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I'm unable to return to the GUI with Ctrl-Alt-F7 (or any of the 12 function keys). I have some unsaved work and I don't want to lose them. Are there any other key combinations that will allow me to switch back?

Here is what I did:

  1. I pressed Ctrl-Alt-F1 and it showed a text-based login screen as usual
  2. Then I pressed Ctrl-Alt-F7 and it showed a screen full of text (I can't remember what they were)
  3. Then I pressed Ctrl-Alt-F8 and it showed log messages that resembles /var/log/messages. Some entries are from automount, some from sendmail, and none are errors.
  4. Pressing any of the Ctrl-Alt-Fn combinations now has no effect. The cap-lock and num-lock LED no longer respond to their corresponding keys. I can use the mouse to highlight the text on the screen, but nothing else.

Any idea what happened?

I can still login to the system via SSH. GUI applications that I was using (e.g. opera) are still running and consuming tiny amounts of CPU as usual, as reported by top. Is it possible to switch back to the GUI via the command line? If possible, I don't want to restart X, because doing so will kill all the GUI applications.

System info:

 Red Hat Enterprise Linux Client release 5.7
 Linux 2.6.18-238.12.1.el5 SMP x86_64
 gnome-desktop: 2.16.0-1.fc6
 xorg-x11-server-Xorg: 1.1.1-48.76.el5_7.5

Thanks to Shawn I was able to get back using chvt 9.

Further experiments shows that if I go to the 8th virtual terminal (either by Ctrl-Alt-F8 or chvt 8), I will not be able to switch to any other terminals using Ctrl-Alt-Fx keys. Now sure if this is a bug.

share|improve this question
On a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B (what I am using): After you hit Ctrl+Alt+F1, it brought you to the command line. On mine, you can it Ctrl+Alt+F2 and it will take you to the Pi login. Just login and after that type startx, then you will be taken back to the desktop :) – user114432 May 7 '15 at 2:48
up vote 20 down vote accepted

chvt allows you to change your virtual terminal.

From man chvt:

The command chvt N makes /dev/ttyN the foreground terminal. (The corresponding screen is created if it did not exist yet. To get rid of unused VTs, use deallocvt(1).) The key combination (Ctrl-)LeftAlt-FN (with N in the range 1-12) usually has a similar effect.

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Thanks! That works! – netvope Oct 27 '11 at 1:34
Could he have used startx as well? Just wondering. – n0pe Oct 27 '11 at 5:50
@MaxMackie that should result in an error, since x server is already running. – brianbaligad Oct 27 '11 at 6:58

Use the w command to find out which tty your X session uses, so you won't need to guess which Fn to press.

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Here w lists tty1, tty2 and tty3 while X is running on tty12. – manatwork Feb 22 '13 at 14:14

You can simply use Alt+F1 to return to your desktop.

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In the TTY, C-A-F# and A-F# are equivalent. – HalosGhost Oct 26 '14 at 0:47

Toggle function-keys pressing "F-Lock" (german "F-Umsch")

Stumpling right into the same problem, I've found the reason for - at least - my problem: Using a ms natural 4000 keyboard sometimes requires to toggle the Function-keys pressing "F-Lock"-key located next to F12.

(Toggling the Function-Key's might help with that type of keyboard too if you don't get hardcopies etc...)

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This is not the problem of the OP, thanks for the effort, though. – BinaryZebra Jan 18 at 1:38

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