After changing a few lines in xorg.conf, I can no longer boot Ubuntu (I assume it breaks when trying to load up X), so I need a way to boot into a single-user mode. However, there seems to be zero guides on the Internet how to do it, because they all assume I can actually edit files on my computer, and I obviously can't.

So how do I load Ubuntu in single-user mode?

When I turned off splash, I figured out the problem: whenever Ubuntu can't load X server due to some error, it switches to tty1 and waits for the prompt, but doesn't turn off the splash.

  • Could you provide a little more info about your update? Why does not turning off splash when Ubuntu can't load X server lead to problems? May 7 '12 at 11:49
  • 3
    @irrationalJohn Because splash screen doesn't disappear so you can't see the console and might not even realize it's there ready for the login. May 7 '12 at 13:50
  • Pressing ESC will toggle the screen between diag and splash during boot. That way you can see whatever messages are displayed. Everything is logged in /var/log/dmesg if you end up unable to boot and mount the drive on another system. Jan 12 '20 at 8:41

To boot into single user mode you edit the boot instructions for the GRUB menu entry you wish to boot and add the kernel parameter/option single. Brief instructions for how to do this are below.

  1. Hold down the left Shift key while rebooting to bring up GRUB menu
  2. Select (highlight) the GRUB boot menu entry you wish to use.
  3. Press e to edit the GRUB boot commands for the selected boot menu entry.
  4. Look near the bottom of the list of commands for lines similar to

    linux /boot/vmlinuz-3.2.0-24-generic root=UUID=bc6f8146-1523-46a6-8b\
    6a-64b819ccf2b7 ro  quiet splash
    initrd /boot/initrd.img-3.2.0-24-generic
  5. Change the middle line in (4) by adding the kernel boot parameter single to the end of the line (i.e. after ro quiet splash).

    For this example you would change:

    6a-64b819ccf2b7 ro  quiet splash


    6a-64b819ccf2b7 ro  quiet splash single
  6. Press either Ctrl+X or F10 to boot using these kernel options.

Note: These changes are not persistent. Any change to the kernel boot options made this way will only affect the next boot and only if you start that boot by pressing either Ctrl+X or F10 while still in GRUB edit mode.

  • 6
    how about changing ro to rw so the file system gets mounted writable, so you can make your changes stick?
    – sjas
    Aug 14 '14 at 12:11
  • 1
    Left shift doesnt do a thing. Is there a new way to do this?
    – Shayne
    Nov 14 '17 at 7:12
  • 1
    In Ubuntu 16.04, at least, its "ESC" now, to get into the GRUB menu.
    – SiHa
    Apr 23 '18 at 13:49
  • You can abbreviate the single to just S if you find yourself rebooting often. Dec 27 '20 at 10:47

Occasionally, you might not be able to use the single method as described in the accepted answer. In those cases you can tell the Linux kernel to use a different init like so:


For example


  • 6
    This method is useful for recovering from lost system password as it gives you a shell without being prompted for the existing password. Jul 6 '16 at 4:05
  • This is not working anymore on Ubuntu 20.04. Aug 12 at 17:55

Good question! When booting the machine hold down the left shift key. For more info follow this:


  • 1
    Recovery mode refuses to load just like the usual mode. May 7 '12 at 4:01

Not sure why the instruction is not permanent.

To make it permanent edit "/etc/default/grub"

pico /etc/default/grub

Make the same changes...


I changed the line "ro quiet splash "

to "ro text single " and i start GUI with

  • 17
    It's not supposed to be permanent, it's damage control. Nov 12 '13 at 11:49

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