How to enable the GRUB 2 boot screen on your Linux computer

Sometimes, especially on computers that only one operating system, the GRUB boot loader is set by default to not show up and instead load the first entry automatically. While this makes booting your computer slightly faster, since there’s no need to wait for a timeout for the computer to proceed with loading the operating system, it also proves problematic if something goes bad and you’re required to be able to access the GRUB menu or, God forbid, its command-line interface.

In this article I’m showing you how to enable the GRUB 2 menu on your computer running Linux Mint. The content of this guide should also apply to other flavours of Linux, but I can’t be 100% sure. If you’re having trouble following this tutorial on your computer, let me know what distribution you’re running and I’ll double-check if things are different in it.

Making a backup copy of the GRUB configuration file

Before we begin, it’s important to make a copy of the GRUB configuration file that we’re going to edit. Although this isn’t strictly necessary to proceed, it’s a good idea to have a known good configuration to roll back to in case we make a mistake. To do this, open a terminal and type the command

sudo cp /etc/default/grub /etc/default/grub.old

Press Enter and you’ll be asked for your password. Insert it and press Enter again. Now, if anything goes the wrong way, we know that we have a file /etc/default/grub.old that we know is going to work.

Editing the GRUB configuration file

With the backup of the GRUB configuration file out of the way, we can proceed to edit its content. We can do this either in the command line directly, or we can edit it with a graphical text editor such as gedit.

From the command line

Type the command

sudo nano /etc/default/grub

and press Enter. This opens the GRUB configuration file inside an easy-to-use command-line text editor called nano. You can use the arrow keys to move inside the file itself.

From a graphical text editor

In case the command line isn’t really your thing, we can also open the file with a graphical text editor. By default, Linux Mint uses gedit as its default graphical text editor, but if you replaced it with another one, or if your distribution uses a different program entirely, there’s no need to worry, since the command I’m going to give you opens it with your default application.

In the terminal, type

sudo xdg-open /etc/default/grub

This will open the GRUB configuration file inside the default text editor.

Changes to make to the GRUB configuration file

Once we’ve opened the GRUB configuration file, you’ll notice that its various sections are separated by bunches of lines starting with # characters. These are comments which are meant as instructions for the user and are automatically ignored by the operating system. We want to replace the content of the first section with the following:

GRUB_DEFAULT=1
#GRUB_HIDDEN_TIMEOUT=10
GRUB_HIDDEN_TIMEOUT_QUIET=false
GRUB_TIMEOUT=10
GRUB_DISTRIBUTOR=`lsb_release -i -s 2> /dev/null || echo Debian`
GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=""
GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX=""

Once done, save the file. You can do this by pressing the key combination Ctrl + X, followed by the Y key and then Enter in nano, or by clicking the Save button in your graphical text editor.

Updating the GRUB configuration

Now, it’s time to apply the changes we’ve made so far. In a terminal, type

sudo update-grub

and press Enter. The operating system will update the GRUB configuration. Once it’s done, you can reboot your computer with

sudo reboot

Rolling back to the previous state

In case you want to roll back to how things worked previously, use the command

sudo cp /etc/default/grub.old /etc/default/grub && sudo update-grub

Press Enter and insert your password. Once done, you can reboot your computer with

sudo reboot

About Andrea Luciano Damico 137 Articles
Andrea Luciano Damico is a freelance translator from Italy. Among his interests are linguistics, technology, video games, and generally being a chill guy. He runs Let's Translate.it and Tech4Freelancers.net.