XSERVER(1) General Commands Manual XSERVER(1)
Xserver - X Window System display server
X [option ...]
X is the generic name for the X Window System display server. It is frequently a link or a copy of the appropriate server binary for driv-
ing the most frequently used server on a given machine.
STARTING THE SERVER
The X server is usually started from the X Display Manager program xdm(1) or a similar display manager program. This utility is run from
the system boot files and takes care of keeping the server running, prompting for usernames and passwords, and starting up the user ses-
Installations that run more than one window system may need to use the xinit(1) utility instead of a display manager. However, xinit is to
be considered a tool for building startup scripts and is not intended for use by end users. Site administrators are strongly urged to use
a display manager, or build other interfaces for novice users.
The X server may also be started directly by the user, though this method is usually reserved for testing and is not recommended for normal
operation. On some platforms, the user must have special permission to start the X server, often because access to certain devices (e.g.
/dev/mouse) is restricted.
When the X server starts up, it typically takes over the display. If you are running on a workstation whose console is the display, you
may not be able to log into the console while the server is running.
Many X servers have device-specific command line options. See the manual pages for the individual servers for more details; a list of
server-specific manual pages is provided in the SEE ALSO section below.
All of the X servers accept the command line options described below. Some X servers may have alternative ways of providing the parameters
described here, but the values provided via the command line options should override values specified via other mechanisms.
The X server runs as the given displaynumber, which by default is 0. If multiple X servers are to run simultaneously on a host,
each must have a unique display number. See the DISPLAY NAMES section of the X(7) manual page to learn how to specify which dis-
play number clients should try to use.
sets pointer acceleration (i.e. the ratio of how much is reported to how much the user actually moved the pointer).
-ac disables host-based access control mechanisms. Enables access by any host, and permits any host to modify the access control list.
Use with extreme caution. This option exists primarily for running test suites remotely.
sets the audit trail level. The default level is 1, meaning only connection rejections are reported. Level 2 additionally reports
all successful connections and disconnects. Level 4 enables messages from the SECURITY extension, if present, including generation
and revocation of authorizations and violations of the security policy. Level 0 turns off the audit trail. Audit lines are sent
as standard error output.
specifies a file which contains a collection of authorization records used to authenticate access. See also the xdm(1) and Xsecu-
rity(7) manual pages.
Asks the driver not to clear the background on startup, if the driver supports that. May be useful for smooth transition with eg.
fbdev driver. For security reasons this is not the default as the screen contents might show a previous user session.
-br sets the default root window to solid black instead of the standard root weave pattern. This is the default unless -retro or -wr
-bs disables backing store support on all screens.
-c turns off key-click.
sets key-click volume (allowable range: 0-100).
sets the visual class for the root window of color screens. The class numbers are as specified in the X protocol. Not obeyed by
-core causes the server to generate a core dump on fatal errors.
specifies a file descriptor in the launching process. Rather than specify a display number, the X server will attempt to listen on
successively higher display numbers, and upon finding a free one, will write the display number back on this file descriptor as a
newline-terminated string. The -pn option is ignored when using -displayfd.
specifies the types of fonts for which the server should attempt to use deferred glyph loading. whichfonts can be all (all fonts),
none (no fonts), or 16 (16 bit fonts only).
sets the resolution for all screens, in dots per inch. To be used when the server cannot determine the screen size(s) from the
dpms enables DPMS (display power management services), where supported. The default state is platform and configuration specific.
-dpms disables DPMS (display power management services). The default state is platform and configuration specific.
disables named extension. If an unknown extension name is specified, a list of accepted extension names is printed.
enables named extension. If an unknown extension name is specified, a list of accepted extension names is printed.
sets beep (bell) volume (allowable range: 0-100).
sets default cursor font.
sets the default font.
sets the search path for fonts. This path is a comma separated list of directories which the X server searches for font databases.
See the FONTS section of this manual page for more information and the default list.
-help prints a usage message.
