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The priority or importance of a job is defined by it's nice number. A program with a high nice number is friendly to other programs, other users and the system; it is not an important job. The lower the nice number, the more important a job is and the more resources it will take without sharing them.

Making a job nicer by increasing its nice number is only useful for processes that use a lot of CPU time (compilers, math applications and such). Processes that always use a lot of I/O time are automatically rewarded by the system and given a higher priority (a lower nice number), for example keyboard input always gets highest priority on a system.

Defining the priority of a program is done with the nice command.

Most systems also provide the BSD renice command, which allows you to change the niceness of a running command. Again, read the man page for your system-specific information.

Caution Interactive programs

It is NOT a good idea to nice or renice an interactive program or a job running in the foreground.

Use of these commands is usually a task for the system administrator. Read the man page for more info on extra functionality available to the system administrator.

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