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I am running Ubuntu in console mode. Do I need console-kit-daemon to be started? What is it doing? Why is it necessary? Can I turn it off? How can I turn it off? And so on...

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No. ConsoleKit only manages console logins in graphical mode, so if you're not running X or a desktop environment it's OK to turn it off.

Here's a comment from this question showing how to disable console-kit-daemon:

To disable graphical mode console logins, you can remove /etc/X11/default-display-manager. Stop the running instance with stop gdm

Hope this answers your question.

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    I've been stopping console-kit-daemon on our servers where we don't use graphical logins. Didn't notice any issues. But one thing I wonder about, would X forwarding still work if we needed to use it? – Avindra Goolcharan Oct 2 '15 at 14:09
  • Yes, X forwarding should work fine to a server with no desktop manager. – Brian C. Apr 26 '17 at 14:06

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