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Ubuntu 13.10 stuck on initramfs on boot

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I finally decided to write my first Post. If it would be for my contribution so far, this would be the first one of the Blog. So… a big “thank you” goes to Roberto for “keeping it real”! I will promise I will contribute more from now on.

The problem I would like to talk about is a very “peculiar” issue I encountered yesterday evening when turning on my Ubuntu 13.10 x64 HP N40L Proliant micro-server via wake-on-lan: the booting process got stuck on an initramfs prompt, just after the following lines:

[    3.956857]  sdd: sdd1 sdd2 < sdd5 >
[    3.957496] sd 5:0:0:0: [sdd] Attached SCSI disk
[    3.977678]  sda: sda1
[    3.977713]  sdc: sdc1
[    3.978048] sd 4:0:0:0: [sdc] Attached SCSI disk
[    3.980252]  sdb: sdb1
[    3.980607] sd 1:0:0:0: [sdb] Attached SCSI disk
[    3.987741] sd 0:0:0:0: [sda] Attached SCSI disk
[    4.120846] bio: create slab <bio-1> at 1

It was clear from the beginning that the problem was a failure while mounting /root.

Initially I thought that the issue could be related to a hardware problem but it turned out to be some sort of fake signature on the boot disk.

It took me a while to figure out how to boot without having to reinstall the OS or loose data.

These are the steps I followed (note that my OS drive is installed on LVM so look elsewhere if your boot is stuck at initramfs AND you don’t have LVM on the boot disk):

  • Create an Ubuntu live USB and boot from that one
  • Select “Try Ubuntu”
  • Open a Terminal, become root and execute the following commands (execute and analyze the output of each command individually)
lvdisplay               #displays the logical volumes
modprobe dm-mod         #loads the device-mapper kernel module
lvm vgscan              #scan all disks for volume groups
lvm vgchange -ay        #activates the logical volumes
ls /dev/mapper          #lists /dev/mapper

Your logical volumes should now be listed by the above command. They should appear both in /dev/mapper/ and /dev/YourVolumeGroupName (it should be clear from the LV Name properties of the lvdisplay command above).

In my case I have 2 logical volumes:

  • [servername]-root
  • [servername]-swap

Run the below command on the logical volumes listed in /dev/mapper

fsck /dev/mapper/LogicalVolumeName    #runs a filesystem check on the unmounted volume

Fsck on the swap logical volume completed without errors.

Fsck on the root logical volume failed identifying the type as “silicon_medley_raid_member” (while it is ext4 instead).

Tried to force ext4 filesystem check with the below command and that runs without error:

fsck.ext4 /dev/mapper/[servername]-root    #runs an ext4 filesystem check on the unmounted volume

So the problem is that during the boot process, the logical volume that should be mounted as /root is detected as silicon_medley_raid_member instead of ext4. The boot is interrupted and the initramfs console is displayed to the user.

wipefs /dev/mapper/[servername]-root

The above command did show something similar to:

offset               type
----------------------------------------------------------------
0x438                ext4   [filesystem]
                     UUID:  3fb6d498-f2a3-4f12-af65-316896d37b24

0x4e1fffe60          silicon_medley_raid_member   [raid]

The offset for silicon_medley_raid_member seems to be quite high.

I don’t have any raid on the OS disk so I decided to get rid of the unwanted magic string with the following command:

wipefs -o 0x4e1fffe60 /dev/mapper/[servername]-root

The above command seems to have done the trick. Running an fsck command would properly detect the volume as ext4 and perform the filesystem check. Let’s wrap up!

  • Close the Terminal
  • Shut down Ubuntu
  • Remove the Ubuntu live USB
  • The system should now boot successfully

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get to the root cause of the issue (i.e. how was the silicon_medley_raid_member signature added in the first place and what triggered it) but it seems that I am not the only one!

HTH,

Edmondo

Written by kdceddj

March 20, 2014 at 11:37 pm