"/etc/X11/X not executable" error when startx


Solution 1

I am writing an answer for my question, but actually I haven't figured out exactly what happened that gave rise to those errors.

I am assuming that the whole xorg itself broke and I got my desktop back by using a live disk and chrooting (yeah - had to do that as its hard to connect to internet from terminal and its lot more easier to connect to internet from live disk and copy resolv.conf from here to there).

So, after creating a live disk and in Try Ubuntu mode, I chrooted into old partitions (I followed the guide here) and did

apt-get update && apt-get upgrade
apt-get install --reinstall xserver-xorg
apt-get install --reinstall gdm gnome-desktop-environment xorg

Then I changed my default display manager to gdm at /etc/X11/default-display-manager by changing this line (I think this step is not needed if after a restart your desktop is working fine, but I basically did a couple more things than said above and broke lightdm too, so I had to change to gdm!)




and restarted. Well, unity is working and I got my desktop back working.

Solution 2

you have to try this

 sudo dpkg-reconfigure -phigh xserver-xorg

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Bharadwaj Srigiriraju
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Bharadwaj Srigiriraju

Hi, I am a Software Engineer from India, interested in building web applications and machine learning. Also a Computer Science graduate. I am interested in wide-range of topics, and you can find some of them on my other Stack Exchange network profiles.

Updated on September 18, 2022


  • Bharadwaj Srigiriraju
    Bharadwaj Srigiriraju about 1 year

    What happened

    I wanted to install KDE and Gnome along with Unity. I don't know when I installed gnome-shell on my Ubuntu 12.10, but I installed KDE minimal desktop just now using

    sudo apt-get install kde-plasma-desktop

    and selected lightdm as my default DM. Then I entered this to install gnome

    sudo apt-get install gnome-shell

    and it said I already have it installed.

    So, then I restarted in normal mode and Ubuntu didn't start.


    I went to recovery mode and from root shell I used


    it throws these bunch of errors:

    /etc/X11/X is not executable
    xinit: giving up
    xinit: unable to connect to X server: Connection refused
    xinit: server error

    and when I tried

    chmod +x /etc/X11/X

    it says

    chmod: cannot operate on dangling symlink `/etc/X11/X'

    I can't use apt-get to reinstall packages, because our ISP uses portal login - and I don't know how to login from terminal (so can't connect to network). May be I can use live disk, but I don't know how to configure packages on my HD from livedisk.

    I am on Windows 8 now. Any help regarding how can I get my desktop back is appreciated!

  • Bharadwaj Srigiriraju
    Bharadwaj Srigiriraju almost 11 years
    It says: ln: failed to create symbolic link `/etc/X11/X': File exists
  • samaswin
    samaswin almost 11 years
    Try deleting the broken symlink first. rm /etc/X11/X
  • Bharadwaj Srigiriraju
    Bharadwaj Srigiriraju almost 11 years
    deleted it and tried to startx. It says: X: cannot stat /etc/X11/X (No such file or directory), aborting.
  • Sylwester
    Sylwester over 8 years
    I got this after updating HWE, then cleaning package config from ubuntu-tweak. Thus --purge removes the link because xserver-xorg was replaced with xserver-xorg-lts-<release>. I've seen this both with precise with trusty HWE and trusty with utopic HWE. doing sudo dpkg-reconfigure -phigh xserver-xorg-lts-utopic fixed it
  • Fiasco Labs
    Fiasco Labs over 7 years
    required a change on apt-get cli => apt-get install xserver-xorg --reinstall
  • Déjà vu
    Déjà vu about 7 years
    It's --reinstall ; great answers