-I causes all remaining command line arguments to be ignored.
sets the maximum big request to size MB.
disable the display of the pointer cursor.
disables a transport type. For example, TCP/IP connections can be disabled with -nolisten tcp. This option may be issued multiple
times to disable listening to different transport types.
prevents a server reset when the last client connection is closed. This overrides a previous -terminate command line option.
sets screen-saver pattern cycle time in minutes.
-pn permits the server to continue running if it fails to establish all of its well-known sockets (connection points for clients), but
establishes at least one. This option is set by default.
-nopn causes the server to exit if it fails to establish all of its well-known sockets (connection points for clients).
-r turns off auto-repeat.
r turns on auto-repeat.
-retro starts the stipple with the classic stipple and cursor visible. The default is to start with a black root window, and to suppress
display of the cursor until the first time an application calls XDefineCursor(). For the Xorg server, this also sets the default
for the DontZap option to FALSE. For kdrive servers, this implies -zap.
sets screen-saver timeout time in minutes.
-su disables save under support on all screens.
seat to run on. Takes a string identifying a seat in a platform specific syntax. On platforms which support this feature this may
be used to limit the server to expose only a specific subset of devices connected to the system.
sets pointer acceleration threshold in pixels (i.e. after how many pixels pointer acceleration should take effect).
causes the server to terminate at server reset, instead of continuing to run. This overrides a previous -noreset command line
sets default connection timeout in seconds.
-tst disables all testing extensions (e.g., XTEST, XTrap, XTestExtension1, RECORD).
ttyxx ignored, for servers started the ancient way (from init).
v sets video-off screen-saver preference.
-v sets video-on screen-saver preference.
-wm forces the default backing-store of all windows to be WhenMapped. This is a backdoor way of getting backing-store to apply to all
windows. Although all mapped windows will have backing store, the backing store attribute value reported by the server for a win-
dow will be the last value established by a client. If it has never been set by a client, the server will report the default
value, NotUseful. This behavior is required by the X protocol, which allows the server to exceed the client's backing store expec-
tations but does not provide a way to tell the client that it is doing so.
-wr sets the default root window to solid white instead of the standard root weave pattern.
loads the specified extension at init. This is a no-op for most implementations.
enables(+) or disables(-) the XINERAMA extension. The default state is platform and configuration specific.
SERVER DEPENDENT OPTIONS
Some X servers accept the following options:
sets the data space limit of the server to the specified number of kilobytes. A value of zero makes the data size as large as pos-
sible. The default value of -1 leaves the data space limit unchanged.
sets the number-of-open-files limit of the server to the specified number. A value of zero makes the limit as large as possible.
The default value of -1 leaves the limit unchanged.
sets the stack space limit of the server to the specified number of kilobytes. A value of zero makes the stack size as large as
possible. The default value of -1 leaves the stack space limit unchanged.
-render default|mono|gray|color sets the color allocation policy that will be used by the render extension.
default selects the default policy defined for the display depth of the X server.
mono don't use any color cell.
gray use a gray map of 13 color cells for the X render extension.
color use a color cube of at most 4*4*4 colors (that is 64 color cells).
disables smart scheduling on platforms that support the smart scheduler.
sets the smart scheduler's scheduling interval to interval milliseconds.
X servers that support XDMCP have the following options. See the X Display Manager Control Protocol specification for more information.
enables XDMCP and sends Query packets to the specified hostname.
enable XDMCP and broadcasts BroadcastQuery packets to the network. The first responding display manager will be chosen for the
-multicast [address [hop count]]
Enable XDMCP and multicast BroadcastQuery packets to the network. The first responding display manager is chosen for the session.
