Ubuntu: Blank screen, blinking cursor on boot


Occasionally my Ubuntu 10.04 PC won't boot properly. It gets past Grub and then stops at a blank screen and blinking cursor. From what I've read, this blinking cursor screen is presented by Ubuntu itself and not Grub, so I assume the boot process gets halted for some reason. Has anyone any guidance on how to diagnose this issue or what the cause is likely to be? Normally I need to press the reset button to reboot the PC and often it will reboot fine. The fact that it is intermittent is what confuses me.

Any pointers on diagnosing the problem would be much appreciated.


It's been a while, mainly because my server has been up for a long time. It looks like I've captured a recurrence of this issue, I copied the messages file and the dmesg file and had a look where processing seems to have stopped and found the messages below. I'm going to do some research on Google etc. but figured I'd put it up here in case anyone can help and wants to earn themselves some points. I should mention that the ondemand governor failed message happens on successful boots but the other two don't appear to.

Oct 11 23:17:21 linux kernel: [   98.905370] ondemand governor failed, too long transition latency of HW, fallback to performance governor    Oct 11 23:21:48 linux kernel: Kernel logging (proc) stopped.    Oct 11 23:21:48 linux rsyslogd: [origin software="rsyslogd" swVersion="4.2.0" x-pid="697" x-info="http://www.rsyslog.com"] exiting on signal 15.   

I found a few vague references to rolling over of logfiles at boot time being the cause


Hold shift during boot, then hit e to edit the GRUB entry. Remove the part that says "quiet splash" and replace it with "text" to see what's happening during boot.


In my case, the blinking cursor was all I would ever get. No boot. It was upon installing a fresh Ubuntu Minimal. I figured out that during the GRUB installation step, it was installing GRUB onto the wrong drive, the "first" drive (/dev/sda).

My system has 3 drives. Two 500GB drives in RAID, that I didn't want to touch during installation, and a 120GB SSD that I use for the OS. For whatever reason, the "first drive" (/dev/sda) is one of my 500GB drives. /dev/sdb is my 120GB drive and /dev/sdc is the other 500GB drive.

So, when formatting with a partition table of "mbr" on my 120GB drive, I did the normal 117GB of bootable ext4 and 3GB of swap. On the GRUB installation step, DO NOT choose Yes to put GRUB onto the "first" drive. Choose NO. This will bring up another screen that allows you to input /dev/sdX. In my case, I tried /dev/sdb and /dev/sdb1, but the installer would give me a fatal error every time, which still makes no sense.

Finally, I had to format my 120GB drive with a partition table of "gpt". With GPT, you have to manually create a GRUB partition. That's the way things are done with GPT. So, the first partition I made for GRUB was 32.0 MB formatted for "boot or something (forget wording)". Second partition was my 3.0 GB formatted for "swap", at the "end". Third partition was the remaining space formatted as "ext4".

Now, when choosing NO during the GRUB installation step, manually input /dev/sdb, not /dev/sdb1 surprisingly, and it then works. GRUB installs into the 32MB boot partition on the correct drive and the system boots normally. YAY!

BTW, you have to choose Expert install from the menu at the beginning of the installation to do all this and format your HDD "manually" not "guided". Guided will always choose /dev/sda as the first drive and blinking cursor/no boot will result if /dev/sda isn't your OS drive.


I have had this problem in the past, and found that it appears to happen on some kernels and not others although I have not had this issue since upgrading to Meerkat. But often times I found I would have to select a prior Kernel to load into Ubuntu properly.


I like maco's answer, but another thing I'd check is that your hard drive is healthy. Check in System > Administration > Disk Utility, look at the SMART status, it should be "Disk is healthy," otherwise your drive might be failing.


I've had that problem quite a few times now, but I could distinguish at least three different variants:

  • resumes boot after pressing Enter
  • resumes boot without doing anything, after a while
  • never resumes boot, but accepts ctrl-alt-del, indicating that there's still some life in the kernel

This has led me to believe that when you see what you're describing, the actual problem is that the quiet boot option is hiding "something" from you. For instance, I could track down one of my incidents to the system recovering (not the usual routine check) my harddisk. I have since removed the quiet option from my grub entries.


I had a similar issue in the past using the recommended version of a proprietary nVidia driver with a certain video card. The solution was to boot into recovery mode, run the xfix option, then boot into the desktop. Once in the desktop, I would go into the hardware drivers screen and select an older version of the driver.


I had this problem on some cheap HP notebooks with 10.04. I observed that often USB mouse is the cause. Try unplug it. And also, BIOS update may help.


I experienced this problem today..and after several vain attempts to boot the system, I decided to boot in from a different Kernel. I have both 2.6.32-21-generic kernel and 2.6.32-25-generic, which is provided by Ubuntu. Usually I'm booting in from the Kernel, but after the whole blank screen fiasco, I booted from Kernel, and that allowed me to boot as usual...


after restarting freshly installed ubuntu 10.04 in IBM x3250 m3 server. ived try holding the shift key and some other stuff but nothing really helps... i have tried reinstalling it for more than 5 times. The main problem is its inconsistency, sometimes it does boot but most of the time just a blank screen with a blinking cursor on the left top most of the screen.


I had this problem with a new install of 11.10 server.

I was able to switch to a VT with alt-F1, so the machine was alive but had switched to vt7, despite no X being enabled.

I fixed it by altering the grub GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT option from quiet slash to nomodeset which meant I got the proper boot information, followed by VT1.


In my case for the above description (sometimes getting a black screen with a blinking cursor), lightgdm having a race condition and not being able to start properly was the issue; see my full answer to this other related question.

See the details of the solution here: http://www.webupd8.org/2013/01/ubuntu-lightdm-black-screen-when-using.html (see also this bug report).

The gist of it: Use gdm and not lightgdm (i.e. sudo apt-get install gdm, and choose gdm as default login manager when asked).

Hope this helps someone.


This is what I did wrong: I was installing 14.04 on to an old Acer Netbook, when I boot the Acer I have two options F2 to go into the BIOS to reset the boot sequence for the computer or F12 to reset the sequence for one session. Because I was installing from a memory stick, I stupidly reset the computer boot sequence instead of the session sequence to the memory stick. So the crucial boot files were installed onto the memory stick instead of the harddrive.

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