package. Thanks for your effort ^^

Patch merged.

This is one of the reasons I love Arch so much :) Thank you!

For doing the opposite - what processes access a given file - I like to use Audit (https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Audit_framework#Audit_f...).

This looks very similar to fatrace, which is already in the standard ubuntu and fedora repos.

edit: fatrace is system-wide, whereas the current tools monitors a specific process



Lots more such tools at https://jvns.ca/debugging-zine.pdf (opensnoop-bpfcc and strace would be the most like this one)

BTW, if you are using strace for this, check out the -y option recently added to strace. It will print the filename next to each file descriptor like this:

     read(3</proc/filesystems>, "", 1024)    = 0
Another interesting new strace option is -k which does a stack dump after each syscall. this can be useful to find out what part of the application, like some obscure lib, does weird system calls in your app.

IMO ProcMon on Windows is its equivalent. Not Process Explorer.

Since Windows Vista there is a mini version of it via "Open Resource Monitor" on the process explorer.


There was news 2 years ago that MS was porting the sysinternals tool to linux. Did that ever happen?


Ah, the system internal tools is one thing I really miss after switching to Linux on all my pcs. This port would be so awesome

Azure Insights provides similar kind of information.

Maybe that is where the porting effort went.

Could well be. If I recall correctly the motivation behind the porting was to give their engineers a unified set of tooling for troubleshooting windows and Linux (on Azure). I just assumed that the porting efforts would result in a similar set of tools to use locally on the box.

You're right, thanks. Fixed.

You can also get the same information via Resource Monitor, available by default since Vista.


Any reason why this is better than audit? I read README but i’m still not clear.

Auditd is system wide (as would be inotify or fanotify based solutions).

This traces file events of a single process. Strace can be coaxed into something similar.

Can it be invoked recursively?

Because strace on Linux still fails with:

    strace: ptrace(PTRACE_TRACEME, ...): Operation not permitted
in those cases :(

I have strace'd whatfiles, in fact that was a very useful way to debug a couple things, so maybe? I have not been able to attach to the same process with both whatfiles and strace, however.

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