Did you know Mac OS X has a secret terminal at the login screen?

There’s a faster way to access the terminal and it doesn’t involve logging into your Mac via the login screen.

Sometimes you just need to quickly dive into the terminal, bang out a few commands and get on with your day.

If you’re at work and an exigent issue suddenly manifests itself, every second counts and you don’t have the time to wait from the desktop to load.

That’s why I love this trick so much.

Mac OS X actually has a hidden terminal screen that you can access without signing into the computer.  Rather than waiting for your ponderous Desktop to load your previous session you can zip directly to the console like so:

At the login screen enter the following phrase in the username field


fixedByVonnie Mac OS X Login Screen

That’s it! (by the way: if you’re curious how I got this screenshot of the login screen check out my post on that).

Now, if you’re login screen doesn’t show the empty username and password text boxes make sure you change the Display login window as setting to Name and password.

It’s in System Preferences > Users and Groups.

Mac OS X Users and Groups

As you can see the >console trick is extremely useful because now you can immediately execute all your terminal commands.

For example to get the ip address of your Mac type:

ifconfig | grep inet

Or perhaps you need to SSH into another Mac which as remote access enabled.  The remote Mac just needs to have a checkbox in the Remote Login service in System Properties > Sharing.

Just enter the following command replacing username and IP with the administrator username and IP address of the destination computer:

ssh username@ipaddress

Accessing the terminal from the login screen gives you almost instant access to everything you could need as a power user.

When you’re done with the terminal session, just hit Control + d or type logout.

This will quickly take you back to the login screen as if nothing ever happened.

Incidentally, this trick even works on Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar all the way forward to Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks.

If you like this hidden terminal trick as much as I do please share the love in the comments!  Also, don’t forget to join my team by entering your name and email address in the little form in the right rail!



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Posted in Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks Tagged with: ,
  • fff

    that only works with guest login enabled