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Check The Runlevel In Linux

How To Check The Runlevel In Linux

By sk

runlevel is one of the modes that a Unix-based operating system will run in. In Linux Kernel, there are 7 runlevels exists, starting from 0 to 6. The system can be booted into only one runlevel at a time. By default, a system boots either to runlevel 3 or to runlevel 5. Runlevel 3 is CLI, and 5 is GUI. The default runlevel is specified in /etc/inittab file in most Linux operating systems. Using runlevel, we can easily find out whether X is running, or network is operational, and so on. In this brief guide, we will talk about how to check the runlevel in Unix-like operating systems.

Check the Runlevel In Linux (SysV init)

Here is the list of runlevels in Linux distributions,which were distributed with SysV init as default service manager.

  • 0 - Halt
  • 1 - Single-user text mode
  • 2 - Not used (user-definable)
  • 3 - Full multi-user text mode
  • 4 - Not used (user-definable)
  • 5 - Full multi-user graphical mode (with an X-based login screen)
  • 6 - Reboot

Now, let us see how to find the runlevels.

To find out the system runlevel, open your Terminal and run the following command:

$ runlevel

Sample output for the above command would be:

N 3

In the above output, the letter 'N' indicates that the runlevel has not been changed since the system was booted. And, 3 is the current runlevel i.e the system is in CLI mode.

In newer versions of init, you can find the current and previous runlevel details using the environment variables called RUNLEVEL and PREVLEVEL.

Say for example, to find out the current runlevel, you need to run:

$ echo $RUNLEVEL

To find the previous runlevel:


If you'd like to change the RunLevel to something else, edit /etc/inittab file:

$ sudo vi /etc/inittab

Find and edit entry initdefault to the runlevel of your choice. Say for example, to set the runlevel to multi-user graphical mode (runlevel 5), modify the it as shown below.


Save and close the file. Reboot your system to login to your new runlevel.

For more details about runlevels, refer man pages.

$ man runlevel

Check the Runlevel In Linux (Systemd)

In recent versions of Linux systems such as RHEL 7, Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, the concept of runlevels has been replaced with systemd targets.

Here is the list of Systemd targets in Linux distributions,which were distributed with Systemd as default service manager.

  • runlevel0.target, poweroff.target - Halt
  • runlevel1.target, rescue.target - Single-user text mode
  • runlevel2.target, multi-user.target - Not used (user-definable)
  • runlevel3.target, multi-user.target - Full multi-user text mode
  • runlevel4.target, multi-user.target - Not used (user-definable)
  • runlevel5.target,graphical.target - Full multi-user graphical mode (with an X-based login screen)
  • runlevel6.target,reboot.target - Reboot

In Linux systems that are using Systemd as default service manager, you can find the current target using command:

$ systemctl get-default

Sample output would be:


As you see in the above output, my current runlevel (target in other words) is 5, which is graphical mode.

To view all currently loaded targets, run:

$ systemctl list-units --type target

Sample output:

basic.target loaded active active Basic System 
bluetooth.target loaded active active Bluetooth 
cryptsetup.target loaded active active Encrypted Volumes 
getty.target loaded active active Login Prompts 
local-fs-pre.target loaded active active Local File Systems (Pre) 
local-fs.target loaded active active Local File Systems 
network-online.target loaded active active Network is Online 
network.target loaded active active Network 
nss-user-lookup.target loaded active active User and Group Name Lookups
paths.target loaded active active Paths 
remote-fs.target loaded active active Remote File Systems 
slices.target loaded active active Slices 
sockets.target loaded active active Sockets 
sound.target loaded active active Sound Card 
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.

17 loaded units listed. Pass --all to see loaded but inactive units, too.
To show all installed unit files use 'systemctl list-unit-files'.

The above command will show only the active targets.

To view all loaded targets (active and inactive), run:

$ systemctl list-units --type target --all

If you'd like to change the RunLevel to something else, for example runlevel3.target, set it as shown below:

$ sudo systemctl set-default runlevel3.target
To change to a different target unit in the current session only, run the following command:
$ sudo systemctl isolate runlevel3.target

For more details, refer Systemd man pages.

$ man systemd

Check the Runlevel In Linux Using 'who' command

As our readers suggested in the comment section below, we can find the runlevel using following command:

$ who -r

Sample output:

run-level 5 2018-06-06 12:22

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Manavalan Michale June 10, 2017 - 8:41 pm

who -r

Geoff McNamara June 12, 2017 - 1:39 am

who -r


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