Solving the “Can’t boot from Ubuntu 9.10 LiveCD, Showing Black Screen” Issue

Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala was released two months ago. Until last week, I have not been able to get it running on my computer. Whenever I boot up from the LiveCD, it will load up a black screen and remain there. There is no chance of me getting into the desktop. The same incident occurred for the upgrade from Jaunty to Karmic via the Update Manager. There seems to be some conflicts between the Karmic kernel and the Intel video driver that I am using. After some googling around, I realize that many people are having this problem as well and it occurs mainly for Intel drivers.

To solve this issue, the trick is actually very simple (though it took me two months to find out). Simply append “nomodeset” to the grub entry. Here’s the whole procedure.

(Note: The following procedure only applies to those who have Intel driver and have the black screen issue. Do not follow this tutorial if you do not have the issue. You are asking for trouble.)

Installing Karmic via the LiveCD

If you intend to wipe your computer and install Karmic fresh from the LiveCD, follow the procedure below.

Boot up the LiveCD

Press Enter to select English as the language.

At the main screen where it asks you if you want to try or install Ubuntu, press F6, follow by the ESC key. You will now see a command line at the bottom of the screen. Enter “nomodeset” (without the quote) at the end of the command line and press Enter.

ubuntu-karmic-bootup-screen

You should be able to boot into the Ubuntu desktop now.

Note: If you have followed the exact same procedure and still see the black screen, most probably this method don’t work for you.

Play around with it and make sure everything works fine. Proceed with the installation. Once it is done, restart your computer.

During the restart, when you see the “Grub Loading” message, immediately press “ESC” to get to the grub menu.

Highlight the first entry and press “e” to edit the entry.

ubuntukarmic-grub-entry

Scroll down to the line that starts with “linux…” and move the cursor to the end. Enter “nomodeset”.

ubuntukarmic-edit-grub-entry

Press Ctrl + X to continue the booting process.

Once you are in the desktop, launch a terminal (Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal).

Scroll down to the line: “GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT” and add “nomodeset” at the end.

ubuntukarmic-edit-grub2

Save and exit.

In the terminal, type

Done. You can now boot up your Ubuntu Karmic without any problem (hopefully).

Upgrade from Jaunty to Karmic

I strongly advise you to do a clean installation of Karmic rather than upgrading from Jaunty. But if you really must, here’s the procedure. Before you begin, remember to test your system with the LiveCD first.

When upgrading from Jaunty, things are slightly different as you will be using the legacy Grub (instead of Grub 2) and there is a need to amend the xorg file. (Note: Ubuntu 9.10 does not use the xorg file)

Upgrade your Jaunty from the Update Manager. Once it is done, DO NOT restart your computer.

Open a terminal (Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal),

Scroll down to the end until you see the line starting with the word “kernel

Add “nomodeset” to the end.

ubuntu-karmic-grub-menu

Save and exit the file.

Next, type

Scroll down until you see the video section
Add in the line

Driver   “Intel”

ubuntu karmic-xorg

Save and exit.

Close the terminal

Restart your computer. It should work (hopefully).

PS: If you have noticed, there have been very few articles on Ubuntu Karmic for the past 2 months. The reason being, I can’t get it running in my computer. Now that this issue is solved, you will expect to see more Karmic articles from me.

Image credit: nasa1fan/MSFC

Damien Damien

Damien Oh started writing tech articles since 2007 and has over 10 years of experience in the tech industry. He is proficient in Windows, Linux, Mac, Android and iOS, and worked as a part time WordPress Developer. He is currently the owner and Editor-in-Chief of Make Tech Easier.

12 comments

  1. I have been searching for weeks to find anyone else with this problem. I have a Dell Inspiron 1545 which has an Intel video chipset. It’s now running Ubuntu 9.04 perfectly but I could not boot from any 9.10 LiveCD or DVD, 32-bit or 64-bit. Well, I think it boots (I can hear the start-up tune) but at some point it always goes to a blank LCD screen (same with external VGA on a monitor). I also made and tried the Dell 9.10 recovery DVD and same result. I’m burning a LiveCD now (all my disks are at home) and will try adding “nomodeset” and see if that fixes the problem and report back.

  2. Thanks so much. Using “nomodeset” fixed the problem and I was able to boot the 9.10 Live DVD and see the screen.

    I wish I had found your web page before wasting several hours with Dell technical support. The 1545 with Ubuntu is great – Dell tech support, well in a word, sucks.

  3. I was able (finally) to talk to someone in Ubuntu support at Dell (without having to pay anything!). Apparently Dell only supports Ubuntu 8.10 at the moment (even though they provide a way to make a Dell 9.10 recovery DVD). The person I spoke to was helpful (and knowledgeable) but caught in the Dell bureacracy. I explained as best I could what the problem was with 9.10 and the Intel video and how to work around the problem. What is curious from my own search of the Internet is that there appear to be a lot of 1545 notebooks out there happily running 9.10 without this problem. Maybe they use a different graphics chipset.

    1. I have not tried a Dell services before, so I cannot comment on how good/bad they are. But I am not surprise that they don’t have answer for this. Their laptop is still stuck at Ubuntu 8.04, so I don’t think their technical support is proficient at handling issues arising from the newer version.

  4. Yaaaay!

    I echo Rick B and have been searching for a resolution for ages and here it is.
    Adding “nomodeset” to the latest release means I now have the miracle of the modern age, screen PLUS sound, remarkable eh!

    All I need to do is update the graphic driver and be able to run Compiz it’s like being back with 9.04 (sigh)

    THANK YOU!
    Awesome work Damien

  5. Man, u just saved my life. I was having lots of problems with an industrial embedded PC running ubuntu 9.10, it has an integrated LCD panel.

    It worked fine with ubuntu 7.04, but when i decided to migrate to 9.10 i started having the “blank lcd” problem. Your recomendation works like a charm…THANK YOU! :)

  6. You are welcome. As I mentioned in the article, while this is a simple trick, it took me ages to crack the code too. I am glad that this method is working for you now.

  7. it's looks so excellent.Awesome post.this was a really good article.thanks for sharing.

  8. Man, I could kiss you.  I’ve been struggling with this for three days and after finding your post it took me an hour to fix.  There are no words…

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