JStack thread dump analyzer

A thread dump is a list of all the Java threads that are currently active in a Java Virtual Machine (JVM). There  are several ways to take thread dumps from a JVM. It is highly recommended to take more than 1 thread dump while analyzing any problem such as deadlock or resource usage analysis. It is always better to confirm in more than one thread dump then making conclusions in single attempt.

1. Get the PID of Java process

The first piece of information you will need to be able to obtain a thread dump is your java process’s PID.

The java JDK ships with the jps command which lists all java process ids. You can run this command like this:

$ jps -l

Remember – you may have to run this command as $ sudo -u jps -l, where “user” is the username of the user that the java process is running as.

Even now, if you are not able to find out process id, use below command:

$ ps -aef | grep java

2. Request a Thread Dump from the JVM

If installed/available, we recommend using the jstack tool. It prints thread dumps to the command line console.

To obtain thread dump using jstack, run the following command:

$ jstack

You can output consecutive thread dumps to a file by using the console output redirect / append directive:

$ jstack  >> threaddumps.log

Important points

  1. The jstack tool is available since JDK 1.5.
  2. jstack works even if the -Xrs jvm parameter is enabled.
  3. It’s not possible to use the jstack tool from JDK 1.6 to take threaddumps from a process running on JDK 1.5.

3. Thread dump sampling in fixed time intervals using jstack script

This simple shell script takes several jstack snapshots in fixed time intervals: [Reference document]


if [ $# -eq 0 ]; then
    echo >= 2 "Usage: jstackSeries  [ count [ delay ] ]"
    echo >= 2 "    Defaults: count = 10, delay = 1 (seconds)"
    exit 1

pid=$1          # required
count=${2:-10}  # defaults to 10 times
delay=${3:-1} # defaults to 1 second

while [ $count -gt 0 ]
    jstack $pid >jstack.$pid.$(date +%H%M%S.%N)
    sleep $delay
    let count--
    echo -n "."

Use above script like this:

$ jstackSeries  10 5

4. How to compare two JStack thread dumps

To compare thread dumps you may use interactive difference viewers, e.g.

$ vimdiff file1 file2 file3 file4 # up to 4 files

Another way to see what parts of the jstack trace are changing over time is to compare adjacent jstack trace using $ context diff (-c option):

for d in jstack.13585.12171*
  if [ -n "$d_old" ]
    diff -c "$d_old" "$d"

Here, the result shows only the places where the JStack thread dump changes from file to file.

Happy Learning !!

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9 thoughts on “JStack thread dump analyzer”

  1. we have installed java 1.7 but when we use jstack command it is saying as command not found
    we need to install jstack package using yum or rpm, also we need to set the JAVA_HOME and PATH
    Also if we want to set permanently what is the path

  2. Hi..
    My application is running on java 5 and when I tried to run jstack command it is saying command not found.

    I searched in /opt/java 1.5/bin folder I couldn’t see any jstack command.

    Where as when I see in java 6/bin folder I can see jstack command.

    Can you suggest me how to proceed.



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