In this article, learn to shut down or reboot your Linux system, warn users that the system is going down, and switch to single-user mode or a more or less restrictive runlevel. Learn to:
- Set the default runlevel
- Change between runlevels
- Change to single-user mode
- Shut down or reboot the system from the command line
- Alert users about major system events, including switching to another runlevel
- Terminate processes properly
Unless otherwise noted, the examples in this article use a Fedora 8 system with a 2.6.26 kernel. The upstart examples use Fedora 13 with a 2.6.34 kernel, or Ubuntu 10.10 with a 2.6.35 kernel. The systemd examples use Fedora 17 with a 3.4.4 kernel. Your results on other systems may differ.
This article helps you prepare for Objective 101.3 in Topic 101 of the Linux Professional Institute's Junior Level Administration (LPIC-1) exam 101. The objective has a weight of 3.
Note: This article includes material for the LPI Exam 101: Objective Changes as of July 2, 2012.
To get the most from the articles in this series, you should have a basic knowledge of Linux and a working Linux system on which to practice the commands covered in this article. Sometimes different versions of a program will format output differently, so your results may not always look exactly like the listings and figures shown here. In particular, the newer upstart and systemd systems are changing many things that might be familiar to users of the traditional System V init process (see Beyond Init for details). This article is directed primarily at the traditional System V init process, with brief overviews of the how upstart and systemd differ.
Runlevels define what tasks can be accomplished in the current state (or runlevel) of a Linux system. Every Linux system supports three basic runlevels, plus one or more runlevels for normal operation. The basic runlevels are shown in Table 1.
Table 1. Linux basic runlevels
|0||Shut down (or halt) the system|
|1||Single-user mode; usually aliased as s or S|
|6||Reboot the system|
Beyond the basics, runlevel usage differs among distributions. One common usage set is shown in Table 2.
Table 2. Other common Linux runlevels
|2||Multiuser mode without networking|
|3||Multiuser mode with networking|
|5||Multiuser mode with networking and the X Window System|
The Slackware distribution uses runlevel 4 instead of 5 for a full system running the X Window system. Debian and derivatives, such as Ubuntu, use a single runlevel for any multiuser mode, typically runlevel 2. Be sure to consult the documentation for your distribution.
When a Linux system starts, the default runlevel is determined from the
id: entry in /etc/inittab. Listing 1 illustrates a typical entry for a system such
as Fedora 8 or openSUSE 11.2, both of which use runlevel 5 for the X
Listing 1. Default runlevel in /etc/inittab
[root@pinguino ~]# grep "^id:" /etc/inittab id:5:initdefault:
Edit this value if you want your system to start in a different runlevel, say runlevel 3.
There are several ways to change runlevels. To make a permanent change, you can edit /etc/inittab and change the default level as you just saw above.
If you only need to bring the system up in a different runlevel for one boot, you can do this. For example, suppose you just installed a new kernel and need to build some kernel modules after the system booted with the new kernel, but before you start the X Window System. You might want to bring up the system in runlevel 3 to accomplish this. You do this at boot time by editing the kernel line (GRUB) or adding a parameter after the selected system name (LILO). Use a single digit to specify the desired runlevel (3, in this case). We'll illustrate the process with a GRUB example. Suppose your /boot/grub/menu.lst file contains the stanza shown in Listing 2.
Listing 2. Typical GRUB stanza to boot Fedora 8
title Fedora (126.96.36.199-57.fc8) root (hd0,5) kernel /boot/vmlinuz-188.8.131.52-57.fc8 ro root=LABEL=FEDORA8 rhgb quiet initrd /boot/initrd-184.108.40.206-57.fc8.img
To bring this system up in runlevel 3, wait till the boot entries are displayed, select this entry and enter 'e' to edit the entry. Depending on your GRUB options, you may need to press a key to display the boot entries and also enter 'p' and a password to unlock editing. The GRUB screen on our Fedora 8 system looks like Figure 1.
