Installation Troubleshooting

Graphical Installation

One of the most common problems you’ll encounter is video corruption in graphical-installation mode or upon first boot after installation. Here’s one way to escape from a corrupted Xwindows environment:

Ctl – Alt – Backspace

This will kill Xwindows and return you to a terminal. Actually, you’ve been there the whole time; you’ve just been working in a graphical subenvironment.

You always have several terminals available to you. You can switch between terminals like this:

Ctl – Alt – F2

Or F3 or F4. When you’re running Xwindows you’re “in” F7, so you can use that Function key to return to your graphical environment. Do note, however, that if you try to run startx you’ll get an error; X is already running!

One of the primary reasons for bad video is frame buffering. When you’re at the boot: prompt, rather than hitting Return or entering linux then Return, use this command:

boot: linux nofb

This disables framebuffer support. You could also force a 640×480 resolution:

boot: linux lowres

Finally, you can force a text-mode installation:

boot: linux text


Abnormal Terminations of Installation

There are a handful of problems that can all give you a “fatal error 11” and a crash during installation.

Fatal error 11 is a memory segmentation fault, which is vaguely similar to a buffer overflow: both result from software writing to memory it doesn’t own.

Sound like a software error? Actually it’s often a RAM error. If you’re running RAM that’s rated slower than your motherboard’s maximum, you will likely need to change some settings in your BIOS.

  • Turn off CPU cache memory
  • Increase the number of wait states
  • Get faster RAM


Failure to Install the Boot Loader Properly

This is the infamous “1024 cylinders” problem: your boot loader is beyond those cylinders accessible by the BIOS.


  • Make sure your / partition starts before cylinder 1024 (somewhere before the 8 GB mark), or
  • Set up your /boot partition as the first partition on the disk.


Troubleshooting Problems After Installation

Installation Log Files

To see the list of packages that were installed: /root/install.log

To see a list of system events that occurred during installation: /root/install.log.syslog


The /proc directory

Do a listing of /proc. There are two kinds of items here:

  • process information (numbered directories), and
  • kernel parameters.

A tremendous lot of information is available to you in this directory.


CPU Info

cat /proc/cpuinfo


RAM Info

cat /proc/meminfo


DMA, IRQs and IO Ports

cat /proc/dma

cat /proc/interrupts

cat /proc/ioports


Kernel Modules

cat /proc/modules




dmesg | tail


Boot Logs

View a list of system processes, and whether they started successfully or not.

more /var/log/boot.log

tail /var/log/boot.log

Don’t forget that logs are rotated! The most recent archived log is boot.log.1, and older log files are boot.log.2, boot.log.3, etc.


Linux Rescue

One good way to get into a damaged system is using the linux rescue command when you get to the boot: prompt after booting the first distro CD.