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My question is similar to that old one here, but which never got a correct answer AIUI:
Boot without starting X-server

But let me restate: Having Raspbian-Pi set up to autostart the X.org desktop (GUI), it is asked how to, while cold booting the Pi, and without prior preparation, nor premeditation of any kind, override X completely (i.e. boot only to user/password prompt and command line, at run level 3 in old Linux parlance) just for the one boot in question (no reboot; no persistent changes wanted; just a one-time, unscheduled override).

I assume, if at all possible, it would be done pressing some "magic" key(s) early enough in the boot process, which might have to be authorized beforehand.

So, is there such a way to stop X from starting?

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  • Sort of, see: howtogeek.com/119127/… You'll have to check if that's enabled. In any case, you should be able to switch VTs to a text console w/ login using ctrl-alt-F[2,3,4,5,6] (try them in order). The display manager on Raspbian may mess with that; I've never seen X respawn when switching VTs but apparently the potential exists. You can actually try that very early in the boot process or anytime thereafter -- to get back to the desktop cycle through them starting with F1. – goldilocks Feb 11 '20 at 20:22
  • @goldilocks : sort of - as you say - in fact it's not at all what's being asked for. The question is of preventing X to be launched, not how to end it or navigate to a "virtual console". I hate to mention certain proprietary OSes here, but you may think of how those OSes had ways (viz, special key presses) to override the configured GUI during the boot sequence. Well, I'm ready to accept, with regrets, that Raspbian, and most or all X-Linux systems, appear to be lacking similar dispositions... – NimbUs Feb 11 '20 at 21:16
  • On a normal (linux) system you can do it in straightforward ways via the (normal) bootloader (grub2). Unfortunately, the (proprietary) bootloader required on the Pi does not have that capacity. – goldilocks Feb 11 '20 at 21:24

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