Grub entry to start without X

T. 'Nifty New Hat' Mitchell mitch48 at
Fri Jun 18 05:34:36 UTC 2004

> Alexander Dalloz wrote:
> >Of course if you want to boot up into runlevel 3 always, then changing
> >
> >the inittab entry is the correct way. You are right. I just didn't
> >understand the OP in this way. Maybe because I see Fedora as a desktop
> >system and when someone wants to run a CLI system why then did he
> >install an X server?
> >
> >As always: multiple possible routes and different opinions :)

On Thu, Jun 17, 2004 at 06:07:50PM -0400, Carnal Ortega wrote:
> Out of habit I boot into runlevel 3 by default because I feel runlevel 5 
> is like windows. What I mean by that is if video problems occur or any 
> situation where X crashes in runlevel 5 the user will most likely be 
> forced to reboot his system whereis if it occured in runlevel 3 the user 
> would be dumped to the console where he can restart x instead.

The use of grub to set the run level is less interesting than
setting it in the natural place, /etc/inittab.

In /etc/inittab look for this line.


You can read the comments about run levels and change it to


When in run level 3 you can do the "startx" thing.

I like run level 3 and 'startx' for those smaller systems that run as
under powered gateways, firewalls, mail servers and have no normal
user.  Starting X by hand saves enough memory on such systems to

If X crashes in runlevel 5 or runlevel 3 the ability to be dumped into
the console is effectively the same so there is almost no difference
for most of us with the exception of tinkering with hardware case.

Remember that there are alternate text based logins in addition to the
normal X login if you do the Ctl-Alt-F1 thing. Commonly there are five
of these Ctl-Alt-Fn logins.

Now if you inadvertently install a video driver that gets loaded by X
and that bad driver wedges the system every time it is good to know
how to invoke alternate run levels from grub.  This can be done by
appending the number for the run level at the end of the grub line.  When
grub presents it's list of kernels to boot you  have the option of
typing a.  This presents you with a minimal bash like command line
editor and you can add the runlevel number to the end of the grub line
and override the level in inittab. 

You will see a line that looks a bit like this:

      kernel /vmlinuz-2.4.22-1.2188.nptl ro root=LABEL=/ acpi=off noapic

now you can force run level 3 by adding a 3 at the end thus:

      kernel /vmlinuz-2.4.22-1.2188.nptl ro root=LABEL=/ acpi=off noapic 3

This change is temporary but can save your bacon when things are messed up.
If you are thinking of editing /boot/grub/grub.conf think twice.  The natural
place for setting the run level in /etc/inittab.

The install instructions for nVidia cards advise run level 3 because
the procedure to probe and install their card does not play well when
the same hardware is being used by another driver.  Much the same
issue applies to any driver, disk, network, video, whatever.

	T o m  M i t c h e l l 
	/dev/null the ultimate in secure storage.

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