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This issue came up recently for me (and I've been prompted to lodge it as a specific question about it):

My system is not dual-boot, I run a standard Ubuntu desktop system "on the metal" (I think running it in a VM is the same).

Pressing c while booting does not cause the GRUB menu to appear (which I believe it does for a dual-boot system).

How can I get the GRUB-menu to present itself on a single-boot system?

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+1 excellent question to expose an essentially undocumented feature of Ubuntu boot process, the answer to which I only found by accident while groveling through grub.cfg. Thanks for hoisting this up to the top (Googleable) level. – msw Dec 3 '10 at 15:29
Credit where credit is due... This issue came up in another question of mine (buried deep in the comments). Jorge Castro suggested that it would be a good idea to present as a question it its own right... (so credit to him.... and I'm happy to bask in the reflected glow ;) I can see the value of it being a primary Q/A. – Peter.O Dec 3 '10 at 15:45

3 Answers 3

up vote 69 down vote accepted

Menu will appear if you press and hold Shift during loading Grub.

For permanent change you'll need to edit your /etc/default/grub file -- place a "#" symbol at the start of line GRUB_HIDDEN_TIMEOUT=0.

Save changes and run sudo update-grub to apply changes.


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You need to run sudo update-grub after changing this file IIRC. – Oli Dec 3 '10 at 15:26
Thanks Oli, I forgot... (I've updated my answer.) – Vojtech Trefny Dec 3 '10 at 15:27
Actually, you need to increase GRUB_TIMEOUT to something non-zero for the menu to appear. – Nick Pascucci Dec 3 '10 at 15:40
@codeMonk: Oops! (I've deleted my previous comment because I was on the wrong track)... I originally misunderstood the context of "GRUB_TIMEOUT=0". The context you mean is in relation to the "permanent" display of GRUB-menu... I thought you meant in relation to the "Shift" key method... It is true that for a permanently recurring display, you need both "#GRUB_HIDDEN_TIMEOUT=0" and "GRUB_TIMEOUT=*NON-ZERO*", as described in the link in the answer ... (I've just test it both ways.) – Peter.O Dec 3 '10 at 17:24
Yeah, sorry! ^_^ My bad, I must have misunderstood your question. – Nick Pascucci Dec 3 '10 at 18:20
  • Keep hitting Shift until you see "Grub Loading Message"
  • After the message, hold the Shift down until the menu appears.
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This is the nuance that helped me finally get in! Thank you! :) – ATSiem Oct 24 '14 at 3:35

I've heard Shift does it. But I've used Space before and it worked.

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I've just now tried both Shift and Space, in two situations: In a VM, and "on the metal" ... The "Shift" worked in both situations... The "Space" failed in both situations... – Peter.O Dec 3 '10 at 15:39
If you can't use shift, try escape. Seems to work for me with Ubuntu 12.10. – Another Googler Mar 25 '13 at 23:34
Ubuntu 15.04. Space key works. Thanks! – DmitryTsechoev Oct 8 at 9:11

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