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This is an attempt to create a canonical question that covers all instances of "low-graphics mode" error that occurs to a user, including but not limited to installation of wrong drivers, incorrect or invalid lightdm greeters, low disk space, incorrect installation of graphics card like ATI and Nvidia, incorrect configuration of xorg.conf file while setting up multiple monitors among others.

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When I try to boot into my computer, I am getting this error:

The system is running in low-graphics mode

Your screen, graphics cards, and input device settings could not be detected correctly. You will need to configure these yourself.

fail-safe X mode

How do I fix the failsafe X mode and login into my computer?


Answer index:

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36 Answers

Will try to answer the ones I can:

Assuming the answer by Jokerdino was already checked: The greeter is invalid

Issues with Nvidia or AMD/ATI graphics

This happens when a driver has a problem installing correctly (Most cases). For this do the following:

  1. Boot PC leaving SHIFT pressed to make the GRUB Menu show.

    Grub menu

  2. Select Recovery Mode which will continue booting correctly until the Recovery Menu appeares.

  3. Select from the recovery menu failsafeX.

    recovery menu, yes it's german please replace :( wasn't able to get it in english by changing system language and doing update-grub

  4. In some cases failsafeX will load fine (You lucky dog), for others (Me) it will give an error along the lines of "The system is running in low-graphics mode" and will stay there forever. When this happens, press CTRL+ALT+F1 to go to the terminal. Type in your Username and Password.

    low graphics mode error message

  5. Reinstall the drivers depending on your case:

    • Nvidia

      sudo apt-get install nvidia-current - More stable/tested version sudo apt-get install nvidia-current-updates - More up-to-date version

      For other cases see this answer for details and follow the links there to help you along the way.

    • AMD/ATI

      The simple way is to sudo apt-get install fglrx. If this does not work keep reading.

      Go to AMDs support site and download the driver you need. (If you have a newer card, you may want to download be the latest beta driver instead of the stable one. You would need to compare release dates and read through release notes to find out which driver version supports which chips.) Put the downloaded driver in some folder and rename it to "amd-gpu.run" to simplify name. Go to the folder where you downloaded the file and type chmod +x amd-gpu.run to give it Executable Permission. Now just simply run ./sh amd-gpu.run and follow the onscreen steps.

      After rebooting all problems should be solved. If you test 'Additional Drivers' with a problem like this it will finish downloading the package but then it will give an error. It also gives the same error if you use 'Software Center' and 'Synaptic'. The only way was to go to the failsafeX option and do the workaround about changing to the tty1 terminal and doing it via command line.

Note that if the problem occured after installing an unsupported driver from the amd site then you may have to first delete the driver you had installed. For this, run in the tty session (i.e) in the terminal screen you get after pressing CTRL+ALT+F1 :

sudo aticonfig --uninstall

(If this command didnt work then check this site . Look under the "Uninstalling the AMD Catalyst™ Proprietary Driver" heading.) After doing this, you may reboot with the command :

sudo shutdown -r now

Now you must get back access to the Unity desktop(Of course with the AMD driver uninstalled). Then you can get to this site which clearly helps in choosing the right AMD driver for your System specifications. Also read the release notes for the latest driver for your graphic card(Especially check if your system satisfies all the system requirements). Then after downloading your driver installer(the .zip file) get to this site and follow the instructions to install your driver. Your driver must be installed and it should work successfully.

I also need to add that I do not recommend downloading the Drivers from the Nvidia site since they:

 * Might create additional problems with Ubuntu
 * Are not updated automatically
 * Are not tested thoroughly in Ubuntu

Always use the nvidia-current package or the nvidia-current-updates one. These are tested and approved already for the Ubuntu version you are using and will give less errors and incompatibility bugs.

Issues with Intel graphics

For Intel it is recommended to do the following after doing all the steps mentioned above but before installing anything (When you are in the Terminal). You can choose from the Xorg-Edgers which is an Unstable PPA or the X-Swat which is more stable:

Warning: This PPA is very unstable for some things. So do it with that in mind.
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:xorg-edgers/ppa -y

or X-Swat:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-x-swat/x-updates -y

After that sudo apt-get update and you should receive several updates. X-Swat currently does not have Intel drivers in the latest versions of Ubuntu.


