Boot Failure / System Crash - Same Screen Details Either Way


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Nov 11, 2023
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Running a System 76 Galago Pro (10 years old), Linux Mint XFCE 21.1 Vera and I am very much a Novice to Intermediate Linux user. Very familiar with Linux but technically unsophisticated.
It might boot and then crash, or just land on this screen at start up:

You are in emergency mode. After logging in, type "journalctl -xb" to view logs, "systemctl reboot" to reboot "systemctl default" or "exit" to boot into default mode.
Press Enter for maintenance
(or press Control-D to continue):

Pressing Control-D results in:

Reloading system manager configuration
Starting default target
Failed to start default target: Transaction for is destructive ( has 'start' job qeued, but 'stop' is included in transaction).

Primary drive is an SSD: i.d. = /dev/sdb vendor: Crucial model: CT240M500SSD3 size: 223.57 (complete system details attached)

Have booted into live USB (Mint 21.1) and run fsck test and Smarttools smartctl on the drive and did not find (that I can understand) and issues with the SSD unit. Followed forum thread and reinstall Grub to MBR. So far no change.

Am I looking at a drive failure or should I just reinstall the OS?

Any / all help very much appreciated.


  • Sys76SysInfo.txt
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Preliminary observations and queries:
Can you boot the machine to text mode without problems?
(Hit e at the grub menu, navigate down to the linux line, add a space and 3 inside quotes if they are there and hit cntl+x to boot).

If you can get booted successfully into text mode, can you login and update to the latest Linux Mint installation? It's just apt commands.

Presumably if smartctl passes the disk, you are likely not looking at drive failure in the first instance.
Similarly if fsck passes the filesystem as sound, one trusts that, in the first instance.

Nevertheless, a 10 year old drive is an obvious suspect.
Looking for a manufacturer's test tool may yield more precise results than smartmontools, and in this case all I could find in a quick search online for Hitachi hard drive testing tool was:

If, for example, the machine can boot to the text prompt and operate without issues from the command line, then one might consider the graphics system for investigation.
Thank you @osprey for the reply. Given I am mostly just a user, it took research and many attempts at following your instructions. I figured it out. Sadly, the laptop will not boot to text mode.

The Hitachi HDD is just a storage device for which I have back ups; it is old and I do not care whether it functions. The Crucial SSD contains / and /home.

As an experiment, I am going to remove the Hitachi drive, format the SSD and reinstall the latest Mint XFCE and see what happens.

Question: If there is a simple explanation, if one can boot from a pen drive without issue but not to primary drive, how does the graphic system become an area to investigate - both pen & primary drives are using the same graphical interface - no?

Thanks again...
Question: If there is a simple explanation, if one can boot from a pen drive without issue but not to primary drive, how does the graphic system become an area to investigate - both pen & primary drives are using the same graphical interface - no?

Thanks again...
The symptoms described in post #1 looked to me like they could have resulted from a number of things, graphical issues among them. With graphics it's often an issue with the driver or the firmware, or one or other component missing if not with the hardware.

If the live usb GUI works, one assumes that the distro GUI will work when it's installed. However, it's not always the case because the live usb doesn't necessarily install all the drivers and other components to the computer's hard drive. This is why sometimes users find that the wifi worked with the usb, but not when it was installed on the hard drive, and there's an analogous case with components of the graphics system. Some live disks are better than others.

All modern graphics cards have a tty subsystem which enables them to use text mode. That's built into the kernel, so they all work without external drivers to be loaded. If that text based system works for the user, meaning, that they can log in and use the computers non-GUI functions like editing, networking, installing etc., then the problem is most likely with the graphics system, if a GUI can't be properly raised on the computer.

The graphical system is complex and consists of many elements. For image display, that is the GUI, there's a lot of variation in relation to hardware and drivers. There are kernel modules, some of which you can check with:
grep -i -e 'amd\|nouveau\|nvidia' /boot/config-$(uname -r)

Then there are X drivers, which you can check with:
dpkg -l | grep -i xorg-video
These need to be installed so that they can be loaded to drive their respective cards.

Then there are the graphics toolkits (e.g. GTK, Qt) which are used to draw images, the direct remdering management (DRM), openGL for rendering 2D and 3D graphics, mesa utils, libraries and drivers for graphical functioning and rendering, and there's more. It's complex. So, if it's a graphics problem, a useful approach is to check that each separate element, one by one, is installed, until one gets it all to work as intended.