Linux: Terminal sizes beyond 80 columns x 24 rows

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How do I switch my text mode terminal to something larger than the default 80 columns x 24 rows? I don't want to switch to graphics mode because I don't like the sluggishness this introduces on my machine. E.g. when doing an ls -l on 500 files:

                              real [%]                  real [s]   user [s]   sys [s]
                -------------------------------------   --------   --------   -------
                0                                 100
graphics mode   #####################################      2.477      0.036     2.436

text mode       ###                                        0.173      0.044     0.132
                -------------------------------------   --------   --------   -------

Table 1: Time consumed listing 500 entries via the command ls -l, using either graphics mode or text mode. See #Appendix A: for the code used.


  • Debian-6.0 (Squeeze)
  • Graphic card: SiS 6326 PCI True Color Graphics and Video Accelerator, 4M Byte Video Memory, BIOS Version 1.28q, Support VESA BIOS Extension Ver 2.0
  • Monitor: Dell U2311H, 1920x1080 60Hz


First boot with kernel parameter vga=ask to get a list of supported modes. Try different modes and specify a default mode as vga=<number>.

Specifying vga=ask in GRUB 2 takes some more effort compared to GRUB Legacy. You can determine if you've GRUB 2 with the command:

$ sudo grub-install -v
grub-install (GRUB) 1.98+20100804-14

GRUB 2 should display a version number of 1.96 or later. GRUB Legacy is version 0.97.


1. Replace linux loader with linux16

Specifying vga=X as a kernel parameter has been deprecated in GRUB 2 over GRUB Legacy. It appears however, you can within /etc/grub.d/10_linux, replace the default linux loader with linux16, which is the 16-bit loader and does support vga=X:

--- /tmp/10_linux.orig       2011-08-17 11:22:13.000000000 +0200
+++ /etc/grub.d/10_linux        2011-08-17 11:41:00.000000000 +0200
@@ -80,13 +80,13 @@
   message="$(gettext_printf "Loading Linux %s ..." ${version})"
   cat << EOF
        echo    '$message'
-       linux   ${rel_dirname}/${basename} root=${linux_root_device_thisversion} ro ${args}
+       linux16 ${rel_dirname}/${basename} root=${linux_root_device_thisversion} ro ${args}
   if test -n "${initrd}" ; then
     message="$(gettext_printf "Loading initial ramdisk ...")"
     cat << EOF
        echo    '$message'
-       initrd  ${rel_dirname}/${initrd}
+       initrd16        ${rel_dirname}/${initrd}
   cat << EOF

2. Specify text mode instead of graphics mode

Modify /etc/default/grub to use text mode instead of graphics mode:

--- /etc/default/grub.orig        2011-08-17 12:50:21.000000000 +0200
+++ /etc/default/grub   2011-08-17 12:56:08.000000000 +0200
@@ -5,7 +5,7 @@
 GRUB_DISTRIBUTOR=`lsb_release -i -s 2> /dev/null || echo Debian`
 # Uncomment to enable BadRAM filtering, modify to suit your needs
 # This works with Linux (no patch required) and with any kernel that obtains
@@ -13,13 +13,13 @@
 # Uncomment to disable graphical terminal (grub-pc only)
 # The resolution used on graphical terminal
 # note that you can use only modes which your graphic card supports via VBE
 # you can see them in real GRUB with the command `vbeinfo'
 # Uncomment if you don't want GRUB to pass "root=UUID=xxx" parameter to Linux

3. Specify font

Specify the font to be loaded at boot time by modifying /etc/default/console-setup:

