It is always a struggle to show the grub menu, and a lot of answered questions on that. The answer seems to be holding shift, but that doesn't work on serial console (actually serial over lan)

I have tried spamming space and escape to no avail.

This is a server which takes quite a long time to pass bios, and it makes it even more difficult and time consuming.

Is there a good solution to enter grub reliably?

Obviously editing /etc/default/grub would help, but now it is too late.

  • what do you mean it's too late? you can't boot the system at all?
    – Zanna
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 11:42
  • Due to some messed up grub parameters the disk controller is no longer detected, so i can't boot. It drops to the initrd prompt, but there isn't much I can do to edit grub without access to the disk.
    – feitingen
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 12:22
  • Sorry if this is a dumb question, but do you not have physical access? If you do, you can edit /etc/default/grub using a live session... otherwise, I have no idea
    – Zanna
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 12:45
  • I gave up and had to do just that. Physically boot with a live USB and edit /boot/grub/grub.cfg to get into the OS and i was able to edit /etc/default/grub after that.
    – feitingen
    Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 9:31
  • Maybe you could post an answer? Or should we close the question as not reproducible?
    – Zanna
    Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 10:27

2 Answers 2


Not a perfect solution, but editing the configuration using a live USB fixed the problem.

To avoid this problem in the future, the grub configuration is fixed to display the boot menu.

The boot time for servers are so long anyways, so adding 10 seconds of grub menu is worth it when things are not working.

Here is the fixed /etc/default/grub config:

GRUB_DISTRIBUTOR=`lsb_release -i -s 2> /dev/null || echo Debian`

# Kernel console on both serial and kvm/local console
GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX="console=tty0 console=ttyS0,115200n8 rootdelay=60"
# Show grub menu on both serial and kvm/local console
GRUB_TERMINAL="console serial"
GRUB_SERIAL_COMMAND="serial --unit=0 --speed=115200 --word=8 --parity=no --stop=1"

Ubuntu 18.04 desktop minimal change

Here is the minimal change to /etc/default/grub I needed to do on Ubuntu 18.04 desktop image to get things working nicely:

# Show the menu by default. Otherwise, you have to press ESC to see GRUB:
# https://askubuntu.com/questions/16042/how-to-get-to-the-grub-menu-at-boot-time/1091821#1091821

# Optional kernel options that you very likely want. Don't affect GRUB itself.
# Remove quiet to show the boot logs on terminal. Otherwise, you see just init onwards.
# Add console=ttyS0, or else kernel does not output anything to terminal.

# Show grub on both serial and on display.
+GRUB_TERMINAL="console serial"

and then:

sudo update-grub

Tested with this QEMU setup: https://askubuntu.com/revisions/1046792/24

First I logged in once with the GUI, edited those configs, and then re-booted the VM.

Ubuntu 18.04 cloud image

Keep in mind that this image also has a file:


which overrides settings from /etc/default/grub.

Besides the desktop settings, you also need to set:


since the default is 0 and gives you no time to access the GRUB menu.

Tested with this setup: Is there any prebuilt QEMU Ubuntu image(32bit) online?

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