Update log

UPDATE 1: Added this extensive answer to solve many of the problems that might end with the error mentioned here: Installing Nvidia Drivers

UPDATE 2: AMD is no longer releasing (stable) graphics drivers on a monthly basis and not all graphics chips are supported by their Linux drivers upon product release. At the time of this update the latest stable driver is almost 5 months older than the latest beta driver. You should look at the release notes to check if there is a driver that supports your graphics chip and the software versions you are using (X.org xserver or Mir).


Like always please test and give feedback so I can enhance my answer since others will be also reading it. The better it is, the more people it will help.

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After trying all the other solutions, that's the one that worked for me. Thanks! –  Matthieu Mar 21 '13 at 22:34
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I solved this problem by reinstalling ubuntu-desktop.

When the message that "your system is running in low-graphics mode" appears, press Ctrl+Alt+F1, then login with your credentials.

And then, run the following commands:

  • sudo apt-get install --reinstall ubuntu-desktop
  • sudo reboot
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when i give this command!i got memory is full no more space available! –  Thiyagu Apr 4 '13 at 14:33
2  
This may help when the problem is to do with the desktop, but usually for me this type of problem comes from a combination of the graphics drivers and a kernel upgrade. In this case the other answers here are more appropriate, with particular reference to @Luis. –  Bobble Jun 12 '13 at 6:06
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The greeter is invalid

This is a bug in LightDM and a bug report has already been filed.

The reason why you end up with this failsafe X is because the pantheon-greeter you installed along with the elementary desktop is now not available and LightDM is not able to identify an alternative greeter.

As a workaround, you can edit the LightDM conf file and correct the error.

Run the following command in a terminal:

sudo nano /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf

and change the line

greeter-session=pantheon-greeter

to

greeter-session=unity-greeter

and save it.

After changing the file, reboot and you will now be greeted with Unity greeter.

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This doesn't help in my case. I already have the unity-greeter in /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf –  Sauli Oct 23 '13 at 11:23
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You have too many files on your computer, and have exhausted disk space

Try moving personal files off the computer onto a USB drive.


To check whether this is the issue:

  1. Press Ctrl + Alt + F1
  2. Type df -h
  3. If you see that there is no space available on the root (/) then you need to free some space.

To free space you can:

  1. sudo apt-get autoclean
  2. Look for large directories with sudo du -sc /*/* |sort -g and delete unwanted content,
  3. Clean your home directory using a combination of

    cd ~   
    du -sc * |sort -g
    rm myLargeFile
    

When this is done, restart: shutdown -r now

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Thanks! This did the job for me. Initially I did not think of checking the remaining space on the SSD. –  Andre May 5 '13 at 0:31
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When this happens there is often an error message indicating why it failed to start X.

Look in your /var/log/Xorg.0.log.old or /var/log/Xorg.0.log. The error (if there is one) will be at the tail end of the file. Another good place to look is the log files in /var/log/gdm/* (or /var/log/lightdm/* in oneiric).

Did you happen to manually install fglrx prior to noticing the problem? If it was not uninstalled properly it can cause weird random issues. Directions for purging fglrx are available at here.

Is your video card an AGP model? If so, a common issue with ati agp cards is having an incorrect AGPMode. Sometimes you can adjust this setting in your BIOS (which perhaps windows screwed with?) There is also a setting in /etc/X11/xorg.conf for adjusting it in X.

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Only for ATI graphics cards

When the message that "your system is running in low-graphics mode" appears:
Press Ctrl+Alt+F1 to see the terminal one. Then login with your credentials, and then run the following commands:

sudo apt-get install fglrx    
sudo reboot

The same can be done from the recovery mode (after enabling networking), if your Ubuntu completly refuses to enter anything but recovery mode.

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  • If you have a problem with the restricted (closed source) driver , then try to remove it.

