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I've been looking on the Internet for an answer and haven't found a concrete one. If I want to change the runlevel it is okay to use just init or do I always have to call it through telinit.

I've read that telinit is in fact a symlink to init. If this is correct, can I use them interchangeably?

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The manual page telinit(8) answers your question: use telinit.

telinit may be used to change the system runlevel.

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It should be fine to change the runlevel with either one. As init is supposed to check if it is the real init process. Or just a telinit, by checking if it's pid is one, not by the name of the file.

So yes, you should be able to use them interchangeably.

However, I cannot guarantee there are no non-conforming systems, where this will not work out. It is best to check yourself if it works as intended on your install.

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init is the primary process that is the parent to all other processes. It starts at boot and checks out your /etc/inittab and a bunch of other settings. It also has the notion of the runlevel and knows, from your /etc/init.d settings for instance, which processes to start/stop when you switch between runlevels.

telinit is a smaller tool that informs init when it needs to switch runlevels. So you can use "telinit" to "tell init" that it needs to switch runlevel.

A quick example: when you boot into graphical mode (runlevel 5), init will start and launch all programs associated for runlevel 5 (itself being the parent process of all those). When you then ask to shutdown the machine, telinit will inform the -still running- init process that it needs to switch to runlevel 6 (for reboot) or 0 (for system halt).

See "man init" for details on runlevels.

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