7.5. Runlevels and X

In most cases, the default installation of Red Hat Enterprise Linux configures a machine to boot into a graphical login environment, known as runlevel 5. It is possible, however, to boot into the text-only multi-user mode called runlevel 3 and begin an X session from there.
For more information about runlevels, refer to Section 1.4, “SysV Init Runlevels”.
The following subsections review how X starts up in both runlevel 3 and runlevel 5.

7.5.1. Runlevel 3

When in runlevel 3, the best way to start an X session is to log in and type startx. The startx command is a front-end to the xinit command, which launches the X server (Xorg) and connects X client applications to it. Because the user is already logged into the system at runlevel 3, startx does not launch a display manager or authenticate users. Refer to Section 7.5.2, “Runlevel 5” for more information about display managers.
When the startx command is executed, it searches for an .xinitrc file in the user's home directory to define the desktop environment and possibly other X client applications to run. If no .xinitrc file is present, it uses the system default /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc file instead.
The default xinitrc script then looks for user-defined files and default system files, including .Xresources, .Xmodmap, and .Xkbmap in the user's home directory, and Xresources, Xmodmap, and Xkbmap in the /etc/X11/ directory. The Xmodmap and Xkbmap files, if they exist, are used by the xmodmap utility to configure the keyboard. The Xresources file is read to assign specific preference values to applications.
After setting these options, the xinitrc script executes all scripts located in the /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc.d/ directory. One important script in this directory is xinput, which configures settings such as the default language.
Next, the xinitrc script tries to execute .Xclients in the user's home directory and turns to /etc/X11/xinit/Xclients if it cannot be found. The purpose of the Xclients file is to start the desktop environment or, possibly, just a basic window manager. The .Xclients script in the user's home directory starts the user-specified desktop environment in the .Xclients-default file. If .Xclients does not exist in the user's home directory, the standard /etc/X11/xinit/Xclients script attempts to start another desktop environment, trying GNOME first and then KDE followed by twm.
The user is returned to a text mode user session after logging out of X from runlevel 3.