Open a terminal and give this command

gksudo software-properties-gtk 

Goto Additional drivers and remove the dirver. You have to mark the Using X.Org X server -- Nouveau.

Then Reboot.

enter image description here

  • If you have not access at all to the Desktop Environment then use the Recovery Mode.

To remove the Nvidia current driver in Ubuntu 12.10

enter image description here

enter image description here

Select the Network and your root partition will mounted as Read-Write.

enter image description here

Select the Root enter image description here

And then give these commands with order

apt-get remove --purge nvidia-current 
rm /etc/X11/xorg.conf 
apt-get install ubuntu-desktop
reboot

The last command will reboot your system and hopefully you will login normally in next reboot with the Open Source nouveau driver.

  • If you have problem with the open source driver (nouveau) , in the same manner (from recovery mode) try to install the restricted (Nvidia) driver with these commands

When you reach the Root selection and after select root

To install nvidia-current driver.

 apt-get install linux-source 
 apt-get install linux-headers-$(uname -r)
 apt-get install nvidia-current 
 nvidia-xconfig 
 reboot

According to this answer : Ubuntu 12.10 Desktop does not show when I installed nvidia drivers! may need to install or reinstall the linux-headers to get the restricted Nvidia drivers work properly.

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Let's assume, arrogantly, that it is a problem with your X display manager.

Enter the terminal (you can use a virtual console if you cannot use a graphical terminal window), the one you said that you have access to, and enter the following:

sudo apt-get install gdm

. . . and choose gdm.

Then type:

sudo service gdm restart

(Or ... start instead of restart.)

According to https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/linux/+bug/1070150 this is a way to workaround a bug with lightdm.

Before typing that, you may need to first stop the other display manager that is running. This is usually LightDM:

sudo service lightdm stop

If you have trouble getting GDM to start, and this is an installed system rather than a live environment, then you can just reboot and it will start automatically because you configured it as the default display manager. (You should be able to shut down and restart normally. Otherwise, one way to reboot if the GUI is not working properly is to press Ctrl+Alt+Delete while on a virtual console.)

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Follow these commands:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get -d install --reinstall gdm
sudo apt-get remove --purge gdm

(I ran this command above, but was told by the system to use # sudo apt-get autoremove instead, after the #sudo apt-get remove --purge gdm command.)

sudo apt-get install gdm

select GDM when prompted

sudo reboot

That fixed it for me :)

It took very long to start after the reboot, 10+ mins. But I got in eventually.

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It is not related to Nvidia drivers. Because by default Ubuntu uses non-Nvidia drivers even though you might have Nvidia GPUs. I have an Nvidia GPU too.

My Ubuntu used to boot fine until something happened which caused the same issue. After reading posts, reading logs and little bit trial and error, turns out the problem is related to lightdm GUI server.

I don't know solution to the problem but there is a quick work around in 3 steps. This will save you from reinstalling Ubuntu.

  1. When the error shows up, hit Ctrl+Alt+F1. This will open the command line interface. Login as root.

  2. Remove a particular X11 config file. This file is not really required.

    rm /etc/X11/xorg.conf.failsafe
    

    Somehow, the existence of the above X11 configuration file causes the OS to throw that error.

  3. Restart lightdm GUI server.

    service lightdm restart
    

This will restart the lightdm GUI server and voila your desktop is back!

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I have recently received a similar issue with myPangolin Performance laptop. The folks at System 76 told me to do the following:

Click Okay and then select the option to get a terminal. (alternatively you can press ctr+alt+f1 to bring up another tty)

sudo chown lightdm:lightdm -R /var/lib/lightdm
sudo chown avahi-autoipd:avahi-autoipd -R /var/lib/avahi-autoipd
sudo chown colord:colord -R /var/lib/colord

reboot

These commands did the trick for me.

