I've got a VirtualBox instance of Oracle Linux 7.2 which won't start because of Failed to start Login Service. On the booting sequence the process hangs on this message and doesn't continue, so I can't even log in and execute systemctl status systemd-logind.service.

The probable cause for this is, that I removed zsh while all my users (including root) have zsh set as the default shell (duh!). After that the machine started and I got to the login prompt, but I couldn't login since the shell couldn't be found. I then inserted a Live CD and went into /etc/passwd to change the default shell for users to /bin/bash. After this the login service won't start at all. Any ideas how to fix this?


I found out that after changing /etc/passwd it didn't have the right SELinux settings anymore. I don't really need SELinux on my machine so I solved the problem by disabling SELinux altogether. This is easily done by modifying the file /etc/selinux/config and setting the option SELINUX=permissive (if you want to keep SELinux file labeling to enable it later) or SELINUX=disabled (turning it off completely).

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    This failure also occurs when changing the root password from single boot recovery mode. – Shaun Dewberry Aug 11 '17 at 12:31
  • Setting it to disabled worked for me, but not permissive, cheers! – dspacejs Mar 19 '18 at 0:32

After using chage in single user mode because of expired password, it is required to boot with SELINUX=permissive set in /etc/selinux/config to restore proper labels.

Get proper SELinux context for each modified file from a sane system with ls -Z /etc/passwd /etc/shadow and apply context back to broken system.

As an example, here are set of commands used on a CentOS 7 after chage - DO NOT APPLY without comparison from a sane system (test or preproduction) !

chcon system_u:object_r:passwd_file_t:s0 /etc/passwd
chcon system_u:object_r:passwd_file_t:s0 /etc/group
chcon system_u:object_r:shadow_t:s0 /etc/shadow
chcon system_u:object_r:shadow_t:s0 /etc/gshadow

Review SELinux context of any file you have modified in single mode, before rebooting with SELINUX=enforcing to get back to normal operations.

Other ways to copy SELinux context is available at How to copy SELinux context from one directory and apply it to another directory?

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    or more conveniently, run restorecon or fixfiles restore on /etc/passwd. If there are more files - e.g. /etc/passwd- - mislabelled, it's more comprehensive to just run fixfiles restore. Or, fixfiles onboot and reboot; this can theoretically be more reliable. – sourcejedi Jan 4 '18 at 12:05
  • Thanks. I still have to learn more about SELinux... – Yves Martin Jan 5 '18 at 11:43

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