HDMI output gets stuck after booting up on the flashing cursor on a black screen. So the computer seems unresponsive, but I can still ssh into it from network. Is there a way to finish the boot process and load the GUI remotely via ssh? Or am I looking at a reinstall the os situation.

  • 2
    The fact that you can ssh to the box means that the system is up and the problem is most likely a display issue, How is the monitor connected to the Pi? Jan 5, 2016 at 6:02
  • @SteveRobillard HDMI. And the boot process displays normally up to a point. I see a hundred scrolling messages, then it gets stuck on the flashing cursor. Via SSH I'm trying to figure out if I'm out of space on the SD card maybe?
    – pinhead
    Jan 5, 2016 at 6:10
  • is it just a blinking cursor or a prompt? can you type "startx" with no quotes? why do you think you are out of space? To check the amount of free space run df -h Jan 5, 2016 at 6:12
  • Just a cursor, the USB keyboard doesn't type anything but the little light for the caps lock key isn't coming on either so I wonder if the keyboard is even getting power. startx via ssh returns errors in the terminal but I can't type it directly on the pi. First line of df -h is: /dev/root 6.0G 6.0G 0 100% /
    – pinhead
    Jan 5, 2016 at 6:17
  • 1
    OK I suspect your supposition about the keyboard may be true, but it looks like you are also correct that the disc is full. What size is the SD card? You obviously have some idea what is using all the space on the card so you can try deleting things, or get a bigger card *it might help if we new what you did that filled the card). startx with no arguments won't work over SSH. Jan 5, 2016 at 6:25

1 Answer 1


I ran into the same issue and found a possible cause and solution.

The cause was a completely full boot disk(SD card). This happened when an external drive unmounted during a download of a huge file. I am not quite sure why it happened, I just know that it did.

Apparently, the system just created a new sub-directory in my /home/media/ directory and continued to download the file once the external drive failed. This lead to a full SD card with no space to run non-essential system functions. Basically it puts the device in self-preservation mode.

You can check if this is your issue fairly easily through SSH. Log into your device and type:

df -h

This displays all of your mounted disks, as well as the capacity of each including their mount point.

Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/root        28G 27.6G  422M  99% /
devtmpfs        459M     0  459M   0% /dev
tmpfs           463M     0  463M   0% /dev/shm
tmpfs           463M  6.7M  457M   2% /run
tmpfs           5.0M  4.0K  5.0M   1% /run/lock
tmpfs           463M     0  463M   0% /sys/fs/cgroup
/dev/mmcblk0p6   63M   20M   43M  32% /boot
/dev/sda1       1.9T   30G  1.8T   2% /media/USBHDD1
tmpfs            93M     0   93M   0% /run/user/1000
/dev/mmcblk0p5   30M  398K   28M   2% /media/pi/SETTINGS

The first line is where you should center your attention. If your first line is different you are looking for the line that begins with /dev/root .

Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/root        28G 27.6G  422M  99% /

If the Use% is 90% or above, your root system does not have enough space to run X Windows on boot. It will instead go into self-preserve mode and keep the most minimal of system functions spinning. You are still able to ssh in, but running most commands will lead to errors.

If you find this is your situation as well, there are many ways to fix the issue. I started by identifying which files were filling up the disk. You can find files by size using the find command along with some parameters:

sudo find / -xdev -type f -size +100M

This will list all files on your system that are larger than 100 megabytes.

pi@raspberrypi:~ $ sudo find / -xdev -type f -size +100M

You can change the +100M to any size you like to help you find the problem files.

Once you identify the files that are too big for the drive you can either remove them or transfer them to another external drive. When you have freed up enough space on your boot disk, reboot and you should see things back to normal.

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