Run software on the tty1 console instead of getty login on Ubuntu 14.04 and 16.04

10-04-2017 | Remy van Elst

Table of Contents

Recently I wanted to change the default login prompt on the tty1 console on an OpenStack instance to automatically run htop. Instead of logging in via the console, I wanted it to start up htop right away and nothing else. Ubuntu 14.04 uses init and Ubuntu 16.04 uses systemd. Both ways are shown in this tutorial.

Here's what the default login prompt on the console looks:

And here is the result, htop running without ever logging in:

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Do note that you loose the ability to login via the regular console this way. ssh is your only means of access. Do note that the software is run as root. If you for example want to run vim you also can escape to a shell. htop as far as I know doesn't allow command execution.

On Ubuntu 14.04, edit the following file:

vim /etc/init/tty1.conf


exec /sbin/getty -8 38400 tty1


exec /usr/bin/htop </dev/tty1 >/dev/tty1 2>&1

Use full paths and make sure output and input are redirected (</dev/tty1 >/dev/tty1 2>&1).

On Ubuntu 16.04 stuff changes due to systemd. No longer can you use output redirection, this is now all handled via systemd. Create an override folder for the getty@tty1 service first:

mkdir /etc/systemd/system/getty@tty1.service.d/

Edit the override file:

vim /etc/systemd/system/getty@tty1.service.d/override.conf

Place the following:


Now reload the unit files and restart the service. htop should appear on your prompt:

systemctl daemon-reload; systemctl restart getty@tty1.service

Or just do a reboot.

As a bonus, you can also install hollywood:

apt-get install tmux hollywood # fill your console with Hollywood melodrama technobabble

and set that up to autorun on the console. Use the following in the systemd file otherwise byobu will complain about wrong permissions on your homefolder:

/usr/bin/sudo -H /usr/bin/hollywood

Much fun:

Tags: console, htop, systemd, tty,