The system console, root console or simply console is the text entry and display device for system administration messages, particularly those from the BIOS or boot loader, the kernel, from the init system and from the system logger.
On traditional minicomputers, the console was a serial console, an RS-232 serial link to a terminal such as a DEC VT100. This terminal was usually kept in a secured room since it could be used for certain privileged functions such as halting the system or selecting which media to boot from. Large midrange systems, e.g. those from Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard and IBM, still use serial consoles. In larger installations, the console ports are attached to multiplexers or network-connected multiport serial servers that let an operator connect his terminal to any of the attached servers.
On PCs, the computer's attached keyboard and monitor have the equivalent function. Since the monitor cable carries video signals, it cannot be extended very far. Often, installations with many servers therefore use keyboard/video multiplexers (KVM switches) and possibly video amplifiers to centralize console access. In recent years, KVM/IP devices have become available that allow a remote computer to view the video output and send keyboard input via any TCP/IP network and therefore the Internet.
Some PC BIOSes, especially in servers, also support serial consoles, giving access to the BIOS through a serial port so that the simpler and cheaper serial console infrastructure can be used. Even where BIOS support is lacking, some operating systems, e.g. FreeBSD and Linux, can be configured for serial console operation either during bootup, or after startup.
It is usually possible to log in from the console. Depending on configuration, the operating system may treat a login session from the console as being more trustworthy than a login session from other sources.
Routers and Managed Switches (as well as other networking and telecoms equipment) may also have console ports in particular Cisco Systems routers and switches that use Cisco IOS are normally configured via their console ports.