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I run 12.04 on a ASUS laptop that's about 3+ years old, that has a bad battery. (Requires constant AC power.)

I recently did an update that included a kernel. I ran the update and rebooted, and for some reason , grub couldn't find the kernel, and I was stuck there for awhile. Being a relatively inexperienced Linux user, I decided to load my live USB, copy over files I wanted to keep, and reinstall. Mid-copy , I bumped my power cable and unplugged the computer. When I booted back up, it loaded my hard disk install without problem.

Why did this happen in the first place, what fixed it, and how can I avoid this problem in the future?

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It seems that the install hadn't completed properly for some reason: specifically it had not updated the grub configuration to change the boot options.

This does not explain what fixed the problem, but it seem likely that a subsequent update finished the process. You could have run update grub to get it to update the list of kernels:

sudo update-grub
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You can check your kernel list.

Open terminal Ctrl + Alt + T and type this command :

dpkg --list | grep linux-image 

Now check your current kernel:

uname -r 

Update your grub to make your newest kernel on the list.

sudo update-grub
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