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This problem destroyed my morning. It turns out that if your root filesystem runs out of space then Ubuntu will boot into low graphics mode and it's hard to figure out why since the xorg log shows nothing wrong. To find out from the command line if you're low on space type

df -h

Sample output from my machine:

Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/sda6        18G   10G  6.6G  61% /
udev            3.9G  4.0K  3.9G   1% /dev
tmpfs           3.9G  108K  3.9G   1% /tmp
tmpfs           1.6G  1.2M  1.6G   1% /run
none            5.0M     0  5.0M   0% /run/lock
none            3.9G  1.3M  3.9G   1% /run/shm
none            100M   16K  100M   1% /run/user
/dev/sda4       317G   33G  285G  11% /media/data
/dev/sda1       197M   16M  182M   8% /boot/efi

If your / mount has a high Use% (90%+) then this could be your problem. In my case, ~/.xsession.errors had grown to fill most of my partition and caused me to fall into low-graphics mode. Found my answer for that in this Ubuntuforums thread:

rm ~/.xsession-errors
mkdir ~/.xsession-errors
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Try delete your /etc/X11/xorg.conf and restart.

Before restart, run

sudo apt-get install xserver-xorg-video-ati xserver-xorg-video-radeon
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Well, I had the same problem and solved it.

  1. Start ubuntu with recovery mode from grub then choose filesystem check followed by enable networking.

  2. Choose root option to get to terminal. Now uninstall the old drivers

    sh /usr/share/ati/fglrx-uninstall

  3. Then reinstall the drivers following the methods for precise from this website https://help.ubuntu.com/community/BinaryDriverHowto/ATI.

  4. After that everything works out just fine, I suggest you do

    apt-get update && apt-get upgrade && apt-get autoremove

    -everytime you complete a step. Good luck.

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I had the same problem with an Acer Aspire 3810tg. I solved it by doing the following:

  • Do a normal boot
  • Press Ctrl-Alt-F1 on the "Your system is running in low-graphics mode" screen
  • Download the correct driver from http://support.amd.com/us/gpudownload/Pages/index.aspx, in my case (ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330): wget http://www2.ati.com/drivers/linux/amd-driver-installer-12-4-x86.x86_64.run which should also cover your case (Mobility Radeon HD 4xxx Series)
  • chmod 755 amd-driver-installer-12-4-x86.x86_64.run to make the file executable
  • sudo ./amd-driver-installer-12-4-x86.x86_64.run and follow the standard steps
  • You might need to run: sudo aticonfig --initial, but that was not necessary for me.

In my case the driver installation finished with an error, but it still worked. I hope this helps.

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I had a similar problem.

When I was booting my PC, i was getting the following message: “Ubuntu is running in low-graphics mode”

When I used startx on the command prompt however, everything was fine and i could start the xserver.

Now I found out that for some strange reason GDM has been uninstalled (it took me hours to realize that), i did fix the problem by reinstalling gdm with:

apt-get install gdm

now everything's running. Hope this helps you.

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Wich ubuntu version are you running? Did you installed graphics drivers before the problem or is it a post clean-os-install issue? Giving some more info would be helpful for us to help you.

If you messed with the graphic drivers before the problem came up, get to the login screen, press Ctrl+Alt+F1, login, then:

  • sudo apt-get purge nvidia-*
  • sudo apt-get autoremove
  • sudo apt-get linux-source linux-headers-generic
  • sudo apt-get install nvidia-current
  • sudo nvidia-xconfig
  • sudo shutdown -r now

Of course, if you have an ATI videocard you have to change the nvidia-* and nvidia-current for your ATI drivers package.

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Install gdm Install gdm. GDM provides the equivalent of a "login:" prompt for X displays: it asks for a login and starts X sessions.

During the installation of gdm you will be asked to select either gdm or lightdm as the default login display manager. Select gdm.

By the way, the fact that you have this problem on 2 different computers is a sign that there may be an irregular voltage to your computer power supply. To test for this possibility take one computer to a different address and try booting it there.

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Or, the most likely of the reasons with old PC's is:

Your graphic card just do not support unity.

Try Lubuntu/Xubuntu instead.

Unity requires: Any graphics card with OpenGL 1.4 support (All GPUs released today by either NVidia, AMD or Intel; GPUs released by NVidia and AMD over the last 5 years; GPUs released by Intel after the GMA 950). If you card don't meet this requirements, then is just that you can't use Unity (yet).

