Ubuntu: Fixing the Blank Screen on Installation Bug

I had the pleasure of installing Ubuntu onto two old computers this weekend. One laptop and one desktop. Both resistant to Doctor Lee’s orders.

The Ubuntu graphical installer is poor at detecting and setting up old graphics cards and monitors. It is a strange and frustrating problem because once Ubuntu is installed it detects and configures them effortlessly. The installation issue shows itself through symptoms which include any of the following:

  1. A perpetually blank screen that prevents any set-up questions from being answered
  2. A continuously moving animated gif that suggests “something amazing is about to happen“; which it is – the computer is about to get a boot from its frustrated user!
  3. An error message that reads

Whatever the symptom, I am sure that it will have prompted you to clean your disc, to clean your disc drive, to re-download your installation iso, to reburn it at increasingly slower speeds, to Google umpteen times with search terms like

“Blank screen on installation”

“Black Ubuntu installation screen”

“vesamenu.c32 prevents Linux installation”

“Help! My computer’s playing dumb”

“Why can’t I get past the first screen when installing Ubuntu”, or

“Linux graphical installer goes blank but disc keeps on spinning”

The solution is easier than you might think. And I owe thanks to both HapiHakr at the LinuxMint Forum and the people at UbuntuGeek for posting solutions to these problems.

Fixing the Blank Screen on Installation Bug

Let’s deal with the vesamenu issue first. The next time you try to install Linux onto a computer and the installer drops to a terminal prompt with the message

Type at the prompt

Then wait, and wait some more… After a few minutes you will be greeted with a usable graphical interface. Just be patient with it while waiting for it to load.

Next on the list is a bug that is specific to Ubuntu 10.04 and its many variants. It manifests in one of at least two ways:

  1. The computer boots up, the disk whirs around in its drive, the picture of a keyboard and a human at the bottom of the screen displays then the screen goes blank and stays blank for quite a long time. You go and get a drink, come back to your computer and the screen is still blank so you sit and stare at it for 30 minutes or so then boot your computer out of frustration before you restart it and begin the process again. Or,
  2. You press a key when the picture of the keyboard and human shows up so the boot menu displays. You specify your language and choose your boot option then as soon as the installation begins your computer either displays a black screen or it shows an Ubuntu logo gif with flashing dots beneath it and nothing else happens from that point onwards.

The problem is the same for both symptoms – poor graphics card detection or configuration.

There are three solutions to this. I am only going to explain the one that I used and which worked for me on two occasions.

  1. Put your installation media into the computer
  2. Switch on the computer
  3. Press the spacebar as soon as the picture of the keyboard and human display at the bottom of the screen
  4. Choose your language
  5. Select “Try Ubuntu without any changes”
  6. Press F6
  7. Select “nomodeset”
  8. Press Escape (Esc)
  9. Type
  10. Press Enter (Return) and be amazed as Ubuntu loads.

Two more fixes are explained at UbuntuGeek.

I hope those solutions help you to install Ubuntu. They might even work for other Linux distros. If you encounter any other solutions then please post them in the comments.

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Comments

  1. Kevincaulfield01 says

    It got rid of the black screen for me but now it never stops loading undder the Ubuntu logo. in my case the hard drive may be shot…

    • says

      It could be your hard drive, depending on whether you have a full installation or not. It could just be a desktop configuration error. I wrote a guide to solving desktop loading problems a few days ago. You can view it here. If it doesn’t solve your desktop problems it will at least teach you a few things about Ubuntu and Linux.

      The Ubuntu alternate installer works slightly differently to the standard disc. Maybe you could try it.

  2. says

    Thank you, the solution with “i915.modeset=0 xforcevesa” allowed me to install Ubuntu. 

    However after the installation, I tried to boot Ubuntu. I only get a black screen again. So I booted the live Ubuntu again. I tried to change grub to boot like the live version did.
    1) change /etc/default/grub: GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet splash i915.modeset=0 xforcevesa”
    2) Update-Grub: (see http://robertbeal.com/562/rebuilding-grub2-grub-cfg-from-ubuntu-live-cd for details)
     – sudo mount /dev/sda1 /mnt
     – sudo grub-install –root-directory=/mnt /dev/sda

    However that did not work…

    • says

      Restore grub to its original setting before you edited it. Reboot the system (without the Live Disc). It should boot in under 30 seconds. Give it 5 minutes then press Alt+F1 to access a terminal. Let me know what you see there. If you have a prompt, type “startx” or “sudo startx” to begin an X11 Window session. This will allow you to run updates.

