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Introduction to Linux

By Machtelt Garrels

4.2.5. Init run levels

The idea behind operating different services at different run levels essentially revolves around the fact that different systems can be used in different ways. Some services cannot be used until the system is in a particular state, or mode , such as being ready for more than one user or having networking available.

There are times in which you may want to operate the system in a lower mode. Examples are fixing disk corruption problems in run level 1 so no other users can possibly be on the system, or leaving a server in run level 3 without an X session running. In these cases, running services that depend upon a higher system mode to function does not make sense because they will not work correctly anyway. By already having each service assigned to start when its particular run level is reached, you ensure an orderly start up process, and you can quickly change the mode of the machine without worrying about which services to manually start or stop.

Available run levels are generally described in /etc/inittab , which is partially shown below:


   

 
 #
 # inittab This file describes how the INIT process should set up
 # the system in a certain run-level.
 
 # Default runlevel. The runlevels 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:
 <--cut-->
 

Feel free to configure runlevels 2 and 4 as you see fit. Many users configure those runlevels in a way that makes the most sense for them while leaving the standard runlevels 3 and 5 alone. This allows them to quickly move in and out of their custom configuration without disturbing the normal set of features at the standard runlevels.

If your machine gets into a state where it will not boot due to a bad /etc/inittab or will not let you log in because you have a corrupted /etc/passwd file (or if you have simply forgotten your password), boot into single-user mode.


       No graphics?
        

When you are working in text mode because you didn't get presented a graphical login screen on the console of your machine, you can normally switch to console 7 or up to have a graphical login. If this is not the case, check the current run level using the command who -r . If it is set to something else than 5, chances are that the system does not start up in graphical mode by default. Contact your system administrator or read man init in that case. Note that switching run levels is done preferably using the telinit command; switching from a text to a graphical console or vice versa does not involve a run level switch.

The discussion of run levels, scripts and configurations in this guide tries to be as general as possible. Lots of variations exist. For instance, Gentoo Linux stores scripts in /etc/runlevels . Other systems might first run through (a) lower runlevel(s) and execute all the scripts in there before arriving at the final runlevel and executing those scripts. Refer to your system documentation for more information.

4.2.5.1. Tools

The chkconfig or update-rc.d utilities, when installed on your system, provide a simple command-line tool for maintaining the /etc/init.d directory hierarchy. These relieve system administrators from having to directly manipulate the numerous symbolic links in the directories under /etc/rc[x].d .

In addition, some systems offer the ntsysv tool, which provides a text-based interface; you may find this easier to use than chkconfig 's command-line interface. On SuSE Linux, you will find the yast and insserv tools. For Mandrake easy configuration, you may want to try DrakConf , which allows among other features switching between run levels 3 and 5. In Mandriva this became the Mandriva Linux COntrol Center .

Most distributions provide a graphical user interface for configuring

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