HOWTO Automatically logout your UNIX shell

This article is incomplete and was first written in June 2007
for the BeezNest technical website (

To ensure a shell left open automatically logs out (kicks the user) after a certain idle time, most recent shells implement its autologout.

Just set the right environment variable and you’re done!

The following two expressions are equivalent.


TMOUT (expressed in seconds)

export TMOUT=300


autologout (expressed in minutes)

set autologout=5

But maybe what you are looking for is something to lock the console (or terminal) after a certain idle time? In this case, just use vlock.

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