Ubuntu: Boot to Runlevel 3


I am running Ubuntu Server, and just installed the gnome desktop on there (I neeeded to run an application that would only work in a graphical interface). However, now the server boots to the GUI every time. I need the server to boot to the command line (runlevel 3). According to several articles that I've read, Ubuntu does not use the standard runlevels. What file do I need to modify in order to boot to runlevel 3 (or whatever the Ubuntu equivalent is)?


Theoretically, if Ubuntu were compliant with UNIX and Linux standard, adding '3' to grub's 'kernel' command in /boot/grub/menu.lst should have been sufficient, because runlevel '3' means no 'X11' according to this standard.

Unfortunately, Ubuntu has ignored the standard and that's why you'll need to change /etc/init/lightdm.conf or /etc/init/gdm.conf (or whatever DM you use) as well. This is how mine "on start" condition looks like:

start on ((filesystem         and runlevel [!06]         and runlevel [!03]         and started dbus         and plymouth-ready)        or runlevel PREVLEVEL=S)  

In Grub's menu.lst I've also added a menu item that allows me to boot to runlevel 3:

title           Ubuntu 11.10 Server No UI, kernel 3.0.0-32-generic-pae  root            (hd0,0)  kernel          /vmlinuz-3.0.0-32-generic-pae root=UUID=your-root-disk-id 3 ro  initrd          /initrd.img-3.0.0-32-generic-pae  quiet      title           Ubuntu 11.10, kernel 3.0.0-32-generic-pae  root            (hd0,0)  kernel          /vmlinuz-3.0.0-32-generic-pae root=your-root-disk-id ro  initrd          /initrd.img-3.0.0-32-generic-pae  quiet  

Now I can chose between booting to runlevel 5 with X11 or to runlevel 3 without it.


I think there is a good answer here (askubuntu.com)

Just to answer your question on how tho change runlevel. Edit the file /etc/init/rc-sysinit.conf and change this line.


But changing runlevel won't stop X. Look at the start condition for ligthdm:

start on ((filesystem         and runlevel [!06]         and started dbus         and (drm-device-added card0 PRIMARY_DEVICE_FOR_DISPLAY=1              or stopped udev-fallback-graphics))        or runlevel PREVLEVEL=S)  

You need change the start condition in the /etc/init/XXX file to something than isn't met, e.g. a higher runlevel than you use. XXX is the display manager you use, e.g. lightdm.conf, gdm.conf, failsafe-x.conf.


Here is deep instrtuction for runlevels - http://sysadmin.te.ua/linux/linux-boot.html


The following is for Ubuntu Server 12 LTS

First you need open a real term with CTRL+ALT F1 and login.

Stop gdm with.

$ sudo service gdm stop  

Remove gdm you dont need it at all on a server.

$ sudo apt-get remove gdm  

Set next boot runlevel with.

$ sudo telinit 3  

Without gdm you will need to install xinit if you want to still be able to run gui based apps without the gdm window manager.

$ sudo apt-get install xinit  

Reboot to runlevel 3.

$ sudo reboot  

To run a GUI or desktop after reboot do.

$ startx  

This will start your gnome session as normal.

When finished simply logout of your desktop to and drop you back to a level 3 term

Also you can now start individual apps without a desktop too like.

$ startx nautilus  

or privileged with

$ startx sudo synaptic  


it's quite simple, (I'm using 15.10 so depending on your release you might need to turn off gdm instead of lightdm)

  1. turn off the your display manager for the desired runlevel (for me 3)

    sudo update-rc.d lightdm stop 3  
  2. tell grub to boot runlevel 3 by default

    sudo vim /etc/defaults/grub  

    and change



  3. update your grub config

    sudo update-grub  
  4. reboot the box or run

    sudo service lightdm stop  


I was trying to install NVIDIA graphic card driver and CUDA toolkit, and the installation guide says "Reboot into text mode (runlevel 3)". After searching around, I discovered that runlevel 3 is not necessary, as long as it is text mode and GUI is not running. For this purpose, the following link solved my problem:


Note:If u also have question or solution just comment us below or mail us on toontricks1994@gmail.com
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