I just rebooted my computer, and it decided that some of my filesystems needed to have fsck run on them. (It had been more than 20 reboots since they were last checked.) And fsck decided to hang 4.6% through the initial check on one of them. Rebooting didn’t help: after every reboot, it noticed that it hadn’t checked the filesystem recently, checked it again, and hanged at the same place. (To be fair, I don’t know if it’s an fsck problem, a kernel problem, or what.)

No idea what went wrong, or how to fix it; I’ve e-mailed the author, and perhaps he can give me some suggestions. (It’s reproducible, and I’ll be happy to go through a few rounds to try to debug the issue.) Fortunately (I suppose?), the filesystem in question is where my backups live, and it doesn’t even include (either of) the backups of my home directory, so I can live with potential corruption indefinitely if necessary. Still, it doesn’t make me happy.

If anybody else finds themselves in this situation, a workaround is:

  • Make sure your computer has a root password, and you know it! (Not always the case in this sudo world.)
  • Type Ctrl-Alt-Delete when you notice the hang, and log in with the aforementioned root password.
  • Edit the line in /etc/fstab for the corresponding filesystem and set the sixth column (fs_passno) to zero
  • Reboot.

If you don’t know the root password, hopefully you have some sort of recovery DVD that you can boot from to get to where you can edit the fstab.

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