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Old 12-03-2009, 02:35 PM   #1
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Is it possible to open a second shell..

I'm running Debian with no desktop and at the moment no network connection (so I can't ssh). A drive recovery program is running in the shell and likely will be for the next 8 to 16 hours by the look of it.

Is there some keyboard shortcut I can use to open a second shell at the terminal while this one continues to run?

Or get a second login prompt... whatever it takes.
Old 12-03-2009, 02:43 PM   #2
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Nevermind, I found an alternate solution. I can pause the current job using ctrl+z and resume it later (for reference: resume paused by using "jobs" to list stopped jobs and "fg %#" where # is the number of the stopped job I want to resume).
Old 12-03-2009, 02:43 PM   #3
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Normally 'ctrl+alt+F2' or F3 or F4 etc. would give a new shell.
Old 12-03-2009, 02:44 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by davidstvz View Post
Or get a second login prompt... whatever it takes.
You are in luck. There are in fact 6 "virtual terminals" independent of the graphical desktop. You can access them with alt-ctrl F1-6.

Those are there all the time. If you do have a GUI running, you can go back to it with alt-ctrl-F7.
Old 12-03-2009, 02:44 PM   #5
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There are mainly two ways that I know of, first is pressing CTRL-ALT-F2 or F3 or F4, those are all other logins so you can open a second shell. I believe F5 or F7 is reserved for Graphical Login.

You can also send your program that's running to the background using CTRL-Z and type bg at the prompt. That way you stay in you current shell and the program keeps running in the background.

If you want to recall the program the just type
on the commandline.

Kind regards,


Last edited by EricTRA; 12-03-2009 at 02:45 PM.
Old 12-04-2009, 08:09 AM   #6
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Also: chvt 2 is the same as CTRL-ALT-F2

However, if you are in single user mode, neither of those will work. You can get another login, but it how depends on your distro.

Ubuntu Upstart

Newer Ubuntu systems use "Upstart" instead of inittab. For these systems, a simple"start tty2" will do the job. After typing that, you can hold "Alt" and press F2 to login there and of course Alt-F1 will bring you back to where you started.

Centos inittab

Centos and other systems that still use inittab require a different approach. You'd think you could just do "/sbin/mingetty tty2 &", but that won't work. Nor will "/bin/login tty2 &" or trying to start bash with input and output directed to another tty. What WILL work is sulogin: "/sbin/sulogin tty2 &". Switch to Alt-F2, give the root password and you have another terminal to work in.

It's certainly possible that another distro may require another way or may work with something that didn't work on Centos.

(from )
Old 12-04-2009, 04:41 PM   #7
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screen will also give you multiple terminals (even when you run out of the other ones)
Old 12-05-2009, 01:43 AM   #8
Wim Sturkenboom
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For those advising <ctrl><alt><Fn>, the <ctrl> is only required while in X; outside X, <alt><Fn> should be sufficient.


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