23.3 nice: Run a command with modified niceness

nice prints a process’s niceness, or runs a command with modified niceness. niceness affects how favorably the process is scheduled in the system. Synopsis:

nice [option]… [command [arg]…]

If no arguments are given, nice prints the current niceness. Otherwise, nice runs the given command with its niceness adjusted. By default, its niceness is incremented by 10.

Niceness values range at least from −20 (process has high priority and gets more resources, thus slowing down other processes) through 19 (process has lower priority and runs slowly itself, but has less impact on the speed of other running processes). Some systems may have a wider range of niceness values; conversely, other systems may enforce more restrictive limits. An attempt to set the niceness outside the supported range is treated as an attempt to use the minimum or maximum supported value.

A niceness should not be confused with a scheduling priority, which lets applications determine the order in which threads are scheduled to run. Unlike a priority, a niceness is merely advice to the scheduler, which the scheduler is free to ignore. Also, as a point of terminology, POSIX defines the behavior of nice in terms of a nice value, which is the non-negative difference between a niceness and the minimum niceness. Though nice conforms to POSIX, its documentation and diagnostics use the term “niceness” for compatibility with historical practice.

command must not be a special built-in utility (see Special built-in utilities).

Due to shell aliases and built-in nice functions, using an unadorned nice interactively or in a script may get you different functionality than that described here. Invoke it via env (i.e., env nice …) to avoid interference from the shell.

To change the niceness of an existing process, one needs to use the renice command.

The program accepts the following option. Also see Common options. Options must precede operands.

-n adjustment

Add adjustment instead of 10 to the command’s niceness. If adjustment is negative and you lack appropriate privileges, nice issues a warning but otherwise acts as if you specified a zero adjustment.

For compatibility nice also supports an obsolete option syntax -adjustment. New scripts should use -n adjustment instead.

nice is installed only on systems that have the POSIX setpriority function, so portable scripts should not rely on its existence on non-POSIX platforms.

Exit status:

0   if no command is specified and the niceness is output
125 if nice itself fails
126 if command is found but cannot be invoked
127 if command cannot be found
the exit status of command otherwise

It is sometimes useful to run a non-interactive program with reduced niceness.

$ nice factor 4611686018427387903

Since nice prints the current niceness, you can invoke it through itself to demonstrate how it works.

The default behavior is to increase the niceness by ‘10’:

$ nice
$ nice nice
$ nice -n 10 nice

The adjustment is relative to the current niceness. In the next example, the first nice invocation runs the second one with niceness 10, and it in turn runs the final one with a niceness that is 3 more:

$ nice nice -n 3 nice

Specifying a niceness larger than the supported range is the same as specifying the maximum supported value:

$ nice -n 10000000000 nice

Only a privileged user may run a process with lower niceness:

$ nice -n -1 nice
nice: cannot set niceness: Permission denied
$ sudo nice -n -1 nice