If an address is specified, the multicast is sent to that address. If no address is specified, the multicast is sent to the
default XDMCP IPv6 multicast group. If a hop count is specified, it is used as the maximum hop count for the multicast. If no hop
count is specified, the multicast is set to a maximum of 1 hop, to prevent the multicast from being routed beyond the local net-
enables XDMCP and send IndirectQuery packets to the specified hostname.
uses the specified port-number for XDMCP packets, instead of the default. This option must be specified before any -query, -broad-
cast, -multicast, or -indirect options.
specifies the local address to connect from (useful if the connecting host has multiple network interfaces). The local-address may
be expressed in any form acceptable to the host platform's gethostbyname(3) implementation.
-once causes the server to terminate (rather than reset) when the XDMCP session ends.
XDMCP has an additional display qualifier used in resource lookup for display-specific options. This option sets that value, by
default it is "MIT-Unspecified" (not a very useful value).
When testing XDM-AUTHENTICATION-1, a private key is shared between the server and the manager. This option sets the value of that
private data (not that it is very private, being on the command line!).
Yet another XDMCP specific value, this one allows the display manager to identify each display so that it can locate the shared
X servers that support the XKEYBOARD (a.k.a. "XKB") extension accept the following options. All layout files specified on the command line
must be located in the XKB base directory or a subdirectory, and specified as the relative path from the XKB base directory. The default
XKB base directory is /usr/lib/X11/xkb.
[+-]accessx [ timeout [ timeout_mask [ feedback [ options_mask ] ] ] ]
enables(+) or disables(-) AccessX key sequences.
base directory for keyboard layout files. This option is not available for setuid X servers (i.e., when the X server's real and
effective uids are different).
sets the autorepeat delay (length of time in milliseconds that a key must be depressed before autorepeat starts).
sets the autorepeat interval (length of time in milliseconds that should elapse between autorepeat-generated keystrokes).
loads keyboard description in filename on server startup.
The X server supports client connections via a platform-dependent subset of the following transport types: TCPIP, Unix Domain sockets, DEC-
net, and several varieties of SVR4 local connections. See the DISPLAY NAMES section of the X(7) manual page to learn how to specify which
transport type clients should try to use.
The X server implements a platform-dependent subset of the following authorization protocols: MIT-MAGIC-COOKIE-1, XDM-AUTHORIZATION-1, XDM-
AUTHORIZATION-2, SUN-DES-1, and MIT-KERBEROS-5. See the Xsecurity(7) manual page for information on the operation of these protocols.
Authorization data required by the above protocols is passed to the server in a private file named with the -auth command line option.
Each time the server is about to accept the first connection after a reset (or when the server is starting), it reads this file. If this
file contains any authorization records, the local host is not automatically allowed access to the server, and only clients which send one
of the authorization records contained in the file in the connection setup information will be allowed access. See the Xau manual page for
a description of the binary format of this file. See xauth(1) for maintenance of this file, and distribution of its contents to remote
The X server also uses a host-based access control list for deciding whether or not to accept connections from clients on a particular
machine. If no other authorization mechanism is being used, this list initially consists of the host on which the server is running as
well as any machines listed in the file /etc/Xn.hosts, where n is the display number of the server. Each line of the file should contain
either an Internet hostname (e.g. expo.lcs.mit.edu) or a DECnet hostname in double colon format (e.g. hydra::) or a complete name in the
format family:name as described in the xhost(1) manual page. There should be no leading or trailing spaces on any lines. For example:
Users can add or remove hosts from this list and enable or disable access control using the xhost command from the same machine as the
If the X FireWall Proxy (xfwp) is being used without a sitepolicy, host-based authorization must be turned on for clients to be able to
connect to the X server via the xfwp. If xfwp is run without a configuration file and thus no sitepolicy is defined, if xfwp is using an X
server where xhost + has been run to turn off host-based authorization checks, when a client tries to connect to this X server via xfwp,
the X server will deny the connection. See xfwp(1) for more information about this proxy.
