The "startx" command run from the console in runlevel 3 fails with PAM authentication error

Solution Verified - Updated -


  • Running the command startx from the console in runlevel 3 fails with the following error message:
Fatal server error: 
PAM authentication failed, cannot start X server. 
Perhaps you do not have console ownership?
  • The problem is observed only when running startx after a "su" to another user or over ssh.
$ su - user  


  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.5
  • xorg-x11-server

Subscriber exclusive content

A Red Hat subscription provides unlimited access to our knowledgebase, tools, and much more.

Current Customers and Partners

Log in for full access

Log In

New to Red Hat?

Learn more about Red Hat subscriptions

Using a Red Hat product through a public cloud?

How to access this content