Figure 1. Selecting a boot choice in GRUB
In this example, you should now see the root, kernel, and initrd lines displayed. Move the cursor to the line starting with "kernel" and press 'e' to edit the line. The GRUB screen on our Fedora 8 system now looks like Figure 2.
Figure 2. Selecting the kernel entry for editing
Finally, move the cursor to the end of the line, and add a space and the digit '3'. You may remove 'quiet' if you wish, or modify any other parameters as needed. The GRUB screen on our Fedora 8 system now looks like Figure 3.
Figure 3. Setting the starting runlevel to 3
Finally, press Enter to save the changes, then type 'b' to boot the system.
Note: The steps for doing this using LILO or GRUB2 differ from those for GRUB, but the basic principle of editing the way the kernel is started remains. Even GRUB screens on other systems or other distributions may look quite different to those shown here. Prompts will usually be available to help you.
Once you have finished your setup work in runlevel 3, you will probably
want to switch to runlevel 5. Fortunately, you do not need to reboot the
system. You can use the
telinit command to switch to another
runlevel. Use the
runlevel command to show both the previous
runlevel and the current one. If the first output character is 'N', the
runlevel has not been changed since the system was booted. Listing 3 illustrates verifying and
changing the runlevel.
Listing 3. Verifying and changing the runlevel
[root@pinguino ~]# runlevel N 3 [root@pinguino ~]# telinit 5
After you enter
telinit 5 you will see several messages
flash by and your display will switch to the configured graphical login
screen. Open a terminal window and verify that the runlevel has been
changed as shown in Listing 4.
Listing 4. Confirming the new runlevel
[root@pinguino ~]# runlevel 3 5
If you use the
ls command to display a long listing of the
telinit command, you will see that it really is a symbolic
link to the
init command. We illustrate this in Listing 5
Listing 5. telinit is really a symbolic link to init
[root@pinguino ~]# ls -l $(which telinit) lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 4 2008-04-01 07:50 /sbin/telinit -> init
init executable knows whether it was called as
telinit and behaves accordingly. Since
init runs as PID 1 at boot time, it is also smart enough to
know when you subsequently invoke it using
init rather than
telinit. If you do, it will assume you want it to behave as
if you had called
telinit instead. For example, you may use
init 5 instead of
telinit 5 to switch to
In contrast to personal computer operating systems such as DOS or Windows, Linux is inherently a multiuser system. However, there are times when that can be a problem, such as when you need to recover a major filesystem or database, or install and test some new hardware. Runlevel 1, or single-user mode, is your answer for these situations. The actual implementation varies by distribution, but you will usually start in a shell with only a minimal system. Usually there will be no networking and no (or very few) daemons running. On some systems, you must authenticate by logging in, but on others you go straight into a shell prompt as root. Single-user mode can be a lifesaver, but you can also destroy your system, so always be careful whenever you are running with root authority. Reboot to normal multiuser mode as soon as you are done.
As with switching to regular multiuser runlevels, you can also switch to
single-user mode using
telinit 1. As noted in Table 1, 's' and 'S' are aliases for
runlevel 1, so you could, for example, use
While you can use
init to stop
multiuser activity and switch to single-user mode, this can be rather
abrupt and cause users to lose work and processes to terminate abnormally.
The preferred method to shut down or reboot the system is to use the
shutdown command, which first sends a warning message to all
logged-in users and blocks any further logins. It then signals
init to switch runlevels. The
init process then
sends all running processes a SIGTERM signal, giving them a chance to save
data or otherwise properly terminate. After 5 seconds, or another delay if
init sends a SIGKILL signal to forcibly end each
shutdown switches to runlevel 1 (single-user
mode). You may specify the
-h option to halt the system, or
-r option to reboot. A standard message is issued in
addition to any message you specify. The time may be specified as an
absolute time in hh:mm format, or as a relative time, n,
where n is the number of minutes until shutdown. For immediate shutdown,
use now, which is equivalent to +0.
If you have issued a delayed shutdown and the time has not yet expired, you
may cancel the shutdown by pressing Ctrl-c if the command
is running in the foreground, or by issuing
shutdown with the
-c option to cancel a pending shutdown. Listing 6 shows several examples of the
shutdown, along with ways to cancel the command.
