Ask Ubuntu is a question and answer site for Ubuntu users and developers. It's 100% free.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I was stupid, I kept ignoring the warnings that my harddrive space was running low and left a download running in the background. When I logged out, I wasn't taken back to the login screen (LightDM), and when I rebooted I didn't get the login screen either. Instead I got a terminal-like screen that listed drivers/daemons being loaded, but didn't have a prompt. I could still access the terminal with Ctrl-Alt-F1 (and F2 etc).

After barking up many wrong trees I solved it by deleting a file or two. My question is, why did this happen?

share|improve this question
up vote 6 down vote accepted

If the root partition has filled (or the partition that holds /var to be more precise), there will not be any space to write to /var/log/auth.log, which usually prevents login attempts from anyone besides the superuser.

The same goes for /home. There are files in your home directory that have to be updated and if there is no space left on the device will prevent you from logging in.

share|improve this answer
It's worth noting that even though its easily explained, we still consider this to be a pretty serious bug. You shouldn't have to drop down to a VT to log in when your disk is full. – tumbleweed Mar 26 '12 at 10:28
afaik it is not needed to drop down to a VT. failsafe mode should still work (though I do not have a hdd to test this on ;)) @tumbleweed – Rinzwind Mar 26 '12 at 10:39
@tumbleweed is there a launchpad bug I can subscribe to? – d3vid Mar 27 '12 at 13:32
@tumbleweed or rinzwind - by the way, do you happen to know the name of the terminal-like screen I described? – d3vid Mar 27 '12 at 13:34
That's probably the normal boot screen where the commands are shown during booting (Ubuntu nowadays hides this but it is still there). – Rinzwind Mar 27 '12 at 15:07

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.