Ask Ubuntu is a question and answer site for Ubuntu users and developers. It's 100% free.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I've installed ubuntu 10.10 x86_64 desktop version, which defaults to Xorg login

I want to temporarily switch this machine to server mode, basically i "suspect" this entails setting to runlevel 3 and headless mode somewhere

what are the details of this? Also very important is how do i re enable desktop mode again?

share|improve this question
there should be a really simple answer for this on linux, but it seems that ubuntu makes it really hard? – lurscher May 16 '11 at 2:01
Have you tried the solutions given below? I see no comment from you. – enzotib May 18 '11 at 14:47
you are right, i've added comments on each of the answers – lurscher May 18 '11 at 15:25
up vote 4 down vote accepted

If for headless or server mode you mean without graphical interface, it is sufficient to stop gdm:

sudo stop gdm

so that you remain only with virtual consoles.

To enable again the graphical login, start gdm:

sudo start gdm

Be aware that this can make your network stop working.

To avoid this it is probably enough to set the connection as a System connection in network manager

share|improve this answer
Another option is to pre-empt network-manager by configuring networking through /etc/network/interfaces. – bgvaughan May 16 '11 at 23:40
if i reboot the server it will still boot into gdm – lurscher May 18 '11 at 15:24
So you should clarify what you means by "temporary" in your question. My solution works without rebooting. If you want to stand without graphics even after reboot you should follow the answer by @Lorem above. – enzotib May 18 '11 at 15:27
thanks, i appreciate your answer. The reason i've added a bounty is because i was hoping someone would offer a solution using the actual runlevels; whatever scripts/interfaces uses ubuntu for them – lurscher May 18 '11 at 15:34
I think it should be possible to use runlevels, but not in the default configuration. Doing some modifications to the files in /etc/init and to links in /etc/rc*.d, so that, say, runlevel 3 corresponds to all common services without gdm, you can simply use telinit 3 to go to text-only mode. But I have not tested this, nor advices to do so. – enzotib May 18 '11 at 15:42

AFAIK Ubuntu doesn't use the runlevel, in fact the /etc/rc*.d directory are the same. If your goal is to not run Xorg automatically just edit /etc/default/grub and modify the line:



GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash text"

then type:

sudo update-grub

to switch back delete "text" and re-run sudo update-grub

share|improve this answer
this might be the better option given the above requirements, however i shudder at the thought that to do this i need to tinker with grub – lurscher May 18 '11 at 15:25
you could also add a custom grub menu item, so that you update-grub once and for all, and to switch to "headless" mode you only need to choose the correct item in the grub menu – enzotib May 18 '11 at 15:30
that would be acceptable – lurscher May 18 '11 at 15:33

Try running this command:

sudo telinit 2

That'll make the system go to runlevel 3, if you want to get back to "normal" re-run the command like this:

sudo telinit 5
share|improve this answer
after running sudo telinit 3 nothing happens. I reboot and i still get the X server login – lurscher May 9 '11 at 16:38
ubuntu uses 2 as default graphical runlevel, and 1 as single user mode. – enzotib May 9 '11 at 17:04
@enzotib, very non-SySV, but who cares right? so there is not a runlevel for headless server mode? – lurscher May 9 '11 at 17:35

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.