Ubuntu: When booting from a live USB, graphics error


As the title says, I am booting from a Live USB. Releases 16.04 and 17.04. Booting in Legacy mode, because I like to have a multiboot flash drive and I can't find a UEFI compatible multiboot system.

When I attempt to boot from the live USB, I get an error from Nouveau saying gr: failed to load fecs_inst. This occurs for both Ubuntu Unity and Gnome.

I can hear the welcome chime while the graphics error is shown, so the system likely makes it through boot-up aside from the graphics.

My pc is running an AMD CPU, GTX 970 graphics with 16GB RAM. I know Nouveau is the graphics driver. I assume my card isn't outdated already.

Could the issue be that I'm booting in legacy mode? If so, does anyone know where I could find a UEFI Multiboot system? Or do I just have to deal with one OS at a time?


Boot option nomodeset

You can try to get the nvidia graphics to work with the boot option nomodeset manually according to this link,

Boot options

and if it works, you can edit your boot configuration file to add it permanently in the [multiboot] live drive.

Proprietary driver

If it works with nomodeset or some other boot option, and you want to install a proprietary driver to use the full power of the nvidia graphics card, you need to install the operating system (and it is possible to do that into [another] USB pendrive).

Try Ubuntu (Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Xubuntu, ...) before installing it

Multiboot versus many single boot pendrives

New iso files are released all the time, and it is a lot of work to keep a multiboot USB pendrive up to date. I store the new systems as iso files (and sometimes as compressed image files), and use USB pendrives as 'temporary devices', install the system I want from its file and use it. Next time I will overwrite it with the next system I want to use.

Cheap but reliable USB pendrives for cloned live-only systems

If you want to test several systems at the same time and bring the systems to some other place, I suggest that you get a bunch of cheap but reliable USB pendrives (for example Sandisk Cruzer Blades or some Transcend 4 GB pendrives) and create single boot drives by cloning, which is much more straightforward than to use a multiboot pendrive.

mkusb can clone such live-only systems in a convenient and safe way. 'It wraps a safety belt around dd' and works with and in several linux distros.

Multiboot alternatives

If you still want a multiboot system, that boots in BIOS (legacy) mode and UEFI mode, you can try according to the following links and links from them,

One pendrive for all PC (Intel/AMD) computers - single-boot dual-boot multi-boot



A fast USB 3 pendrive for persistent live systems

mkusb can also make persistent live drives from iso files of standard Ubuntu, Ubuntu family flavours, Debian and some linux distros based on Ubuntu and Debian.

It is a good idea to use a fast USB 3 pendrive (even if the computer has only USB 2 ports because the flash memory hardware is often limiting the speed). Otherwise the persistent live system will be slow. See the following links and links from them,

Try Ubuntu (Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Xubuntu, ...) before installing it


BIOS and UEFI mode

The 64-bit versions of these systems (cloned live-only and persistent live made with mkusb) will boot in both BIOS alias legacy mode and in UEFI mode. Sometimes the system will find a better graphics driver in one of the boot modes (which you find out by testing a particular operating system in a particular computer).


Concerning BIOS/CSM/legacy vs. EFI/UEFI mode and multiboot systems

I can't add anything to sodudus's answer concerning your video problems, but I do have some comments on BIOS/CSM/legacy vs. EFI/UEFI boot modes and multi-booting.

It's not clear from your question what the point is of your multiboot USB flash drive. If you want to have a multiboot USB drive with different distributions, or different versions of a single distribution, for installation to computers, then using BIOS-mode booting for that because it works is like the parable of the man who searches for his lost keys in the light of a street lamp because that's where the light is. That is, it may be easier to get the initial boot working, but if you need to install in EFI mode, booting the installer in BIOS mode is (nearly) useless.

If you intend to install a multi-boot system, then the boot mode of the second OS you install (usually Linux, since Windows or macOS is usually pre-installed) should match that of the original OS. It's usually possible to boot two OSes in different boot modes, but doing so is awkward -- sometimes awkward enough to make the endeavor very painful. Thus, you should prepare your boot media so that they can boot in the desired boot mode, even if that means you need to have a dozen USB flash drives rather than just one.

Note that the optimal boot mode for installation may vary from one computer to another. Thus, the best solution is to prepare boot media so that they can boot in either mode. Several tools (including the lowly dd) can do this for individual media. I don't know of a tool that will create a multi-boot USB drive that boots in both BIOS and EFI modes. Such a thing is theoretically possible, and I know enough that I might be able to set it up myself; but I've never tried it, and so I can't give step-by-step instructions, nor do I have a pointer to such instructions elsewhere.

If EFI-mode booting is preferred, you can create a multi-boot EFI-mode USB drive as follows:

  1. Start with a USB drive that has an EFI System Partition (ESP).
  2. Download the .zip file version of my rEFInd boot manager and unzip it.
  3. Run the refind-install script and tell it to install rEFInd to the USB drive's ESP with its --usedefault option, as in sudo ./refind-install --usedefault /dev/sdc1 --alldrivers. The --alldrivers option installs all the EFI filesystem drivers. Chances are you just need the ISO-9660 driver, so you could instead omit that option and manually copy the ISO-9660 driver yourself.
  4. Create additional partitions on the USB drive, each one being at least as large as one .iso image you want to use. It will be very helpful if you give each partition a suitable name, such as "Ubuntu Xenial." rEFInd identifies boot options using partition or filesystem names, so having names will enable you to identify which image you're booting.
  5. Use dd to copy the .iso images to the USB drive, each to its own partition. Do not overwrite the entire disk; you MUST write each .iso image to a SINGLE PARTITION!

At this point, if you boot with the USB drive, rEFInd should appear and give you the option to boot any of the images you've prepared. This procedure works for me in multi-booting Ubuntu and at least one or two other Linux distributions I've tried (Fedora and/or OpenSUSE). There are several caveats, though:

  • Updating the USB drive will be awkward. If you're done with Distribution A, you can overwrite its filesystem; but if you need to replace it with one that's slightly larger than its partition, you'll be out of luck, or at best you'll have to re-write one or more other images.
  • There's no guarantee that any given distribution or OS will work. I was unable to boot a Windows image in this way, for instance.
  • This disk won't work on BIOS-based computers. You might be able to get it to work by adding a BIOS-mode GRUB with an appropriate configuration, but I've never tried this.

Now, backing up to the start, if the point of your multi-boot USB drive is to be able to run emergency tools (for repartitioning a disk, for instance), then the boot mode may not be very important, and a BIOS-mode-only disk might be perfectly acceptable. There is one caveat: On EFI-based computers, the efibootmgr utility (and other EFI-specific manipulations and tools) will be useless on a BIOS-mode boot. This tool is required to adjust the EFI boot order, so it's pretty critical for some recovery operations. Thus, you may need to have a separate EFI-mode tool for some situations.

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