I have a small desktop that I am trying to set-up as a web server and I can't get the system to boot after I install Ubuntu Server 20.04.3 LTS. When I do try to boot it up, there are no messages of any kind and all I get is a single blinking cursor in the top-left corner of the screen; nothing else happens no matter how long I leave the system like that.
I've tried several different installation options (LVM w/soft RAID, no LVM & single volume, etc), and different physical hard drives, but the results are the same. I tried Ubuntu Server 18.04.5 and got exactly the same results. I went way back and tried a copy of Ubuntu Server 10.04 and that was able to boot OK (I don't have anything between 10.04 & 18.04). At no point were any errors reported during installation.
I had been using Linux Mint 18.3 just fine before (that's what was previously on that system) and never experienced any problems booting. The last thing I tried was Ubuntu Desktop 20.04.3, and that WAS able to install itself and it boots just fine even though I technically don't have as much RAM as they say I should have (4GB required when I only have 2GB).
I checked the ISO for Ubuntu Server 20.04.3 LTS and the hash is correct (there was a mismatch between the Ubuntu Server 18.04.5 ISO and the SHA256 hash on their website, but that's another matter), and each version passed their integrity checks. I can't find any mention of PPT or UEFI or Legacy Boot in the BIOS as was suggested in some other posts.
The basic system specs are:
- Intel DG965RY ATX Motherboard
- Intel Core 2 Duo 6600 SL958 CPU
- 2GB DDR2 RAM
- WD 80 GB Hard Drive
Any help would be appreciated.
I noticed that the Ubuntu 20.04.3 Desktop installation (an installation that actually boots & works) has separate partitions for /boot (formatted as vfat), / (formatted as ext4), and Swap. I tried to manually create the same kind of partitions using gParted, and I can then select those partitions for /boot, /, and Swap, but no matter what I do, the Server installation program refuses to let me select a working boot disk to be the new boot disk if I select my existing partitions.
After hunting through the installation options, I found where I could tell the install program to create separate partitions for /boot, /, and Swap (they certainly didn't make it easy to find!) and I re-installed it again (for about the 20th time). Again, no joy.
So I thought maybe something might be wrong with Grub, so I re-installed that using a live CD Ubuntu Desktop. Once again, no joy.
Having no luck finding anything that worked with Ubuntu, I decided to try Debian to see if their installer had any more options w.r.t. configuring the destination drive. Using selections similar to the ones I chose when installing the different versions of Ubuntu, I installed Debian, but the results were the same -- a single blinking cursor at the top-left corner of the screen.
In responding to one of the comments below, I started to think about what else (besides the grub bootloader) could explain the difference between the installations of Ubuntu Desktop and Ubuntu Server. I think the hardware is vintage 2007(?), so I thought maybe UEFI might be a factor -- i.e., the hardware might not be compatible w/UEFI but the Server installer is defaulting to that and Desktop wasn't? I saw a reference to using an Ubuntu "mini ISO" that downloads everything on-the-fly and the size of the ISO didn't include provisions for UEFI, so it defaults to a BIOS/Legacy boot configuration. I tried that, but again, the results were no different than the standard Server installations before.
During the night, I started to think about the filesystem being used for the /boot partition. The only installation that successfully booted, Ubuntu Desktop, uses VFAT for the boot partition. I checked, and Ubuntu Server doesn't allow selecting FAT, VFAT, or FAT32 formats for the /boot partition, so that was a dead end. In trying Debian, I saw it had many more options when it came to formatting the disk, so I tried their installer again. However, attempts to choose either FAT or FAT32 triggers an error message saying something to the effect that "the FAT (or FAT32) format is not fully UNIX-compatible and can't be used for /boot" and suggested I use Ext2 instead. So I tried that, but it produced the same results as before. No joy.
I'm still convinced that the problem lies in the differences in how Ubuntu Desktop and Ubuntu Server are setting up the drive (grub, /boot, the filesystem on the boot partition, etc.). I'm just out of ideas of what else to check, how to fix the installation, or how the choose the right options during the installation to make Ubuntu Server work.
As I mentioned in the comments below, I copied the files off the /boot partition, reformatted it as FAT32 (reported as VFAT by multiple tools as mentioned in my previous posts), copied the /boot files back, chroot'd from a live Ubuntu Desktop to the hard drive installation, updated and reinstalled grub, then tried to reboot. I don't know if I did it all correct (I think I did), but it made no difference. The result was the same as all of my previous attempts -- a single blinking cursor and nothing else.
After dealing with another issue, I reinstalled Ubuntu Desktop 20.04.3 (using all of its defaults) on a completely wiped drive, and the configuration was slightly different from previous installations (a separate partition for /boot/efi only, rather than /boot), but it still created a small FAT32 partition for the boot files. I then thought that completely wiping the disk may have changed something, so I wiped it again and tried reinstalling Ubuntu Server, but I was back at square one again.
Alejandro suggested (in the comments below) that I should try to install Ubuntu Seerver on another computer to verify the disk is ok. It's a good idea, but I would have to take apart a complete working system to do that, and that would not be feasible right now.
I still believe that my theory about the system not being able to understand EXT2/EXT4 filesystems is still the leading contender to explain my problem, but I still don't have a way to install Ubuntu Server with a FAT32 /boot partition to prove or disprove it. If someone can provide a way to do that, I'll try it. Otherwise, I don't think I'll pursue this any further.