--- console-setup.orig  2011-08-19 07:25:25.000000000 +0200
+++ console-setup       2011-08-19 07:26:39.000000000 +0200
@@ -25,8 +25,8 @@
 # GohaClassic (sizes 12, 14 and 16).
 # Set FONTFACE and FONTSIZE to empty strings if you want setupcon to
 # set up the keyboard but to leave the console font unchanged.
 # You can also directly specify nonstandard font or console map to load.
 # Use space as separator if you want to load more than one font.
@@ -36,6 +36,7 @@
 # FONT='lat9w-08.psf.gz /usr/local/share/braillefonts/brl-08.psf'
 # FONT_MAP=/usr/share/consoletrans/lat9u.uni
 # CONSOLE_MAP=/usr/local/share/consoletrans/my_special_encoding.acm
 # You can also specify a screen size that setupcon will enforce.  This can not
 # exceed what the current screen resolution can display according to the size of

You can experiment with fonts like this:

$ cd /usr/share/consolefonts
$ setfont Lat15-VGA16.psf.gz

You can retrieve additional fonts by installing the console-data package:

sudo apt-get install console-data

4. Run update-grub2

Make the changes persistent in the grub config file by running:


GRUB Legacy

  • Within Grub startup menu - before booting the kernel - press 'e' to "edit the commands before booting"
  • Select the line starting with "kernel ..." and press 'e' to "edit the selected command in the boot sequence"
  • Add `vga=ask'.
    For example, my grub command line looks like this:
grub edit> kernel  /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.18-6-686 root=/dev/hda1 ro vga=ask
  • Press 'b' to boot
  • Press RETURN. Default modes are:
0  0F00   80x25
1  0F01   80x50
2  0F02   80x43
3  0F03   80x28
4  0F05   80x30
5  0F06   80x34
6  0F07   80x60

Press RETURN. Found additional modes:

7  0100   40x25
8  0122  132x44
9  0123  132x25
a  0124  132x28
b  012A  100x37

100 columns x 37 rows

1. Modify /boot/grub/menu.lst:

kernel ... vga=0x012A ...

132 columns x 44 rows

(If only I could find a nice 6x8 font?)

1. Modify /boot/grub/menu.lst:

kernel ... vga=0x0122 ...

2. Modify /etc/sysconfig/console


See also

VESA BIOS Extensions - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Thorough article, describing VESA history and all possible Linux video mode numbers


Appendix A:

# --- -------------------------------------------------------
# Show time used listing 1,000 files

# Setup test directory

[ -d $TMPDIR ] || mkdir -p $TMPDIR
for (( i = 0; i < 500; i++))
    touch $TMPDIR/file_$i

# Perform test

time ls -l $TMPDIR

# Delete test directory

rm -rf $TMPDIR




This is somewhat better, but still 80 columns:

resizecons -lines 44
export TERM=linux-80x44

I notice this line during boot:

Loading console font lat9w-16.psfu  -m trivial G0:loadable

The `vga=' Argument

Edit GRUB command line during boot, by pressing 'e'. Specified kernel parameter vga=ask ({ e | vga=ask | b }). Press RETURN. Default modes are:

0  0F00   80x25
1  0F01   80x50
2  0F02   80x43
3  0F03   80x28
4  0F05   80x30
5  0F06   80x34
6  0F07   80x60

Press RETURN. Found additional modes:

7  0100   40x25
8  0122  132x44
9  0123  132x25
a  0124  132x28
b  012A  100x37

Specifying 012A seems to work without scan first. Not during boot. Maybe 0x012A? Yes, so additional modes must be prefixed with '0x'. However, when specifying 8 (132x44) the console displays 25 lines only and remaining lines are 'below' the screen. Mode b (100x37) works nice though. However, when specified in /boot/grub/menu.lst, GRUB halts

You passed an undefined mode number.

Nicer console textmodes

I can change font height with the command setfont /usr/share/kbd/consolefonts/lat9w-10.psfu.gz. If only I could find a font suitable for 132 columns, a 6x8 font?

Virtual Consoles in Linux - Changing fonts


Program `setfont' is part of Debian package `kbd'. Install with sudo apt-get install kbd

[nSLUG Want to reduce size of console font...confused]
Forum thread resulting in two solutions: vga=0x317 of using frame-buffer


Console session very large text font -
Forum thread with lots of information


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