Listing 6. Shutdown examples
[root@pinguino ~]# shutdown 5 File system recovery needed Broadcast message from root (pts/1) (Tue Jan 4 08:05:24 2011): File system recovery needed The system is going DOWN to maintenance mode in 5 minutes! ^C Shutdown cancelled. [root@pinguino ~]# shutdown -r 10 Reloading updated kernel&  18784 [root@pinguino ~]# Broadcast message from root (pts/1) (Tue Jan 4 08:05:53 2011): Reloading updated kernel The system is going DOWN for reboot in 10 minutes! [root@pinguino ~]# fg shutdown -r 10 Reloading updated kernel ^C Shutdown cancelled. [root@pinguino ~]# shutdown -h 23:59&  18788 [root@pinguino ~]# shutdown -c Shutdown cancelled. + Done shutdown -h 23:59
You may have noticed that our last example did not cause a warning message
to be sent. If the time till shutdown exceeds 15 minutes, then the message
is not sent until 15 minutes before the event as shown in Listing 7. Listing 7 also shows the use of the
option to increase the default delay between SIGTERM and SIGKILL signals
from 5 seconds to 60 seconds.
Listing 7. Another shutdown example
[root@pinguino ~]# date;shutdown -t60 17 Time to do backups& Tue Jan 4 08:12:55 EST 2011  18825 [root@pinguino ~]# date Tue Jan 4 08:14:13 EST 2011 [root@pinguino ~]# Broadcast message from root (pts/1) (Tue Jan 4 08:14:55 2011): Time to do backups The system is going DOWN to maintenance mode in 15 minutes!
If you do cancel a shutdown, you should use the
to send a warning to all users alerting them to the fact that the system
is not going down.
As we said earlier, it is also possible to use
init) to shut down or reboot the system. As with other uses
telinit, no warning is sent to users, and the command
takes effect immediately, although there is still a delay between SIGTERM
and SIGKILL signals. For additional options of
shutdown, consult the appropriate man
Halt, reboot, and poweroff
You should know about a few more commands related to shutdown and reboot.
haltcommand halts the system.
poweroffcommand is a symbolic link to the
haltcommand, which halts the system and then attempts to power it off.
rebootcommand is another symbolic link to the
haltcommand, which halts the system and then reboots it.
If any of these are called when the system is not in runlevel 0 or 6, then
shutdown command will be invoked
For additional options that you may use with these commands, as well as more detailed information on their operation, consult the man page.
By now, you may be wondering why pressing Ctrl-Alt-Delete
on some systems causes a reboot, or how all this runlevel stuff is
configured. Remember the
id field in /etc/inittab? Well,
there are several other fields in /etc/inittab, along with a set of init
scripts in directories such as rc1.d or rc5.d, where the digit identifies
the runlevel to which the scripts in that directory apply. Listing 8 shows the full inittab from
our Fedora 8 system.
