Thinking if there is any way that Debian 10 "Buster" could be booted with its Kernel, systemd, all those packages, but without display manager neither X Window System, something like recovery mode, but more complete, with major part of systemd services.

How would that be done?

Reinstalling it or adjusting some GRUB file?

That way it would fall in command line interface, something like recovery mode.

1 Answer 1


If you cannot login to the system normally, you could use the boot option systemd.unit=multi-user.target to override the default of graphical.target.

If you can login to the system and have root access, you could use systemctl isolate multi-user.target to switch the system immediately to non-GUI mode, or systemctl set-default multi-user.target to set it as the default system state for any future boot-ups until told otherwise.

To switch back, use systemctl isolate graphical.target to start the GUI mode immediately, or systemctl set-default graphical.target to make it the default system state again.

The multi-user.target starts all network services, but omits the GUI subsystem. Many rack-mount servers run in that mode because they don't have any use for local GUI.

  • System is running normally, but my intention is to keep it running on lower use of CPU and RAM memory with some basic services. How can I apply this boot option? Oct 12, 2019 at 11:54
  • 1
    As I said: run systemctl set-default multi-user.target and the non-GUI state will become the new default for all the future boot-ups. It has exactly the same effect as the boot option, but it will be stored persistently automatically. If you need to use the boot option, press <kbd>E</kbd> while in GRUB boot menu, and add systemd.unit=multi-user.target to the kernel line in the GRUB configuration; such boot-time edits will not be persistent, as GRUB's filesystem driver is read-only.
    – telcoM
    Oct 12, 2019 at 18:46
  • Read wrongfully, sorry. Oct 12, 2019 at 19:01
  • @Vasconcelos1914 No problem.
    – telcoM
    Oct 12, 2019 at 19:03

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