On relay search we show an amber dot next to the relay nickname when this is overloaded. This means that one or many of the following load metrics have been triggered:

Note that if a relay reaches an overloaded state we show it for 72 hours after the relay has recovered.

If you notice that your relay is overloaded please:

  1. Check https://status.torproject.org/ for any known issues in the "Tor network" category.

  2. Consider tuning sysctl for your system for network, memory and CPU load.

  3. Consider enabling MetricsPort to understand what is happening.

Tuning sysctl for network, memory and CPU load

TCP port exhaustion

If you are experiencing TCP port exhaustion consider expanding your local port range. You can do that with

# sysctl -w net.ipv4.ip_local_port_range="15000 64000"

# echo 15000 64000 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_local_port_range

DNS timeout

If you are experiencing DNS timeout, you should investigate if this is a network or a resolver issue.

In Linux in resolve.conf there is an option to set a timeout:

  Sets  the  amount of time the resolver will wait for a response from a remote
  name server before retrying the query via a different name server.
  This may not be the total time taken by any resolver API call and there is no guarantee
  that a single resolver API call maps to a single timeout.
  Measured in seconds, the default is RES_TIMEOUT (currently 5, see <resolv.h>).
  The value for this option is silently capped to 30.

Check $ man resolve.conf for more information.


Consider enabling MetricsPort to understand what is happening.

MetricsPort data for relays has been introduced since version >=, while the overload data has been added to the relay descriptors since 0.4.6+.

It's important to understand that exposing the tor MetricsPort publicly is dangerous for the Tor network users.

Please take extra precaution and care when opening this port, and close it when you are done debugging. Set a very strict access policy with MetricsPortPolicy and consider using your operating systems firewall features for defense in depth.

Here is an example of what output enabling MetricsPort will produce:

‪# HELP tor_relay_load_onionskins_total Total number of onionskins handled
‪# TYPE tor_relay_load_onionskins_total counter
tor_relay_load_onionskins_total{type="tap",action="processed"} 0
tor_relay_load_onionskins_total{type="tap",action="dropped"} 0
tor_relay_load_onionskins_total{type="fast",action="processed"} 0
tor_relay_load_onionskins_total{type="fast",action="dropped"} 0
tor_relay_load_onionskins_total{type="ntor",action="processed"} 0
tor_relay_load_onionskins_total{type="ntor",action="dropped"} 0
‪# HELP tor_relay_exit_dns_query_total Total number of DNS queries done by this relay
‪# TYPE tor_relay_exit_dns_query_total counter
tor_relay_exit_dns_query_total{record="A"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_query_total{record="PTR"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_query_total{record="AAAA"} 0
‪# HELP tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total Total number of DNS errors encountered by this relay
‪# TYPE tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total counter
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="A",reason="success"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="A",reason="format"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="A",reason="serverfailed"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="A",reason="notexist"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="A",reason="notimpl"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="A",reason="refused"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="A",reason="truncated"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="A",reason="unknown"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="A",reason="timeout"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="A",reason="shutdown"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="A",reason="cancel"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="A",reason="nodata"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="PTR",reason="success"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="PTR",reason="format"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="PTR",reason="serverfailed"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="PTR",reason="notexist"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="PTR",reason="notimpl"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="PTR",reason="refused"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="PTR",reason="truncated"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="PTR",reason="unknown"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="PTR",reason="timeout"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="PTR",reason="shutdown"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="PTR",reason="cancel"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="PTR",reason="nodata"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="AAAA",reason="success"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="AAAA",reason="format"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="AAAA",reason="serverfailed"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="AAAA",reason="notexist"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="AAAA",reason="notimpl"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="AAAA",reason="refused"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="AAAA",reason="truncated"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="AAAA",reason="unknown"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="AAAA",reason="timeout"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="AAAA",reason="shutdown"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="AAAA",reason="cancel"} 0
tor_relay_exit_dns_error_total{record="AAAA",reason="nodata"} 0
‪# HELP tor_relay_load_tcp_exhaustion_total Total number of times we ran out of TCP ports
‪# TYPE tor_relay_load_tcp_exhaustion_total counter
tor_relay_load_tcp_exhaustion_total 0
‪# HELP tor_relay_load_socket_total Total number of sockets
‪# TYPE tor_relay_load_socket_total gauge
tor_relay_load_socket_total{state="opened"} 135
tor_relay_load_socket_total 1048544
‪# HELP tor_relay_load_oom_bytes_total Total number of bytes the OOM has freed by subsystem
‪# TYPE tor_relay_load_oom_bytes_total counter
tor_relay_load_oom_bytes_total{subsys="cell"} 0
tor_relay_load_oom_bytes_total{subsys="dns"} 0
tor_relay_load_oom_bytes_total{subsys="geoip"} 0
tor_relay_load_oom_bytes_total{subsys="hsdir"} 0
‪# HELP tor_relay_load_global_rate_limit_reached_total Total number of global connection bucket limit reached
‪# TYPE tor_relay_load_global_rate_limit_reached_total counter
tor_relay_load_global_rate_limit_reached_total{side="read"} 0
tor_relay_load_global_rate_limit_reached_total{side="write"} 0

