A useful summary:

Cleanly Restarting Your System

Used in sequence, some of these actions can be used to cleanly end processes, flush data to disk, unmount all file systems, and restart your computer. To perform this process, press and hold the Alt + SysRq key combination and – while holding the Alt and SysRq keys down — type the following keys in order, pausing for several seconds in between each key:


The mnemonic “Raising Elephants Is So Utterly Boring” is often used to remember this sequence. Here’s what each key does:

r – Puts the keyboard into raw mode, taking control of it away from the X server.
e – Sends the terminate signal to all processes, asking them to end gracefully.
i – Sends the kill signal to all processes, forcing them to end immediately.
s – Flushes data from your cache to disk.
u – Remounts all file systems read-only.
b – Reboots your computer.

More Commands

Here are some other actions you can perform with the magic SysRq key. To perform an action, press and hold the Alt + SysRq keys while typing the letter:

n – Resets the nice level (priority) of all high and realtime priority processes.
f – Calls oom_kill, which will kill a memory-hogging process.
o – Shuts off the computer.

Use the Magic SysRq Key on Linux to Fix Frozen X Servers, Cleanly Reboot, and Run Other Low-Level Commands – How-To Geek.