">console " A Secret Terminal Hidden at the OS X Login Window

">console " A Secret Terminal Hidden at the OS X Login Window

Access a secret command line interface hidden at the OS X login window!  Go ahead and try it–make yourself feel like a power user or show off to your friends.

I stumbled upon an old article on Macworld from 2002 talking about how to drop into the command line from the login window.  This trick still seems to work in Mavericks 10.9.4.

Sometimes, in my work, I just need to run a few commands quickly.  So rather than logging in, waiting for the Desktop to load, opening Terminal, running the commands, and then logging out, I can just drop right into the command line from the login window, enter my commands and Ctrl+D to get out of there.

If your login window is set to show pictures and usernames, you should be able to click Other… to bring this window up.

If you have never see this screen, your user is probably set to log in automatically.  This can be adjusted in System Preferences > Users & Groups.  You can also change the login window style permanently as show below.

This is also a nice trick to save system resources on a server since the GUI login window isn’t running.  The gain might not be huge, but a lot of little adjustments can make things run very smooth.  For example, in the GUI, running the command:

ps -eaf | wc -l

returns 180 , which is the number of processes running.  Running the same command after enabling the secret console returns 103 .

You can still do most things in this mode–I was still able to ssh into the machine, move/copy files, even browse the Web using lynx!