Listing 8. Full inittab from Fedora 8
# # inittab This file describes how the INIT process should set up # the system in a certain run-level. # # Author: Miquel van Smoorenburg, <email@example.com> # Modified for RHS Linux by Marc Ewing and Donnie Barnes # # Default runlevel. The runlevels used by RHS are: # 0 - halt (Do NOT set initdefault to this) # 1 - Single user mode # 2 - Multiuser, without NFS (The same as 3, if you do not have networking) # 3 - Full multiuser mode # 4 - unused # 5 - X11 # 6 - reboot (Do NOT set initdefault to this) # id:5:initdefault: # System initialization. si::sysinit:/etc/rc.d/rc.sysinit l0:0:wait:/etc/rc.d/rc 0 l1:1:wait:/etc/rc.d/rc 1 l2:2:wait:/etc/rc.d/rc 2 l3:3:wait:/etc/rc.d/rc 3 l4:4:wait:/etc/rc.d/rc 4 l5:5:wait:/etc/rc.d/rc 5 l6:6:wait:/etc/rc.d/rc 6 # Trap CTRL-ALT-DELETE ca::ctrlaltdel:/sbin/shutdown -t3 -r now # When our UPS tells us power has failed, assume we have a few minutes # of power left. Schedule a shutdown for 2 minutes from now. # This does, of course, assume you have powerd installed and your # UPS connected and working correctly. pf::powerfail:/sbin/shutdown -f -h +2 "Power Failure; System Shutting Down" # If power was restored before the shutdown kicked in, cancel it. pr:12345:powerokwait:/sbin/shutdown -c "Power Restored; Shutdown Cancelled" # Run gettys in standard runlevels 1:2345:respawn:/sbin/mingetty tty1 2:2345:respawn:/sbin/mingetty tty2 3:2345:respawn:/sbin/mingetty tty3 4:2345:respawn:/sbin/mingetty tty4 5:2345:respawn:/sbin/mingetty tty5 6:2345:respawn:/sbin/mingetty tty6 # Run xdm in runlevel 5 x:5:respawn:/etc/X11/prefdm -nodaemon
As usual, lines starting with # are comments. Other lines have several
fields with the following
- is a unique identifier of one to four characters. Older versions limited this to two characters, so you will often see only two characters used.
- lists the runlevels for which the action for this id should be taken. If no runlevels are listed, do the action for all runlevels.
- describes which of several possible actions should be taken
- tells which process, if any, should be run when the action on this line is performed.
Some of the common actions that may be specified in /etc/inittab are shown in Table 3. See the man pages for inittab for other possibilities.
Table 3. Some common inittab actions
|respawn||Restart the process whenever it terminates. Usually used for getty processes, which monitor for logins.|
|wait||Start the process once when the specified runlevel is entered and wait for its termination before init proceeds.|
|once||Start the process once when the specified runlevel is entered.|
|initdefault||Specifies the runlevel to enter after system boot.|
|ctrlaltdel||Execute the associated process when init receives the SIGINT signal, for example, when someone on the system console presses CTRL-ALT-DEL.|
Listing 9 shows just the entry for Ctrl-Alt-Delete from Listing 8. So now you see why pressing Ctrl-Alt-Delete causes the system to be rebooted.
Listing 9. Trapping Ctrl-Alt-Delete
# Trap CTRL-ALT-DELETE ca::ctrlaltdel:/sbin/shutdown -t3 -r now
You may have noticed several lines in Listing 8, such as
In this example,
init will run the
script (or command) with the parameter of
5 whenever runlevel
5 is entered.
init will wait until this command completes
before doing anything else.
These scripts used by
init when starting the system, changing
runlevels, or shutting down are typically stored in the /etc/init.d or
/etc/rc.d directory. A series of symbolic links in the rcn.d
directories, one directory for each runlevel n, control whether a
script is started when entering a runlevel or stopped when leaving it.
These links start with either a K or an S, followed by a two-digit number
and then the name of the service, as shown in Listing 10.
Listing 10. Init scripts
[root@pinguino ~]# find /etc -path "*rc[0-9]*.d/???au*" /etc/rc.d/rc2.d/S27auditd /etc/rc.d/rc2.d/K72autofs /etc/rc.d/rc4.d/S27auditd /etc/rc.d/rc4.d/S28autofs /etc/rc.d/rc5.d/S27auditd /etc/rc.d/rc5.d/S28autofs /etc/rc.d/rc0.d/K72autofs /etc/rc.d/rc0.d/K73auditd /etc/rc.d/rc6.d/K72autofs /etc/rc.d/rc6.d/K73auditd /etc/rc.d/rc1.d/K72autofs /etc/rc.d/rc1.d/K73auditd /etc/rc.d/rc3.d/S27auditd /etc/rc.d/rc3.d/S28autofs [root@pinguino ~]# cd /etc/rc.d/rc5.d [root@pinguino rc5.d]# ls -l ???a* lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 16 2008-04-07 11:29 S27auditd -> ../init.d/auditd lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 16 2008-04-01 07:51 S28autofs -> ../init.d/autofs lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 15 2008-04-01 14:03 S44acpid -> ../init.d/acpid lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 13 2008-04-01 07:50 S95atd -> ../init.d/atd lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 22 2008-04-01 07:54 S96avahi-daemon -> ../init.d/avahi-daemon lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 17 2008-11-17 13:40 S99anacron -> ../init.d/anacron
Here you see that the
have Knn entries in all runlevels and Snn entries for
both in runlevels 3 and 5. The S indicates that the service is started
when that runlevel is entered, while the K entry indicates that it should
be stopped. The nn component of the link name indicates the
priority order in which the service should be started or stopped. In this
audit is started before
autofs, and it
is stopped later.
