RHEL7: Boot systems into different targets manually.

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Note: This is an RHCSA 7 exam objective.

In the old days

Before Systemd, there were the following runlevels:

  • 1, single: maintenance level,
  • 2: level without network resources (NFS, etc),
  • 3: multi-user level without graphical interface,
  • 5: multi-user level with graphical interface.

Note: The default run level was set in the /etc/inittab file.

To get the current run level with the old way, type:

# runlevel

To change the current run level (where X is the run level), type:

# init X

Note: As seen before, levels 0 and 6 were respectively used for halting a system and for rebooting it.

Current State

With Systemd, new commands are available:

  • systemctl rescue: to move to single user mode/maintenance level with mounted local file systems,
  • systemctl emergency: to move to single user mode/maintenance with only /root mounted file system,
  • systemctl isolate multi-user.target: to move to multi-user level without graphical interface (equivalent to previous run level 3),
  • systemctl isolate graphical.target: to move to multi-user level with graphical interface (equivalent to previous run level 5),
  • systemctl set-default graphical.target: to set the default run level to multi-user graphical mode,
  • systemctl get-default: to get the default run level.

Additional Resources

Make sure you visit the Systemd page.

You can also watch Ralph Nyberg‘s video about Systemd targets (6min/2015).

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To boot into a systemd target from the grub menu, append to the kernel line for example:


In case of command “systemctl rescue” I get info:
“…Welcome to emergency mode! After logging in, type “journalctl -xb” to view…”
and all file systems are mounted.
Maybe the rescue mode is accessed only via rd.break parameter during boot?


My sytemctl has built-in command completion, so I can type systemctl, hit TAB twice, and it shows all the possible actions, like rescue or isolate graphical.target.
When I type systemctl set-default and TAB, there are about 70 different runlevels!!! I’m glad the exam just focuses on the more common ones.


What’s more, if you’re an old-school admin, systemd supports the traditional initd runlevels. For instance, if I type…
systemctl isolate runlevel6.target
the system will reboot.


Note I think bash-complete needs to be installed to ensure tab works.


No. This isn’t bash completion. I’m talking TAB completion for various utilities, like nmcli, and systemctl. I have a VM running the CentOS 7 minimal install. Bash completion works fine, but not the individual utilities.
BTW, the package is called bash-completion. There is also a package called bash-completion-extras. That also does not install those utilities. Everything works just fine on the default install.


Oh, man, did I ever get it wrong on that one. You’re correct, you need bash-completion and bash-completion-extras. I installed them on a VM running the CentOS 7 minimal install, but it still didn’t work.
After some research, it turns out that completion is a bunch of shell scripts – I thought it was a daemon. It didn’t work because the main script is sourced in the user’s start-up scripts. Simply logging out and back in again (no restart) got it all working.


Your welcome. I only used bash-completion, and every time I did a new VM, I used a minimal-install, just in-case there may be something like that on the exam.

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