Portage niceness

From Gentoo Wiki
Jump to:navigation Jump to:search

This article describes some configuration options available for system administrators to help manage Portage's resource usage.

Starting with sys-apps/portage-3.0.35 the preferred way to de-prioritize Portage build jobs is by using scheduling policy configuration.

Scheduling policy

The scheduling policy control is supported starting with sys-apps/portage-3.0.35
Musl doesn't support scheduling policies. See bug #904502.

Using Portage's scheduling policy, it is possible to define what scheduling policy the Linux kernel will apply to emerge itself and all the build jobs. System administrators who wish to minimize Portage's impact on system responsiveness should set scheduling policy to idle. This will significantly reduce the disruption to the rest of the system by scheduling Portage processes as extremely low priority. The idle policy is order of magnitude lower than anything running with PORTAGE_NICENESS set to level of 19.

For example, to set the idle scheduling policy:

FILE /etc/portage/make.confSet PORTAGE_SCHEDULING_POLICY to idle
# Extremely low priority
The idle scheduling policy does not support nice levels, meaning PORTAGE_SCHEDULING_POLICY can be set to idle to then omit setting the PORTAGE_NICENESS variable all together.

The supported options are:

  • other
  • batch
  • idle
  • fifo
  • round-robin

See the sched(7) man page for more information on scheduler options.

For more information about Portage's scheduling ability, search for PORTAGE_SCHEDULING_POLICY in man 5 make.conf.

Portage "niceness"

If PORTAGE_SCHEDULING_POLICY is set to idle, as preferred and described in the previous section, this section is not needed.

Priority and nice values

The priority value (PR) of a process ranges from 0 to 139, giving high to low priority respectively. Real time process occupy 0 to 99 and user processes range of 100 to 139.

User process priority is defined in terms of the nice level (NI) plus 20 (NI + 20). The nice level therefore ranges from -20 to 19, which corresponds to a user process priority of 0 to 39 and a PR value of 100 to 139. For example, giving a process a nice value of 0 translates into a PR of 120.

Controlling priority

Linux has a few options to control system responsiveness by limiting a process' use of resources, including nice (which is POSIX, not Linux-exclusive), ionice, and chrt. The interaction between these is complicated and it's usually hard to reason about.

In short:

  • nice controls priority with regard to the CPU scheduler
  • ionice controls priority with regard to the disk I/O scheduler
  • chrt is like an extended nice - it can change attributes of the process(es) which the CPU scheduler utilizes, rather than just the simplistic 'niceness' level, like priority/task class.

Resources online also cover the distinction between nice and chrt.

In any case, all three are valuable tools in making Portage run smoothly in the background without interfering with general system usage from other processes. Anecdotally, chrt seems to make the most difference.


The /etc/portage/make.conf variables mentioned here don't allow running multiple commands by themselves, so if desired, PORTAGE_IONICE_COMMAND can point to a wrapper script. This issue is tracked as bug #565418.


FILE /etc/portage/make.conf
# Extremely low priority (per above)
# Lowest priority
PORTAGE_IONICE_COMMAND="ionice -c 3 -p \${PID}"

See also