I've managed to put my laptop in a state of no-boot while trying to perform update and I suspect I know exactly what is wrong. In order to correct the problem, I need access to at least /boot and preferably my home directory on my HDD. I've booted from an Ubuntu 16.04 image on a bootable USB thumb drive and I've managed to mount and decrypt my hard disk. The issue now is that I can see the folder structure on my hard disk, but most of folders appear to be empty and it seems as though I may simply not have permissions over any of the files.

In the case of my home directory, it's understandable (I'd need to impersonate myself? sudo is not working because my user account does not exist in this image), but I'm not sure why I can't see any files in /boot. I know the relevant passwords. How can I convince my HDD that I'm me?

Any direction would be much appreciated.



EDIT: I've managed to grant myself permissions over the contents of my home directory using chmod so worst case scenario, I should be able to do an extraction... but why does /boot still appear to be empty, even after modifying permissions?

Incidentally I had backed up the files I botched in my home directory before it all went horribly wrong; I've tried copying them into /boot, but Ubuntu doesn't seem to see them at boot. Why didn't this work?

Thanks again,


  • 1
    get to root with sudo -i or su Oct 6, 2016 at 3:22
  • Always work as root on some other image. If you boot from USB, the system on the USB stick should determine which accounts exist, which numeric id they have etc. This means (1) you can become root and (2) don't change owners on the hardisk image you want to rescue, because the numeric ids won't match. If your Ubuntu USB image tries to use the harddisk image as root, try a SystemRescueCd USB image instead.
    – dirkt
    Oct 6, 2016 at 7:08
  • Ohh man! A million times thank you! For some reason it didn't occur to me that it was an actual partition, so I was indeed looking at the mount point. This was the push I needed :)
    – PatrickGA
    Oct 6, 2016 at 11:14

1 Answer 1


If /boot is empty, it's probably because you are looking at the mount point where /boot is normally mounted, not the boot partition itself. The USB boot drive doesn't know where the boot partition should be mounted.

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