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 Fixing the black screen after grub boot-up (screen/video settings mismatch)

Problem: You got a black screen in place of the friendly graphical login screen at the end of the Linux Mint boot sequence.

Display misbehaving presentation includes:

  1. Blincking cursor at top-left corner
  2. Centered garbled lines of colorful squares
  3. A plain black screen (but this may be related to other issues)
  4. A kind but sticky message that X11 has re-started n times in n minutes
  5. The Linux Mint rotating 'in process' icon

Don't tell me why but I have found this issue in several installations or reinstallations of Linux Mint (and other distributions) in previously working systems. It is related to failed detection of hardware, or by upgraded drivers (nouveau, spring 2011). Current video cards are willing to generate resolutions/frequencies over your monitor's capabilites.

You will end your first install (and/or reboot procedure), with a black screen after several normal messages or disk activity just before getting the normal user prompt  (it will never come out).

It may even happen with the installation CD/DVD of some new distributions (Mint Mate 16, 17)

You will notice that the computer is working fine as it reboots gracefully if you click [Ctrl]+[Alt]+[Del] meaning that you have a working system but with a video problem. It mimicks a computer hanged (dead) but is not the case !

If the monitor is smart enough it will complain about wrong frequency or no signal. 

Here is a simple and short fix that will allow to boot and configure the system from a graphical user interface (In Linux Mint will be Gnome).

  1. Reboot and wait to see the initial boot screen of GRUB with a list of operating systems. Tap a cursor key to avoid automatic boot.
  2. Select your choice (pe. LInux Mint) with the cursor and then press the [tab] key to get the full boot grub commad line. Don't be afraid: is a long command. Avoid modifying it.
  3. Go to the line starting with the word linux and ending with the words: quiet splash
  4. Add one of the following '????.modeset=0' parameter at the end of the long grub command line as is (type 1 space before). Use the parameter related to the brand or chipset of your video card . pe.: use nouveau  or nvidia for nvidia based cards (proprietary driver, just nv in some linux distributions, nouveau driver is the default in Mint) ), use radeon for amd/ati cards, i915 for intel based motherboards, ,,,  These are the most common examples.
    1. nvidia.modeset=0
    2. nouveau.modeset=0
    3. radeon.modeset=0
    4. i915.modeset=0 
    5. r128.modeset=0  (for very old ati rage 128 cards...)
    6. If you don't know the brand you may use just one word:   nomodeset
    7. Your will find the full range of drivers and more info at wiki
  5. Press [Ctrl]+[X] to boot with this added parameter. This parameter will not be saved, just used in this single boot and nothing is damaged. To cancel without changes press [Esc].
  6. Hopefully, the system will boot into a default graphical environment and you will be able to install/reinstall driver or configuration packages. In my case I solved my issues in a old nvidia cards (Quadro NVS 280 and geforce 7300LE) using a legacy nvidia 96 or 173 drivers, respectively, in place of nouveau. And nvidia-settings package.
  7. Desperate Mode. If you cannot get a graphical user interface with this parameter and/or an 'Monitor frequency error'  there is an alternate way (as always in linux). This situation may happen if you have replaced your video card, or the the driver needs additional parameters (I suffered it with a intel chipset)
    1. Use a lower resolution but highly compatible vesa driver. In the same line described in step 3 add this second video mode parameter (grub_gfxmode=). You may use one of them
      • grub_gfxmode=1280x1024x24      (in most large modern monitors) 
      • grub_gfxmode=1024x768x16        (1024x768 is safer in older or smaller systems)
      • Many other settings are possible as: grub_gfxmode=vesa  (...or vga)
  8. For those brave enough, more detailed help may be found at Grub2 help in Ubuntu

(Solved) Update 2014: My Mint Mate LTS 17.0 re-install (Nvidia Quadro FX1400 dual monitor 19'' 1280x1024x24)