Consult the man pages for
As we have seen here, the traditional method of booting a Linux system is
based on the UNIX System V init process. It involves loading an initial
RAM disk (initrd) and then passing control to a program called
init, a program that is usually installed as part of the
sysvinit package. The
init program is the first process in the system and has PID
(Process ID) 1. It runs a series of scripts in a predefined order to bring
up the system. If something that is
expected is not available, the init process typically waits until it is.
While this worked adequately for systems where everything is known and
connected when the system starts, modern systems with hot-pluggable
devices, network file systems, and even network interfaces that may not be
available at start time present new challenges. Certainly, waiting for
hardware that may not come available for a long time, or even just a
relatively long time, is not desirable.
In the following sections of this article we will describe two alternatives to System V init, upstart and systemd.
A new initialization process called upstart was first introduced in Ubuntu 6.10 ("Edgy Eft") in 2006. Fedora 9 through 14 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 6 use upstart, as do distributions derived from these. Upstart has now supplanted the init process in Ubuntu among others, although vestiges of init remain and the full power of upstart may not be realized for some time yet.
In contrast to the static set of init scripts used in earlier systems, the upstart system is driven by events. Events may be triggered by hardware changes, starting or stopping or tasks, or by any other process on the system. Events are used to trigger tasks or services, collectively known as jobs. So, for example, connecting a USB drive might cause the udev service to send a block-device-added event, which would cause a defined task to check /etc/fstab and mount the drive if appropriate. As another example, an Apache web server may be started only when both a network and required filesystem resources are available.
The upstart initialization program replaces /sbin/init. Upstart jobs are defined in the /etc/init directory and its subdirectories. The upstart system will currently process /etc/inittab and System V init scripts. On systems such as recent Fedora releases, /etc/inittab is likely to contain only the id entry for the initdefault action. Recent Ubuntu systems do not have /etc/inittab by default, although you can create one if you want to specify a default runlevel.
Upstart also has the initctl command to allow interaction with the upstart
init daemon. This allows you to start or stop jobs, list jobs, get status
of jobs, emit events, restart the init process, and so on. Listing 11 shows how to use
initctl to obtain a list of upstart jobs on a Fedora 13
Listing 11. Interacting with upstart init daemon using initctl
[ian@echidna ~]$ initctl list rc stop/waiting tty (/dev/tty3) start/running, process 1486 tty (/dev/tty2) start/running, process 1484 tty (/dev/tty6) start/running, process 1492 tty (/dev/tty5) start/running, process 1490 tty (/dev/tty4) start/running, process 1488 plymouth-shutdown stop/waiting control-alt-delete stop/waiting system-setup-keyboard start/running, process 1000 readahead-collector stop/waiting vpnc-cleanup stop/waiting quit-plymouth stop/waiting rcS stop/waiting prefdm start/running, process 1479 init-system-dbus stop/waiting ck-log-system-restart stop/waiting readahead stop/waiting ck-log-system-start stop/waiting start-ttys stop/waiting readahead-disable-services stop/waiting ck-log-system-stop stop/waiting rcS-sulogin stop/waiting serial stop/waiting
To learn more about upstart, see Resources.
Another new initialization system called systemd is also emerging. Systemd was developed by Lennart Poettering in early 2010. He described the rationale and design in a blog post (see Resources. It has been adopted for Fedora 15, openSUSE 12.1 and Mandriva 2011 among others.
