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I've got a weeks-young install of 13.04 (3.8.0.29) and the computer has been powered on for a week. I turned it off for the night and now it freezes during boot.

I have already checked this seemingly mandatory post as well as this one but I couldn't find a solution. This one also looked promising but I can't get my machine into read/write mode because recovery isn't working and drop to shell only gives me a read-only system. Setting radeon.modeset=0 also ends in a freeze.

At this point, my computer is completely unusable and I have to run off a liveCD to write this question.

How can I identify the problem, and how can I solve it?

This is not an Nvidia problem, as the machine has a Radeon HD 5450 card. IIRC it's running with fglrx (not -updates and not built-in because then I wouldn't get my 1280x1024 resolution.

As far as I recall, I have not fiddled with any bits, certainly none at the system- or device level. I assume that installing user apps like Gimp can't have any impact.

What happens:

  • normal boot: brief purple screen, then a text-mode TTY1 login prompt flashes on just before Ubuntu (tries to) load the GUI. Except that now, the GUI doesn't arrive: the TTY1 text-mode screen disappears, there's an underscore cursor which does not blink, and then nothing more ever happens. Neither Ctrl-Alt-Del nor Ctrl-Alt-F2 or -F7 work. It seems frozen and requires a hardware reset.

  • recovery boot: the GRUB screens take a long time to show; I'm used to the sub-screens being shown instantly but now there's a delay of maybe 10-20 seconds before the "advanced options" screen is shown. No idea why, nor whether this is related to the boot problem.

After loading the recovery mode:

  • several of the recovery options start out with FSCK, and I often get

    mountall: fsck /boot [1028] terminated with status 1
    

    on the screen, and after that nothing more happens. Sometimes I get clean response instead, but still nothing more happens. Either way, the only keyboard input it will accept is Ctrl-Alt-Del but this does not reboot the machine right away! Instead I see a graphical notice the system is running in low-graphics mode although ironically, this message is displayed at 1600x1200 pixels which my monitor can't handle so it puts its own warning message in the middle and I can't see the rest of the GUI output. Then, before I can react, it reboots.

  • failsafeX has the same problem as the normal boot: it simply freezes after TTY1.

  • Hitting Ctrl-Alt-F1 or -F2 or -F7 at various stages doesn't do anything at all. This makes me think the machine is really frozen, rather than just working fine but without screen output.

  • editing GRUB's normal boot entry to remove splash quiet, and to add noapic nolapic nomodeset doesn't help either. Same situation. Same also when doing that on the recovery mode's boot entry.

  • Using the recovery mode to boot the previous kernel version (3.8.0.27) also has the exact same behavior.

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I smell that your filesystem was damaged. Do fsck -t ext3 /dev/sdX# or ext4 to check the filesystem. Of course also change X# with the letter and number of your root partition. I would recommend to check the /boot but I don´t infer if it´s ext4, or 3 or what it is. –  Braiam Aug 22 '13 at 19:56
    
Thanks @Braiam, I think all volumes are ext2 except my Data volume which I know to be ext4. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Aug 22 '13 at 20:28
    
With Seth's help I found out that all filesystems are ext4 and that they are okay. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Aug 24 '13 at 5:46
3  
Looks like trying to start up the graphics driver kills the box. I'd try booting into single user mode ( askubuntu.com/questions/132965/… ), then apt-get remove fglrx . –  Jakob Aug 24 '13 at 16:53
1  
If you have a /etc/X11/xorg.conf file, try copying it out of the way (for safe keeping) and removing the one in /etc/X11. Reboot. See if that makes any difference. It might be possible to get a basic xorg.conf file (I'm sure I must have one if needed) to replace the one that's there if it doesnt get re-created on startup. –  FreudianSlip Aug 26 '13 at 7:38
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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

It turns out that reinstalling Ubuntu from scratch is quite fast and painless. Luckily I keep my /home/ on a separate hard disk so wiping the system disk was really inconsequential. It took less than half an hour (excluding optional data backups).

Using a DVI display cable might have improved things in the new installation, because the new install detected my monitor (the old one didn't) and set it up with the proper resolution, all with the default graphics drivers.

This pretty much rocks.

Incidentally, reinstalling Ubuntu from a USB stick is dead-easy. There's even an option to install on top of the existing installation so as to not lose any installed programs and data. I tried that but probably pulled out the USB disk too early during reboot because the computer said the boot partition was damaged. But as I said, a clean install did the trick and was faster than messing around with mystic files and configurations that might have done more harm than good.

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Since your install was a new one - without too much extra effort invested in configuration and enhancement, a clean install was certainly the best solution. There's no second guessing about what you might have borked. And the context of any problem you still run into can easily be understood by those you ask. Now, just make full backups while things work, so you don't have to start again from scratch. –  Joe Aug 29 '13 at 0:11
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Think Jakob provided the best answer, and for my money, the nouveau driver on Radeon on 13.04 is 10x better than the fglrx drivers. The ATI fglrx drivers were not so good with the last release, so dropped them like a rock. Never been happier than with the new open drivers. Much improved and use them at 1920x1080 with OpenGL and Compiz on Unity without issue.

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