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I have fiddled with the wrong drivers (it was working fine before) and now I'm where many have been, where the system doesn't boot.

Boot hangs at a certain point. For me it's when you get all those messages with [OK] at the end. I can Ctrl+Alt+F1 (don't know what that's called yet -- console?), and that's about it that I know.

I don't really know where to begin to solve it. How do you diagnose a system that hangs somewhere at boot?

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well, first, if you can, post here photo of what you see ( or rewrite it... ) –  Denwerko Aug 18 '11 at 1:31
    
Providing a picture of what you see when your system stuck will be useful a lot. I would also suggest you to see this page: wiki.ubuntu.com/X/Troubleshooting/BlankScreen which is about "blank screen" but it also explains the basics about booting, which can be lots of helpful for you to understand what's happening at the very moment when your system boots. –  Geppettvs D'Constanzo Aug 18 '11 at 1:41
    
My aim was not to talk about my problem specifically but to keep a large scope so others can refer to it. More of a 'what are the steps to solving a boot problem' than a 'solve my specific situation'. –  jonallard Aug 18 '11 at 2:03

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if you messed with the graphics driver, try

sudo rm /etc/X11/xorg.conf

and see if it bring back the basic UI interface.

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This fixed my particular problem. Thank you. But I was looking for a more general way to diagnose boot problems (steps to take, how to see the log for example, etc.), for people that might see the question. –  jonallard Aug 18 '11 at 2:35
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well, if ever you can only boot into the console and not GDM, and startx or service GDM start fails, the above step is the first thing you should try. After that it really depends on your knowledge on your system. But usually involves manually removing your drivers. And that really is a case by case thing, there's no one magic line that will solve every driver issue. Though, a great pointer is to press Left Shift before Plymouth splash appears, it forces GRUB to show, and you can choose safe mode, which also can bring up GUI. –  hansioux Aug 18 '11 at 2:41

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