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Restarting Ubuntu System Using Command Line Interface

Restarting Ubuntu System Using Command Line

Restarting your Ubuntu system is a routine task, but knowing how to do it via the Command Line Interface (CLI) can be incredibly useful for system administrators and advanced users. This guide will take you through the process step-by-step, ensuring that you understand not only how to restart your system but also why and when you might need to do it.


Before we dive into the intricacies of restarting your Ubuntu system via CLI, let’s ensure you have the prerequisites in place:

  • Access to a terminal or shell.
  • Appropriate permissions, often requiring sudo or root access.
  • Awareness of currently running applications and processes.

Identifying System State

Understanding the current state of your system is crucial before initiating a restart. Here’s how you can check it:

Using top or htop to View Running Processes

You can use the top or htop commands to view a list of running processes and their resource utilization. Open your terminal and enter:


This will display a dynamic list of processes, sorted by various criteria. Press q to exit.

Checking for Active User Sessions

To check if there are any active user sessions on your system, use the who command:


This will show a list of logged-in users and their terminals.

Verifying Service and Application Status

Make sure to verify the status of important services or applications. You can use the systemctl command for this purpose. For example:

systemctl status apache2

This command will display the status of the Apache web server. Replace apache2 with the name of the service or application you want to check.

Graceful Shutdown

A graceful system shutdown ensures that all running processes are terminated safely. It’s the preferred method when you don’t need to reboot immediately. Use the following command:

sudo shutdown -h now

Here’s what this command does:

  • sudo: Executes the command with superuser privileges.
  • shutdown: Initiates the system shutdown.
  • -h: Halts the system after shutdown (useful if you want to turn off the machine).

Rebooting the System

There are situations where a full reboot is necessary. To do this via CLI, use the following command:

sudo reboot

The -r option stands for “reboot,” and it instructs the system to restart gracefully. After executing this command, your system will initiate a reboot, allowing you to start fresh.

Forcing a Restart

In some cases, a forced restart may be required. This is typically when your system becomes unresponsive or experiences a critical error. Be cautious when using this method, as it can result in data loss or file system corruption. To force a restart, use the following command:

sudo reboot -f

The -f option stands for “force,” and it instructs the system to reboot without gracefully shutting down processes. Use this option sparingly and only when necessary.

Scheduling a Restart

Sometimes, you may need to schedule a system restart for maintenance or updates. The at command allows you to specify a future restart time. For example, to schedule a reboot at 3:00 AM, use:

sudo shutdown -r 03:00

This command will ensure your system reboots at the specified time. However, make sure to notify users in advance, especially in multi-user environments, to avoid unexpected disruptions.

Emergency Restart

In rare cases, an emergency restart may be required when the system becomes completely unresponsive or experiences a critical failure. To initiate an emergency restart, you can use the “Magic SysRq key.” Here’s how:

  1. Ensure that the “Magic SysRq key” functionality is enabled on your system. You can check this by examining the contents of the /proc/sys/kernel/sysrq file:

cat /proc/sys/kernel/sysrq

If the output is not “1,” you need to enable it by running:

echo 1 > /proc/sys/kernel/sysrq
  1. Once enabled, you can trigger an emergency restart by pressing a specific key combination. This key combination is designed to be difficult to press accidentally, and it typically involves holding down the Alt and SysRq (often labeled as “Print Screen”) keys while slowly typing:

Each letter corresponds to an action:

    • R: Switch the keyboard from raw mode.
    • E: Terminate all processes except for init.
    • I: Kill all processes.
    • S: Sync all mounted filesystems.
    • U: Remount filesystems as read-only.
    • B: Reboot.
  1. After typing the sequence, give it a moment. Your system should perform an emergency restart.

Please use the emergency restart option with extreme caution, as it forcefully terminates all processes, which can lead to data loss and potential file system corruption.


While restarting your Ubuntu system using the CLI is usually straightforward, issues can occasionally arise. Here are some common problems and their solutions:

Issue: Failure to Restart

If your system fails to restart, check for error messages in the terminal. Common causes include:

  • Lack of permission: Ensure you are using sudo to execute the commands.
  • Running processes: Make sure you have terminated all important processes before restarting.

Issue: Hanging Processes

If processes refuse to terminate during a graceful shutdown, you can use the kill command to forcefully stop them. For example, to terminate a process with a specific PID (Process ID), use:

sudo kill -9 <PID>

Replace <PID> with the actual process ID.

Issue: Kernel Panic

A kernel panic is a critical system error that requires a reboot. To recover from a kernel panic, follow these steps:

  1. Wait for the system to display error messages, which may provide clues about the issue.
  2. Perform a reboot using the sudo reboot command.

If the issue persists, consult the Ubuntu documentation or seek assistance from the Ubuntu community forums.


Restarting your Ubuntu system via the Command Line Interface is an essential skill for system administrators and advanced users. This guide has equipped you with the knowledge to perform graceful shutdowns, reboots, and even emergency restarts when necessary. Remember to exercise caution when forcing a restart and always prioritize data safety.

By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can ensure that your Ubuntu system remains stable and responsive. Whether you’re performing routine maintenance or dealing with unexpected issues, the CLI provides you with the power and flexibility to manage your system effectively.

Additional Resources

To further enhance your Linux administration skills, explore these additional resources:

  • Ubuntu Documentation: The official documentation for Ubuntu provides in-depth information on system administration and troubleshooting.
  • LinuxCommand.org: A comprehensive resource for learning Linux commands and system administration.
  • Ask Ubuntu: A community-driven question-and-answer site where you can seek help and share knowledge with fellow Ubuntu users.


r00t is a seasoned Linux system administrator with a wealth of experience in the field. Known for his contributions to idroot.us, r00t has authored numerous tutorials and guides, helping users navigate the complexities of Linux systems. His expertise spans across various Linux distributions, including Ubuntu, CentOS, and Debian. r00t's work is characterized by his ability to simplify complex concepts, making Linux more accessible to users of all skill levels. His dedication to the Linux community and his commitment to sharing knowledge makes him a respected figure in the field.
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