Take the 2-minute tour ×
Unix & Linux Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for users of Linux, FreeBSD and other Un*x-like operating systems.. It's 100% free, no registration required.

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

3 Answers 3

up vote 14 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.

share|improve this answer
Thanks! That works! –  netvope Oct 27 '11 at 1:34
Could he have used startx as well? Just wondering. –  maxmackie 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.

share|improve this answer
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.

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

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.