  1. Let any Linux distribution 'mature': I waited 1 month before installing this new Mint version. Mate is just for me, and I will try to stick to this LTS. Live is too short to re-install too many times.
  2. Black screen or color squares in the first boot after install. Only able to run a 'text' login with nomodeset. Many restarts tried, but Nouveau was taking control over display even after blacklisting it in /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf: Ough!
  3. Solution as in this tutorial:
  4. While system booting menu (Grub) type e to edit the first grub line (Linux Mint ...)
  5. add to the linux parameters line 2 flags:  nomodeset  grub_gfxmode=1280x1024x24
  6. You will boot with a Linux command line. Don't be annoyed by error screens. Keep calm.
  7. Just in case (Linux is still maturing) update your system to get last fixes (this is the first run of the recent distribution !). Just do it.
    1. apt-get update
    2. apt-get upgrade
  8. Install nvidia propietary drivers: apt-get install nvidia-304 (the newest version supported by my 'oldie' card)
  9. Accept installation
  10. Just reboot.
  11. Done (it has autodeleted my custom xorg.conf file, that I copied from a pendrive: not really needed)
  12. Dual monitor running fine with nvidia propietary drivers. Again, what's up with nouveau ?

Tags: black screen video mode hangs boot grub2 settings configure install Linux MInt 17 16 15 14 13 Mate Ubuntu
Created: 3 years ago.
Last edited: 1 year ago.
Reviewed: 3 years ago.
Read 0 times.

3 weeks ago

I have an older Nvidia GeForce 8400 running in my machine. It constantly causes a black screen upon boot up. I've had to press Esc when it initiates a boot, then scroll down to Recovery Mode and press Enter. I then let it resume with a normal boot up.
I assume that the kernel and video driver are not agreeing with each other.
3 months ago

Thanks much! I installed mint 17.2 to my old compac desktop with (I believe) intel graphics media accelerator 3150 only to discover that Mint 17.2 would not give me the Cinnamon desktop, only the black screen. Followed you instructions (only command line had other commands following the "quiet splash" and I added the i915.modeset=0 command at the end. Its worked so far. Will reboot and see what happens!  
1 year ago

I was already annoyed when I accidentally discovered this temporary solution for laptop HP 248 G1...
Keep pressing Alt and left arrow keys, then Esc key when prompted by the black login screen (I don' know what to call it :D)

Haven't tested with other arrow keys :D
1 year ago

I have an AMD Radeon HD 8700M and I have not been able to make any of these changes to give me anything but another blank screen. I am booting from a USB drive with Linux Mint 16 "Petra" Cinnamon on it. My hardware is a stock Samsung ATIV Book 8 running Windows 8.1. Can someone please help me with this? Thanks!  
2 years ago

Although I'm not mint user, I found here solution to my problem:
after choosing grub menu entry my screen in kubuntu 12.04 always looked like crashed; I had to press alt-f1 and alt-f7 fast to wonder my bootsplash or just wait for login screen.
Now after adding nouveau.modeset=0 everything runs marvelous!
However the mouse cursor is disappearing on no-move in KDE and this really sucks :(
2 years ago

You saved my day!
("e" instead of tab, in my case too)
2 years ago

Further comments about my problem with the Black Screen: I have an ATI Radeon HD 4550 Display Adapter. I added the word "splash" at the end of the line you referenced followed by "[space]radeon.modeset=0". There was no change after rebooting. Did I do good? "The operation was a success but the patient died?"

2 years ago

I wonder if the above advice should work with Ubuntu? The line you referenced ends with "Quiet" and no "splash". Perhaps I have joined the wrong forum.

Best wishes,

2 years ago

I must thank you very much for sharing this solution. I was getting really desperate, but using your procedure I managed to fix the issue. Big big thanks!

(just for the record: in my case, in step 2 I had to push the 'e' key instead of tab)
3 years ago

Your text about modeset is not exactly right. Modesetting drivers are not the same as drivers. r128 and nvidia are not kernel mode-setting drivers, you won't change anything on systems using those drivers by including nomodeset. i915, radeon and nouveau are right; but since nomodeset works for all three, no need to know what hardware you have.  
3 years ago

Thank you! Next time I will try this. That black screen is a recurring annoyance. I have had to reinstall the whole system due to those crashes caused by mismatch. Now I hope this will be a more convenient way  

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