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Try to boot from grub using a different parameter or even booting an older kernel from the list.

https://help.ubuntu.com/community/BootOptions

See the section on kernel options. Something like: xforcevesa

Good luck! :)

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Follow these commands:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get -d install --reinstall gdm
sudo apt-get remove --purge gdm
sudo apt-get install gdm
sudo apt-get remove --purge xserver-xgl compiz compiz-plugins compiz-core compiz-manager csm cgwd cgwd-themes
sudo apt-get install --reinstall compiz compiz-core compiz-fusion-plugins-extra compiz-fusion-plugins-main compiz-gnome compiz-plugins libcompizconfig0
sudo dpkg-reconfigure -phigh xserver-xorg

choose the driver 'ati' and when you get to monitor resolution choose the resolution you want to run and any resolution ABOVE that resolution should be removed. Once that is done issue the following:*

sudo reboot

You will most likely get errors on specific packages. Repeat the command removing the problem package until it works.

There will be a time where you will be without the desktop, so have another internet connected device nearby to reference this from or to Google with in case of emergency.

This worked for me, hope this helps.

*If you are never prompted, just skip this.

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I had a special case of this problem, where I somehow caused the removal of some packages. I only noticed the actual problem after some time spent looking at the problem.

So:

  1. Log into the text mode console
  2. Enter the command: sudo apt-get install ubuntu-desktop

This will ensure all the needed packages are installed. Without some of those, symptoms like those described here may occur.

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You said that you were stuck in low graphics mode and now you say that you can only get a command prompt. What happens when you type: startx

If you are stuck in a command prompt all is not lost. You can still reconfigure xserver with: sudo dpkg --reconfigure --phigh xserver-xorg

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dpkg-reconfigure xorg no longer does anything useful, since X is generally much better at detecting your hardware than our crufty old maintainer scripts were. –  RAOF Nov 2 '10 at 5:50
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I had the issue when I upgraded from 11.10 on my Acer Aspire One AO-722. I also had the propriety ATi/AMD driver installed from 11.10, which carried over to the 12.04 installation. I followed this guide to remove the proprietary drivers and use the Open Source drivers. http://wiki.cchtml.com/index.php/Ubuntu_Oneiric_Installation_Guide#Removing_Catalyst.2Ffglrx Everything seems to be working now.

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Welcome to Ask Ubuntu! Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference. –  fossfreedom May 7 '12 at 8:58
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You need to install the kernel headers manually then reinstall nvidia for some reason then the nvidia drivers will work

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Your Memory may be bad.

If you experience Low graphics mode intermittently like I was.

  1. Run a memory check to check for memory errors.

  2. Buy New memory(Make sure it is the right type for your computer)

  3. Run the memory test again, to make sure all is good.

The Low Graphics Mode error should now be gone.

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  1. Press CTRL+ALT+F1 to open a terminal
  2. log in
  3. look at the end of your /var/log/Xorg.0.log
  4. if the message error is Cannot run in framebuffer mode. Please specify busIDs. then run the following commands:

    sudo apt-get install --reinstall lightdm
    sudo reboot
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I'm running Ubuntu 12.04 on a Toshiba Portege R100. I got this error after the first bootup after install. After downloading and updating the graphics driver (Trident Cyberblade), what worked for me was creating a driver-specific .conf file as described in this Arch-Linux wiki: https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Trident.

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Phenomenon: I first saw Booting without full network configuration message that never ended. After Action-1 below, I faced The system is running in low-graphics mode issue.

Action-1: Force to shutdown the machine (by keeping power button pressed as normal). Choose recovery boot.

Effective solution: Remove & install xserver-xorg, inspired by this thread.


Edit) after creating xorg.conf and had it read in xserver, I faced the same issue again. This time, in addition to re-install xserver-xorg, I had to create /etc/X11/xorg.conf file (I did so by copying the backup file I already made).

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I fixed this problem by creating a new xorg.conf file (copying the text from xorg.conf.failsafe).

Details: http://askubuntu.com/a/296217/55223

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