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I've run into this problem several times before. It seems to happen after an update.

I'm using rEFInd on a MacBook pro to start ubuntu.

If I boot Ubuntu, it seems to go through all of the normal boot procedures with no errors. However, after an update it will sometimes just boot to the terminal instead of the GUI. I can log in and do everything, but I'm not sure how to start the GUI at this point. Running startx does nothing.

I can get around this by using grub and booting from recovery mode. I don't actually have to do anything while I'm in recovery mode, I just have to start recovery mode and then immediately select resume (normal boot) and the GUI will load.

Is there anything I can do to diagnose this problem or make sure that the GUI always starts on a normal boot?

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  • Having the same problem Ubuntu 18.04. In my case, the GUI does not automatically load when I resume startup from recovery mode, but the startx command works. – Magnus Dec 15 '19 at 11:53
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Can you give us some more information like:

  • Your graphics card
  • The exact response to startx (f.e. black screen, output)

If you expierience a black screen after startx reconfiguring lightdm (for ubuntu) or kdm (for kubuntu) could help:

sudo dpkg-reconfigure lightdm 
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I'm not sure what's causing the problem; however, you can edit your /boot/refind_linux.conf file to include an entry that launches into recovery mode in the same way that GRUB does. You'll need to extract the GRUB options from your GRUB configuration file (probably /boot/grub/grub.cfg) and copy them over to a new entry you create in /boot/refind_linux.conf. That will at least streamline the recovery process, since you'll be able to do it with one fewer menu, without involving GRUB.

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