Switch boot target to multi user or GUI in Linux CentOS 8/RHEL9

by Jay

Systemd replaces init in the majority of contemporary Linux distributions. For Linux distributions like RHEL/CentOS, RockyLinux, Alma Linux, Arch, Debian, Ubuntu, and others, it is a collection of fundamental building components. Most distributions start in a GUI by default, but you can switch to text (multi-user) or vice versa.

switch boot target to multi user

Older Linux distributions shipped with SysV init or Upstart. A set of runlevels for the text, multi-user, and GUI systems were given by such an implementation. Runlevels are not used by systemd; instead, targets are used. When working with systemd targets, the steps to implement runlevel-like configuration are described on this page. In other words, you will learn how to use systemd rather than init levels on contemporary Linux distributions to switch between text and GUI mode.

Switching from Graphical to Text (multi-user) mode

To switch to a text mode runlevel in systemd, perform these steps:

  • Launch the terminal programme.
  • Use the ssh command to connect to remote Linux servers.
  • Identify the target unit that is default used by command systemctl get-default :
[root@TechArticles ~]# systemctl get-default
graphical.target

To switch to text mode for the boot target use this command systemctl set-default multi-user.target:

 [root@TechArticles ~]# systemctl set-default multi-user.target
Removed /etc/systemd/system/default.target.
Created symlink /etc/systemd/system/default.target → /usr/lib/systemd/system/multi-user.target.

You can verifiy the changed by running systemctl get-default

[root@TechArticles ~]# systemctl get-default
multi-user.target

Use the reboot command to restart the computer:

# reboot

How to Switch to a GUI as the Boot Target (Graphical User Interface)

Would you want to boot in GUI mode rather than console or text mode? Try:

  • Launch the Linux terminal programme.
  • Again, use the ssh command to connect to remote Linux servers.
  • Identify the target unit that is default used by command systemctl get-default :
[root@TechArticles ~]# systemctl get-default
multi-user.target

To switch to GUI mode on the boot target user this command: systemctl set-default graphical.target

[root@TechArticles ~]# systemctl set-default graphical.target
Removed /etc/systemd/system/default.target.
Created symlink /etc/systemd/system/default.target → /usr/lib/systemd/system/graphical.target.
[root@TechArticles ~]#

You can verifiy the changed by running systemctl get-default

[root@TechArticles ~]# systemctl get-default
graphical.target

Make careful you use the reboot command to restart the Linux computer:

# restart

Let’s Understand systemd boot targets

/etc/systemd/system/default.target controls the default target. To check it via the symbolic link, run the following command:

[root@TechArticles ~]# ls -l /etc/systemd/system/default.target

lrwxrwxrwx. 1 root root 41 Mar 20 08:25 /etc/systemd/system/default.target -> /usr/lib/systemd/system/multi-user.target

Anywaye we can get default target by the systemctl command itself too:

# systemctl get-default

Let’s find every targets in systemd

run below command to get all the available targets of the system:

I am using RockyLinux 8.6, these are all the target units that are at the moment loaded and active:

# systemctl list-units --type target

[root@TechArticles ~]# systemctl list-units --type target
UNIT                   LOAD   ACTIVE SUB    DESCRIPTION
basic.target           loaded active active Basic System
cryptsetup.target      loaded active active Local Encrypted Volumes
getty.target           loaded active active Login Prompts
graphical.target       loaded active active Graphical Interface
local-fs-pre.target    loaded active active Local File Systems (Pre)
local-fs.target        loaded active active Local File Systems
multi-user.target      loaded active active Multi-User System
network-online.target  loaded active active Network is Online
network-pre.target     loaded active active Network (Pre)
network.target         loaded active active Network
nfs-client.target      loaded active active NFS client services
nss-user-lookup.target loaded active active User and Group Name Lookups
paths.target           loaded active active Paths
remote-fs-pre.target   loaded active active Remote File Systems (Pre)
remote-fs.target       loaded active active Remote File Systems
rpc_pipefs.target      loaded active active rpc_pipefs.target
rpcbind.target         loaded active active RPC Port Mapper
slices.target          loaded active active Slices
sockets.target         loaded active active Sockets
sound.target           loaded active active Sound Card
sshd-keygen.target     loaded active active sshd-keygen.target
swap.target            loaded active active Swap
sysinit.target         loaded active active System Initialization
timers.target          loaded active active Timers

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.