The X protocol intrinsically does not have any notion of window operation permissions or place any restrictions on what a client can do; if
a program can connect to a display, it has full run of the screen. X servers that support the SECURITY extension fare better because
clients can be designated untrusted via the authorization they use to connect; see the xauth(1) manual page for details. Restrictions are
imposed on untrusted clients that curtail the mischief they can do. See the SECURITY extension specification for a complete list of these
Sites that have better authentication and authorization systems might wish to make use of the hooks in the libraries and the server to pro-
vide additional security models.
The X server attaches special meaning to the following signals:
SIGHUP This signal causes the server to close all existing connections, free all resources, and restore all defaults. It is sent by the
display manager whenever the main user's main application (usually an xterm or window manager) exits to force the server to clean
up and prepare for the next user.
SIGTERM This signal causes the server to exit cleanly.
SIGUSR1 This signal is used quite differently from either of the above. When the server starts, it checks to see if it has inherited
SIGUSR1 as SIG_IGN instead of the usual SIG_DFL. In this case, the server sends a SIGUSR1 to its parent process after it has set
up the various connection schemes. Xdm uses this feature to recognize when connecting to the server is possible.
The X server can obtain fonts from directories and/or from font servers. The list of directories and font servers the X server uses when
trying to open a font is controlled by the font path.
The default font path is catalogue:/etc/X11/fontpath.d,built-ins .
A special kind of directory can be specified using the catalogue: prefix. Directories specified this way can contain symlinks pointing to
the real font directories. See the FONTPATH.D section for details.
The font path can be set with the -fp option or by xset(1) after the server has started.
You can specify a special kind of font path in the form catalogue:<dir>. The directory specified after the catalogue: prefix will be
scanned for symlinks and each symlink destination will be added as a local fontfile FPE.
The symlink can be suffixed by attributes such as 'unscaled', which will be passed through to the underlying fontfile FPE. The only excep-
tion is the newly introduced 'pri' attribute, which will be used for ordering the font paths specified by the symlinks.
An example configuration:
75dpi:unscaled:pri=20 -> /usr/share/X11/fonts/75dpi
ghostscript:pri=60 -> /usr/share/fonts/default/ghostscript
misc:unscaled:pri=10 -> /usr/share/X11/fonts/misc
type1:pri=40 -> /usr/share/X11/fonts/Type1
type1:pri=50 -> /usr/share/fonts/default/Type1
This will add /usr/share/X11/fonts/misc as the first FPE with the attribute 'unscaled', second FPE will be /usr/share/X11/fonts/75dpi, also
with the attribute 'unscaled' etc. This is functionally equivalent to setting the following font path:
/etc/Xn.hosts Initial access control list for display number n
Bitmap font directories
Outline font directories
/tmp/.X11-unix/Xn Unix domain socket for display number n
/usr/adm/Xnmsgs Error log file for display number n if run from init(8)
/usr/lib/X11/xdm/xdm-errors Default error log file if the server is run from xdm(1)
General information: X(7)
Protocols: X Window System Protocol, The X Font Service Protocol, X Display Manager Control Protocol
Fonts: bdftopcf(1), mkfontdir(1), mkfontscale(1), xfs(1), xlsfonts(1), xfontsel(1), xfd(1), X Logical Font Description Conventions
Security: Xsecurity(7), xauth(1), Xau(1), xdm(1), xhost(1), xfwp(1), Security Extension Specification
Starting the server: startx(1), xdm(1), xinit(1)
Controlling the server once started: xset(1), xsetroot(1), xhost(1), xinput(1), xrandr(1)
Server-specific man pages: Xorg(1), Xdmx(1), Xephyr(1), Xnest(1), Xvfb(1), Xquartz(1), XWin(1).
Server internal documentation: Definition of the Porting Layer for the X v11 Sample Server
The sample server was originally written by Susan Angebranndt, Raymond Drewry, Philip Karlton, and Todd Newman, from Digital Equipment Cor-
poration, with support from a large cast. It has since been extensively rewritten by Keith Packard and Bob Scheifler, from MIT. Dave Wig-
gins took over post-R5 and made substantial improvements.
X Version 11 xorg-server 1.15.0 XSERVER(1)