      A guide to fixing Ubuntu (Linux) display and startup errors is available at http://journalxtra.com/computer-advice/getting-your-desktop-back-the-almost-definitive-guide-3723/

    • says

      Hi,

      I have a similar problem to that of Alexander: I needed this fix to get Ubuntu to install and it did that just fine (and I can run the Live CD whenever I use this fix). However, after Ubuntu said the installation was completed I have not been able to actually get Ubuntu to load up.

      The GRUB screen loads up and I do not have the choice of a recovery console. If I log into Ubuntu (recovery mode) a lot of startup information goes by and then the screen goes black (I presume when X is launched). If I don’t go into recovery mode, the screen goes black immediately.

      I have the option of a ‘command line’ from GRUB with some limited functionality but I can’t write files (such as .xinitrc). How might I get a linux command line prompt without launching anything graphical?

    • says

      Hi Dion,
      Thank you for your reply!

      I tried to…I think my problem (the GUI never shows up on my display and I am only left with a blank screen) corresponds to “Error Message or Symptom 6.” Unfortunately, I don’t know how to get access to a command line where I can edit or create a .xinitrc file. 

      If I boot off the live CD, I get an error when I attempt to mount my hard drive. On the other hand, if I load off the installed Ubuntu on my hard drive GRUB does not offer a recovery console…just a ‘recovery mode’ that still goes black (after some text describing initialization) GRUB ‘command line’ is limited and I haven’t found a command in it that will edit files. So I guess my problem is getting to a command prompt on my installation?

  3. Kittyodea says

    Thanks – it worked.  I was confused when the boot window already had text in it. I deleted it, which was wrong.  Figured it out in o round 2.  Many thanks!!!!!

  4. Alex says

    My black screen occurs after the purple screen saying Ubuntu 10.10 with the white/orange dots. I’m using a neo m72sr, with a corrupt windows vista lost classpnp.sys and, I’ve been trying to get my laptop to work by installing ubuntu, yet, it won’t install. I’m using a bootable USB stick and the iso file called ubuntu-10.10-netbook-i386.iso. 

    • Alex says

      Also, there is no option “Try Ubuntu without any changes.” So, I used “Install Ubuntu on hard disk”

    • says

      Hi Alex, I replied to your email message too.

      Create an Ubuntu LiveDisc using your DVDRW Drive and try again.

      I prefer Kubuntu and Linux Mint to Ubuntu. I suggest you give them a try.

    • Alex says

      I redid everything in your tutorial and it worked! Sorry about the mix up. Great job here! I’ll check out those other things you suggested. Thank you!

    • Alex says

      FIXING THE BLANK SCREEN ON INSTALLATION BUG —– I don’t know how to do that part either, since i can’t run it on an os. i always start from booting.

  5. ubuntuHater says

    Mate Im using ubuntu every game i download and install just get a bloody black screen whene i start it can u help ??

    • says

      Linux has many rewards. Generally, Linux is very stable, it works with most hardware configurations without need to download additional device drivers and it is portable (look into RemasterSys). Linux does have problems but, most of the time, I prefer Linux to Windows. Only occasionally do I need a Windows machine.

  6. Silva says

    Hello Lee hodson
    Thank you so much for this help! finally i could install ubuntu in a old desktop. F6 (nomodeset) + i915.modeset=0 xforcevesa solved my installation problem. Thanks a lot mate!

  7. Henk says

    Many Thanks, my Lenovo T60 with Ubuntu 13.04 boots into a black screen, i could do a “blind logon”, put the system in sleep mode. After wakeup everyting works fine.
    Modifying GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet splash i915.modeset=0 xforcevesa” was the solution for this problem.

  8. Mir says

    live vga=ask

    worked when I was trying to install Netboot Mini ISO for non-PAE capable hardware. The problem was not a blank screen at the very beginning. I got a purple blank screen after choosing a mirror location. I noticed I could type at the grey terminal bar at the bottom. So I entered live vga=ask
    out of frustration thinking it wouldn’t work (since your scenario is different than mine). 30 to 60 seconds later, the installation screen came back to life and I could resume installation normally!

    Thank you so very much!

  9. gaston says

    ubuntu es lo mas!!!!! como he renegado con este problema y aca encontre la solucion… era tan simple “live vga=ask”

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