Many daemon processes communicate using sockets. In order to gain speed and enhance parallelism in the system startup, systemd creates these sockets at startup, but only starts the associated task when a connection request for services on that socket is received. In this way, services can be started only when they are first required and not necessarily at system initialization. Services that need some other facility will block until it is available, so only those services that are waiting for some other process need block while that process starts.
Extending the idea of waiting for services systemd uses autofs to define mount points, so the mount point for a file system is available, but the actual mount may be delayed until some process attempts to open a file on the file system or otherwise use it.
These ideas not only delay startup of services until needed, they also reduce the need for dependency checking between services, as the interface for the service can be ready long before the service itself needs to be available.
Like upstart, systemd can process existing initialization from /etc/inittab. It can also process /etc/fstab to control file system mounting. Native systemd initialization revolves around the concept of units, which can be grouped into control groups or cgroups.
- Service units are daemons that can be started, stopped, restarted, reloaded.
- Socket units encapsulate a socket in the file-system or on the Internet.
- Device units encapsulate a device in the Linux device tree.
- Mount units encapsulate a mount point in the file system hierarchy.
- Automount units encapsulate an automount point in the file system hierarchy.
- Target units group other units together, providing a single control unit for multiple other units.
- Snapshot units reference other units and can be used to save and roll back the state of all services and units of the init system, for example during suspend.
Units are configured using a configuration file which includes the unit
type as a suffix. For example, cups.service, rpcbind.socket or
getty.target. The location of system configuration files, for example
/etc/systemd/system can be determined using the
command as shown in Listing 11 which
shows the location on a Fedora 17 system. Systemd also checks
/usr/local/lib/systemd/system and /usr/lib/systemd/system for
Listing 12. Locating the systemd system configuration directory
[ian@attic4 ~]$ pkg-config systemd --variable=systemdsystemconfdir /etc/systemd/system
systemctl command allows you to interrogate and control
the systemd daemon, including starting and stopping units or listing their
status. Listing 13 illustrates the
systemctl to display the status of systemd units.
Listing 13. Partial output from systemctl
[ian@attic4 ~]$ systemctl --no-pager UNIT LOAD ACTIVE SUB JOB DESCRIPTION proc-sys...misc.automount loaded active running Arbitrary Executable File sys-devi...et-eth0.device loaded active plugged RTL8111/8168B PCI Express sys-devi...da-sda1.device loaded active plugged WDC_WD6401AALS-00L3B2 sys-devi...a-sda10.device loaded active plugged WDC_WD6401AALS-00L3B2 sys-devi...a-sda11.device loaded active plugged WDC_WD6401AALS-00L3B2 sys-devi...a-sda12.device loaded active plugged WDC_WD6401AALS-00L3B2 sys-devi...da-sda2.device loaded active plugged WDC_WD6401AALS-00L3B2 ... systemd-...ssions.service loaded active exited Permit User Sessions systemd-...-setup.service loaded active exited Setup Virtual Console tcsd.service loaded failed failed LSB: Init script for TCSD udev-settle.service loaded active exited udev Wait for Complete Dev udev-trigger.service loaded active exited udev Coldplug all Devices udev.service loaded active running udev Kernel Device Manager udisks2.service loaded active running Storage Daemon upower.service loaded active running Daemon for power managemen avahi-daemon.socket loaded active listening Avahi mDNS/DNS-SD Stack Ac cups.socket loaded active running CUPS Printing Service Sock ... syslog.target loaded active active Syslog systemd-...ted-ntp.target loaded active active Network Time Protocol systemd-...ead-done.timer loaded active elapsed Stop Read-Ahead Data Colle systemd-...es-clean.timer loaded active waiting Daily Cleanup of Temporary LOAD = Reflects whether the unit definition was properly loaded. ACTIVE = The high-level unit activation state, i.e. generalization of SUB. SUB = The low-level unit activation state, values depend on unit type. JOB = Pending job for the unit. 132 units listed. Pass --all to see inactive units, too.
To learn more about systemd, see Resources.
This completes your introduction to Linux runlevels, shutdown, and reboot.
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