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Virtual Consoles

Often when a Linux computer's normal graphical desktop is completely broken, text-based logins are still working normally and are helpful for resolving the problem. If another computer is available you can log into the broken computer via ssh or putty. If not, you can switch to a text-based screen called a virtual console.

Press Ctrl-Alt-F1 on the broken computer and you should see a black screen with a login prompt. Once you have logged in here, you can run any Linux commands which don't use graphics. When you have finished, log out and press Alt-F7 to switch back to the graphical screen. Some problems are resolved just by switching to the virtual console and back again.

Note: On some versions of Linux the graphical session is on a different virtual console. If Ctrl-Alt-F1 fails then try Ctrl-Alt-F2 to switch to a virtual console and Alt-F1 to switch back. It's quite safe to play around with switching between virtual consoles. Just remember:

  • Ctrl-Alt-(function key) to switch from a graphical screen
  • Alt-(function key) to switch from a text screen