To view the all active and non active target, run below command

[root@TechArticles ~]# systemctl list-units --type target --all
  UNIT                       LOAD      ACTIVE   SUB    DESCRIPTION
  basic.target               loaded    active   active Basic System
  cryptsetup.target          loaded    active   active Local Encrypted Volumes
  emergency.target           loaded    inactive dead   Emergency Mode
  getty-pre.target           loaded    inactive dead   Login Prompts (Pre)
  getty.target               loaded    active   active Login Prompts
  graphical.target           loaded    active   active Graphical Interface
  initrd-fs.target           loaded    inactive dead   Initrd File Systems
  initrd-root-device.target  loaded    inactive dead   Initrd Root Device
  initrd-root-fs.target      loaded    inactive dead   Initrd Root File System
  initrd-switch-root.target  loaded    inactive dead   Switch Root
  initrd.target              loaded    inactive dead   Initrd Default Target
  local-fs-pre.target        loaded    active   active Local File Systems (Pre)
  local-fs.target            loaded    active   active Local File Systems
  multi-user.target          loaded    active   active Multi-User System
  network-online.target      loaded    active   active Network is Online
  network-pre.target         loaded    active   active Network (Pre)
  network.target             loaded    active   active Network
  nfs-client.target          loaded    active   active NFS client services
  nss-lookup.target          loaded    inactive dead   Host and Network Name Lookups
  nss-user-lookup.target     loaded    active   active User and Group Name Lookups
  paths.target               loaded    active   active Paths
  remote-fs-pre.target       loaded    active   active Remote File Systems (Pre)
  remote-fs.target           loaded    active   active Remote File Systems
  rescue.target              loaded    inactive dead   Rescue Mode
  rpc_pipefs.target          loaded    active   active rpc_pipefs.target
  rpcbind.target             loaded    active   active RPC Port Mapper
  shutdown.target            loaded    inactive dead   Shutdown
  slices.target              loaded    active   active Slices
  sockets.target             loaded    active   active Sockets
  sound.target               loaded    active   active Sound Card
  sshd-keygen.target         loaded    active   active sshd-keygen.target
  swap.target                loaded    active   active Swap
  sysinit.target             loaded    active   active System Initialization
● syslog.target              not-found inactive dead   syslog.target
  time-sync.target           loaded    inactive dead   System Time Synchronized
  timers.target              loaded    active   active Timers
  umount.target              loaded    inactive dead   Unmount All Filesystems
  virt-guest-shutdown.target loaded    inactive dead   Libvirt guests shutdown

systemd targets versus Sysv runlevels

Let’s examine previous SysV runlevels and how systemd treats them.

Systemd target Runlevel          Description Old command New command
runlevel0.target, poweroff.target 0 Its use to shutdown the Linux computer. init 0 systemctl isolate poweroff.target
runlevel1.target, rescue.target 1 Use to launch the rescue, emergency mode or single user mode. init 1 systemctl isolate rescue.target
runlevel2.target, multi-user.target 2 text-based multi-user system with out networking init 2 systemctl isolate runlevel2.target
runlevel3.target, multi-user.target 3 Gives a Linux server a typical start in multi-user text mode with networking enabled. init 3 systemctl isolate runlevel3.target
runlevel4.target, multi-user.target 4 Use text mode for certain reasons. init 4 systemctl isolate runlevel4.target
runlevel5.target, graphical.target 5 IIt is same as runlevel 3 and boot into the GUI mode with networking. init 5 systemctl isolate graphical.target
runlevel6.target, reboot.target 6 Restart your Linux machine init 5 systemctl isolate reboot.target

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