I'm completely new to Linux. I've googled but I can't find the keyboard shortcut command for this anywhere. I tried Ctrl-Alt-F3 from the graphical desktop, but it takes me to a login screen. Back on the desktop, I went to open bash through the GUI but it did nothing at all. This is so frustrating.

I'm running "Debian GNU/Linux 6.0.6 alias squeeze" inside VirtualBox for Windows, from here, and it has two sets of login details: http://virtualboxes.org/images/debian/

Also: I remember seeing someone pull-up the shell over a graphical desktop, almost like Alt-tabbing in Windows but with the text overlaid on the desktop with a semi-transparent black background. Is this possible for Debian?

  • ctrl+alt+t for terminal perhaps?
    – jon
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 11:12
  • 1
    Not an answer to your question, but you might want to use Debian Wheezy instead -- Squeeze is getting pretty long in the tooth now.
    – Flup
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 11:17
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    – user
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 11:54

2 Answers 2


Your problem is that under VirtualBox (and especially in Windows) the usual short-cuts doesn't work quite right - after all, both VB and Windows tries to "hijack" the keys Debian wants.

Inside X under Linux, you'd usually use CTRL-ALT-F1~Fn to switch between VTs... but in VB, you must use the "Host-Key" (usually the right-side CTRL-key) and the F1~Fn keys.

So hold down the right CTRL (host) and press F1, and you should get the 1st VT... to return to X, do the same, but use F7 or F8 instead.

  • 1
    My understanding is that Ctrl+Alt+F3 did work for them, as they talk about seeing "a login screen". I think they might prefer using a normal X-based emulator.
    – Sparhawk
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 11:28

Most X desktop environments in common use bind Alt+F2 to a "Run" dialog by default.

So try Alt+F2, and if that brings up a run dialog of some kind, start a terminal, not the shell. (The shell will simply exit immediately because there is nothing to read commands from.) Depending on what is installed you can try xterm, gnome-terminal, rxvt and a few others. xterm is almost guaranteed to be available but is not particularly fancy; however, it certainly will get you to a shell prompt.

Also, like Flup pointed out in a comment, Squeeze is getting pretty old. The current release is Wheezy, also known as Debian 7.x, released in May 2013, whereas Squeeze was originally released in February 2011 and is currently termed oldstable, which basically means it is in maintenance-only mode. (The upcoming release, Jessie, is slated to be frozen in early November 2014.) Hence, you may want to consider upgrading.

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