I'm only asking this question because any other answer I found online to this problem didn't help me resolve it.

Basically I updated my Ubuntu 14.04 system last night and it asked me to restart my system. When I restarted it and logged in to my admin account the Unity interface didn't load. I could only see my background and Ubuntu 14.04 written in the bottom right corner of the screen. No shortcuts work like Alt+Ctrl+t to open the terminal, the mouse right click doesn't work either. I can only access the terminal with Alt+Ctrl+F1. I restarted the system several times and it was the same every time. I can, however, log in to another account which is not an administrator account, and that's what I'm using right now, but I don't have access to all my files from my admin account which I normally use.

I tried a number of solutions that people said worked for them in similar circumstances but none of them worked. I even installed gnome to see if that will help, but it didn't. Again I could only log in to the other non-admin account which displayed gnome without a problem, but the admin account didn't move past the background after login.

I even tried booting to another kernel in advanced options but that didn't work either.

I found the following solutions online which I tried but none of them worked:

sudo apt-get install unity-tweak-tool
unity-tweak-tool --reset-unity

Another one was:

sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager
export DISPLAY=:0

Also this one:

sudo apt-get update --fix-missing

And this one:

sudo apt-get purge lightdm
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install lightdm
dpkg-reconfigure lightdm
sudo shutdown

None of these worked. Can anyone please help me with this?

  • Try this to login to the admin account, sudo chmod -R ug+rwx /home/[username] – vembutech Dec 4 '14 at 11:21
  • 1
    I logged in to my admin account from the other account using sudo -i -u [admin_account_user] and was able to back up my entire home folder from there. I still can't access my firefox bookmarks though, which I also want to back up. I'm trying to figure out where firefox keeps the bookmarks on the file system. But other than that, I would still like to regain access to the admin account so I wouldn't have to reinstall the system. – SineLaboreNihil Dec 4 '14 at 11:33

As you have one user that works in the GUI and an admin that works in console mode, you have all you need to recover your system without re-installing it.

Log into the Admin account using Ctrl+Alt+F1 and type:

sudo adduser admin-new

Enter all info and then type:

sudo adduser admin-new adm 
sudo adduser admin-new cdrom
sudo adduser admin-new sudo
sudo adduser admin-new dip
sudo adduser admin-new plugdev
sudo adduser admin-new lpadmin
sudo adduser admin-new sambashare

log off and log on as admin-new using the GUI (if this doesn't work, report back here)

Open a terminal with Ctrl+Alt+T and type:

Warning! Do not try to be smart and do a cp --recursive /home/admin-old/* /home/admin-new/ as this will copy the error(s) you have in your current user settings!!!

cp --recursive --no-dereference /home/admin-old/Documents/* /home/admin-new/Documents
cp --recursive --no-dereference /home/admin-old/Downloads/* /home/admin-new/Downloads
cp --recursive --no-dereference /home/admin-old/Pictures/*  /home/admin-new/Pictures
cp --recursive --no-dereference /home/admin-old/Templates/* /home/admin-new/Templates
cp --recursive --no-dereference /home/admin-old/Desktop/*   /home/admin-new/Desktop
cp --recursive --no-dereference /home/admin-old/Music/*     /home/admin-new/Music
cp --recursive --no-dereference /home/admin-old/Public/*    /home/admin-new/Public
cp --recursive --no-dereference /home/admin-old/Videos/*    /home/admin-new/Videos

(Leave out the stuff you don't really need any more like the old Downloads directory or the Templates or …)

You now have 99% of all your stuff back! (if you do not have enough space to do the above all together, delete the original in-between copy commands)

If you want to copy any additional directories beyond those above, make a full system backup first because one of the directories you didn't copy contains the error.

Now do a: deluser --remove-home admin-old

  • 1
    Thank you very much for your answer. I was already able to copy everything from my old admin account, including the firefox bookmarks and was about to create a new admin account and just copy the old data back into this new account when all of a sudden everything in the old account started working again. I honestly don't know why it started working again but it just is, and that's the account I am using right now. None the less your solution was the same one I was about to apply just before my old account decided to cooperate again and load the GUI. – SineLaboreNihil Dec 5 '14 at 19:33

Instead of getting rid of all settings by coping only the data files to a new user, there is one more option to try first:

rm /home/{affected user}/.config/dconf/user
sudo service lightdm restart

This gets rid of the unity-related settings only, and for most problems like this, it is enough to get you back to a working state. It worked for me and saved hours of work compared to the other solution.


  • Hours? Anyway, the solution above is a generic one that can be applied to any problem that is user-related and not system related... But yours is good too, so upvoted! ;-) – Fabby Aug 2 '15 at 11:27
  • Thanks for the upvote! You're right, your solution is more general. But in this case, mine is much quicker. If it saves hours... depends. ;) – Edgar Aug 2 '15 at 21:05

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