Add more TTYs in Linux

If you use Linux, you may be familiar with the fact that by default it provides you with six command-line terminals plus one that’s reserved for the X Windowing System. When you turn on your Linux box and the X server starts up, the computer switches to TTY number 7, allowing you to log into your computer using your username and password. If you’re the adventurous type, you may have dug a little bit further and found out that the /dev folder includes a slew of TTYs, a lot more than what are available to you.

It stands to reason that there must be a way to add more, doesn’t it?

To use more than 6 TTYs, you will need to edit a file named /etc/systemd/logind.conf. Here’s how.

Adding more TTYs

Open a Terminal window. Since we need to edit a configuration file, it’s a good idea to back it up before proceeding. You can do this by typing
sudo cp /etc/systemd/logind.conf /etc/systemd/logind.conf.old

and enter your password if requested. This way we’re sure that we have at least a working copy of logind.conf named logind.conf.old. Now, let’s open the file with the command
sudo nano /etc/systemd/logind.conf

The default configuration file looks somewhat like this:

The default content of logind.conf.

Nano is a command-line text editor. Instead of navigating the file using the mouse, you’ll need to use the arrow keys. Lines beginning with an # are comments and are ignored by logind. The value that we want to modify is NAutoVTs, which by default is commented and assigned a value of 6. Delete the hash sign before it and change its value to your heart’s content. If we wanted to have 24 ttys, we would replace the value 6 with 24 (a total overkill, to be sure). Once we’re done, we can press Ctrl + X to close the document. Press Y, then Enter to save.

Reboot your computer either by using the task bar or with the terminal command
sudo reboot

After the computer has finished rebooting, you can access TTYs 1 through 12 with the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Alt + F1-12 and TTYs 13 through 24 with Ctrl + Alt + Shift + F1-12.

Note: Linux and UNIX reserve TTY 7 for the X Windowing System, so pressing Ctrl + Alt + F7 won’t show a command line interface, but your desktop.

Reverting your changes

If you’ve followed this guide closely, you will have made a backup copy of logind.conf. To revert your changes and return to the usual 6 + 1 TTYs, open a terminal and type
sudo cp /etc/systemd/logind.conf.old /etc/systemd/logind.conf

About Andrea Luciano Damico 137 Articles

Andrea Luciano Damico is a freelance translator from Italy. Among his interests are linguistics, technology, video games, and generally being a chill guy.
He runs Let’s Translate.it and Tech4Freelancers.net.