About this Install Guide

This guide is intended to get you up and running with this tool quickly with the most common settings. For a thorough review of all options, refer to the official documentation.

Linux Perf is a command line performance analysis tool. The source code is part of the Linux kernel and Perf is connected to the perf_events kernel interface. Perf is used to count events from hardware and software and to identify hot spots.

Perf can be used on a wide variety of Arm Linux systems including laptops, desktops, cloud virtual machines, Windows on Arm with WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux), and ChromeOS with Linux enabled.

Perf is best installed using a Linux package manager, but if a suitable package is not available you can build it from source code. Both situations are covered below.

Before you begin

Follow the instructions below to install Perf on an Arm Linux system.

Confirm you are using an Arm machine by running:

    

        
        
            uname -m
        
    

The output should be:

    

        
        aarch64

        
    

If you see a different result, you are not using an Arm computer running 64-bit Linux.

Perf is dependent on the version of the Linux kernel.

To find your version run:

    

        
        
            uname -r
        
    

The output will be a string with the first two numbers providing the major and minor kernel version numbers.

For example:

    

        
        5.15.0-79-generic

        
    

This indicates kernel version 5.15.

Install Perf

The Perf source code is part of the Linux kernel source tree.

There are two ways to install Perf on Arm Linux machines:

Use a Linux package manager

If a package exists for your specific kernel version you can install Perf using the package manager.

Use the tabs below and copy the commands for your Linux package manager:

    

        
        
            
sudo apt update && sudo apt install linux-tools-generic linux-tools-$(uname -r) -y 
  
        
    
    

        
        
            
sudo apt install linux-perf -y
  
        
    
    

        
        
            
sudo dnf install perf -y
  
        
    

If the package manager completes successfully you can skip the next section and proceed to test Perf.

If the package manager does not complete successfully, it usually means there was no package available for your specific kernel version as shown by uname -r.

There are hundreds of packages, and the package name must match the output of uname -r exactly. This is most common on Arm single board computers (SBCs) where the Linux kernel has been customized.

If there is no match, you can install Perf using the source code as described in the next section .

Build the source code

If there is no package available for your kernel version you can build Perf from source code.

Building Perf from source requires gcc, flex, bison, git, and make. Install these on your system.

For Debian and Ubuntu run:

    

        
        
            sudo apt install gcc flex bison make git -y
        
    

Use git to get the source code. Use --branch to specify the Linux kernel source tree closest to your kernel version.

For example, if your kernel version is 5.15, use:

    

        
        
            git clone --depth=1 --branch v5.15  git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/stable/linux.git
        
    

Change to the linux directory and build:

    

        
        
            cd linux
make -C tools/perf
        
    

If the build succeeds, a ready to use perf executable is available at tools/perf/perf

You can copy it to a location in your search path or run it from the current location.

To copy it use:

    

        
        
            sudo cp tools/perf/perf /usr/local/bin
        
    

Test Perf

Regardless of how you installed Perf, try the perf list command:

    

        
        
            perf list
        
    

Perf is installed correctly if you see a list of events similar to the output below:

    

        
        List of pre-defined events (to be used in -e or -M):

  cpu-cycles OR cycles                               [Hardware event]

  alignment-faults                                   [Software event]
  bpf-output                                         [Software event]
  cgroup-switches                                    [Software event]
  context-switches OR cs                             [Software event]
  cpu-clock                                          [Software event]
  cpu-migrations OR migrations                       [Software event]
  dummy                                              [Software event]
  emulation-faults                                   [Software event]
  major-faults                                       [Software event]
  minor-faults                                       [Software event]
  page-faults OR faults                              [Software event]
  task-clock                                         [Software event]

  duration_time                                      [Tool event]
  user_time                                          [Tool event]
  system_time                                        [Tool event]


branch:
  br_mis_pred
       [Mispredicted or not predicted branch speculatively executed]
  br_pred
       [Predictable branch speculatively executed]

        
    

Perf is not working correctly if you see output similar to the messages below. To fix the errors you need to build Perf from source .

Error #1:

    

        
        WARNING: perf not found for kernel 5.15.90.1-microsoft

  You may need to install the following packages for this specific kernel:
    linux-tools-5.15.90.1-microsoft-standard-WSL2
    linux-cloud-tools-5.15.90.1-microsoft-standard-WSL2

  You may also want to install one of the following packages to keep up to date:
    linux-tools-standard-WSL2
    linux-cloud-tools-standard-WSL2

        
    

Error #2:

    

        
        /usr/bin/perf: line 13: exec: perf_5.15: not found
E: linux-perf-5.15 is not installed.

        
    

Generate a test Perf report

Generate a simple Perf report. For example:

    

        
        
            perf stat -a pwd
        
    

The pwd command output will be shown as well as the report:

    

        
        Performance counter stats for 'system wide':

              2.72 msec cpu-clock                 #    2.205 CPUs utilized
                14      context-switches          #    5.147 K/sec
                 2      cpu-migrations            #  735.277 /sec
                76      page-faults               #   27.941 K/sec
           2380757      cycles                    #    0.875 GHz
           2651708      instructions              #    1.11  insn per cycle
   <not supported>      branches
             15058      branch-misses

       0.001233481 seconds time elapsed

        
    

If you see an error similar to:

    

        
        Access to performance monitoring and observability operations is limited.

        
    

You will need to modify the PMU access permissions .

PMU access permission

On some systems, using Perf to access hardware counters is restricted by the value of /proc/sys/kernel/perf_event_paranoid

Typically the value must be 2 or less to collect Perf metrics.

perf_event_paranoidDescription
3Disable use of Perf events
2Allow only user-space measurements
1Allow kernel and user-space measurements
0Allow access to CPU-specific data but not raw trace‚Äźpoint samples
-1No restrictions

To set this until the next reboot, run the following command:

    

        
        
            sudo sysctl -w kernel.perf_event_paranoid=2
        
    

To permanently set the paranoid level, add the following line to the file /etc/sysctl.conf

    

        
        
            kernel.perf_event_paranoid=2
        
    

Arm PMU driver

Arm systems use a kernel driver to expose PMU hardware counters. The driver needs to be enabled in the Linux kernel in order to collect the hardware events.

To check if the driver is running use the dmesg command:

    

        
        
            dmesg | grep "PMU driver"
        
    
Note

Depending on your system, you might need to use sudo to run the dmesg command.

If you see output similar to the message below, the Arm PMU driver is installed.

    

        
        [    0.046063] hw perfevents: enabled with armv8_pmuv3_0 PMU driver, 3 counters available

        
    

The number of counters available could be between 1 and 7 depending on processor types and virtualization.

If you see multiple instances of the PMU driver, it means the hardware is a big.LITTLE system with different processors, each has it’s own PMU.

If the message is not in the kernel message log, check both the PMU driver device tree entry and the kernel configuration parameters listed above.

The important kernel parameters are:

    

        
        CONFIG_HAVE_PERF_EVENTS=y
CONFIG_PROFILING=y
CONFIG_PERF_EVENTS=y
CONFIG_ARM_PMU=y
CONFIG_HW_PERF_EVENTS=y

        
    

You are now ready to use Perf on your Arm Linux system.


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