Kali/Ubuntu stuck at blank screen; No icons, unity or gnome : Fixed

I have been using an older version of Kali Linux. I used to update occasionally. Since the distro had lot of improvements in the past couple of years, I decided to go for a dist-upgrade. Once the upgrade was finished I wasn’t able to log in to my machine. The login window was appearing and I was able to provide the credentials as well. The OS was even accepting the credentials and then nothing happens. Kali Linux was stuck at a blue screen. I guess its my default screensaver. Lets see how to fix the blue screen no icons error in Kali Linux. Such issues in Ubuntu can also be fixed in a similar manner.

Kali Linux Stuck at Blue screen after login. No icons, no gnome, no unity

Why Linux doesn't show icons or menu even after login was successful

Let us try and see the root cause. When you login to your Linux machine, what you see on your desktop is called a  monitor is called a desktop environment. Each Linux distro will be pre-configured with a specific desktop environment. For example, Ubuntu by default comes with Unity, Kali Linux is shipped with Gnome. 

Certain times, due to dependency issues, for example during a large upgrade. Linux may fail to load the desktop environment properly. In my case, I was using Kali Linux and the default desktop environment was Gnome. I did a dist-upgrade and it broke some function of Gnome. At the next reboot, Gnome wasn’t loading properly and it kept showing me the blue screen(which is the default wallpaper).

Is this a known bug?

Well, Yes and No. When it comes to Ubuntu, the issue was reported a long back. Back in 2014. You can read the details here:

The issue seems unassigned to someone and people are still reporting the same bug even in 2019. Basically, the unity plugin was got turned off during the upgrade which causes the bug. 

Though I haven’t been able to notice any other places where it is marked as a known bug.

How to solve the bug?

In my case, I was using Kali Linux.The fix was easy for me. Here are the steps that I have followed.

  1. Try to open a Terminal. Since there are no icons or windows are shown in the Desktop, let’s get hold of the tty. Press
    ALT + CTRL + F1

    Now you will be greeted with tty1. If not, try to replace F1 with F2, F3 and so on to F6. 

  2. Reinstall your desktop environment manager. In my case it was lightdm. So I had to reinstall it by,
    # apt install --reinstall lightdm ubuntu-desktop
    If you are using gdm2, which could be the display manager of latest Kali Linux distros,

    # apt install --reinstall gdm2
  3. Reconfigure dpkg,
    dpkg-reconfigure lightdm
  4. Done. Reboot.

Fix for Ubuntu

In case of Ubuntu, the issue may arise because of missing Unity plugin as well. In that case, a simple unity reinstall may not work. You need to manually enable the unity plugin. To do so,

  1. Follow step 1 above. Hit ALT + CTRL + F1 to open a tty.
  2. Install compizconfig-settings-manager
    $ sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager
    and, reinstall unity
    $ sudo apt-get --reinstall install unity
  3. Tell the tty to open the compiz config settings manager in the GUI by the command,
    DISPLAY=:0 ccsm &
  4. Switch back to GUI from the tty by pressing 
    ALT + CTRL + F7
    There, you will be greeted with CompizConfig Settings Manager
  5. Find the Unity plugin. Enable it. You will be asked “Ubuntu Unity Plugin requires the plugin OpenGL. Enable Ubuntu Unity Plugin / Enable OpenGL”
  6. Go back to the tty1 by ALT + CTRL + F1 and reboot.
    $ sudo reboot
  7. Done!

I have added a YouTube video to help understand things easily. Do comment down if you stuck anywhere in between. Happy to help 🙂

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