Virtual consoles are a very nice feature of Linux. They enable you to have multiple login sessions on one computer without running X Windows. You switch to virtual console number n by pressing Alt and the function key Fn simultaneously. For example. Alt-F2 will switch to virtual console 2. Each virtual console can run a separate login session. Generally virtual consoles 1-6 are text screens, while virtual console 7 is reserved for xdm and virtual console 8 for the error messages from xdm. To switch away from virtual console 7, you must type Ctrl-Alt-Fn rather than just Alt-Fn.

Virtual consoles are particularly useful when you are trying to get X Windows working, especially if you are also having problems with some commands causing your session to hang - if one virtual console hangs, you can switch to another.