Let's find out what some of these lines actually mean:

tor_relay_load_onionskins_total{type="ntor",action="dropped"} 0

When a relay starts seeing "dropped", it is a CPU/RAM problem usually.

Tor is sadly single threaded except for when the "onion skins" are processed. The "onion skins" are the cryptographic work that needs to be done on the famous "onion layers" in every circuits.

When tor processes the layers we use a thread pool and outsource all of that work to that pool. It can happen that this pool starts dropping work due to memory or CPU pressure and this will trigger an overload state.

If your server is running at capacity this will likely be triggered.


Any counter in the "*_dns_error_total" realm indicates a DNS problem.

DNS timeouts issues only apply to Exit nodes. If tor starts noticing DNS timeouts, you'll get the overload flag. This might not be because your relay is overloaded in terms of resources but it signals a problem on the network.

DNS timeouts at the Exits are a huge UX problem for tor users. Therefore Exit operators really need to address these issues to help the network.


An Out-Of-Memory invocation indicates a RAM problem. The relay might need more RAM or it is leaking memory. If you noticed that the tor process is leaking memory, please report the issue either via Tor gitLab or sending an email to the tor-relays mailing list.

Tor has its own OOM handler and it is invoked when 75%, of the total memory tor thinks is available, is reached. Thus, let say tor thinks it can use 2GB in total then at 1.5GB of memory usage, it will start freeing memory. That is considered an overload state.

To estimate the amount of memory it has available, when tor starts, it will use MaxMemInQueues or, if not set, will look at the total RAM available on the system and apply this algorithm:

    if RAM >= 8GB {
      memory = RAM * 40%
    } else {
      memory = RAM * 75%
    /* Capped. */
    memory = min(memory, 8GB) -> [8GB on 64bit and 2GB on 32bit)
    /* Minimum value. */
    memory = max(250MB, memory)

To avoid an overloaded state we recommend to run a relay above 2GB of RAM on 64bit. 4GB is advised, although of course it doesn't hurt to add more RAM if you can.

One might notice that tor could be called by the OS OOM handler itself. Because tor takes the total memory on the system when it starts, if the overall system has many other applications running using RAM, it ends up eating too much memory. In this case the OS could OOM tor, without tor even noticing memory pressure.


These lines indicate the relay is running out of sockets. The solution is to increase ulimit -n for the tor process.


These lines indicate the relay is running out of TCP ports.

Try to tune sysctl as described above.


If this counter is incremented by some noticeable value over a short period of time, the relay is congested. It is likely being used as a Guard by a big onion service or for an ongoing DDoS on the network.

If your relay is still overloaded and you don't know why, please get in touch with network-report@torproject.org. You can encrypt your email using network-report OpenPGP key.