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We have experienced a "black screen of death" after booting a CentOS virtual machine running on an Oracle VirtualBox. The screen is completely black, there is no mouse pointer. This seems to be related to upgrading the system, but we are not sure.

We've discovered that reinstalling guest additions and rebooting somehow fixes the problem. Here are the steps used to recover:

  1. boot the VM, the screen should be black.
  2. Ctrl + F2 -> a console login screen should be visible
  3. On virtual box menu, [Devices] -> Insert Guest Additions CD Image...
  4. Login to your linux system
  5. su (or use sudo whenever required)
  6. mkdir /media/cdrom
  7. mount /dev/sr0 /media/cdrom
  8. cd /media/cdrom
  9. sh VBoxLinuxAdditions.run uninstall
  10. sh VBoxLinuxAdditions.run install
  11. reboot

Since we now know how to recover from the black screen, this is not a big problem. Still, anyone knows why this happens and how to avoid it?

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Anytime you upgrade the kernel, you need to rebuild all kernel modules.

VirtualBox Guest Additions are implemented as a kernel module so it would need to be rebuilt/updated anytime the kernel is.

As for why your virtual machine does not boot without functioning Guest Additions, you are most likely using some feature during boot that is only provided by Guest Additions. If your CentOS is running a desktop, it is possible that only the display is nonfunctional and you may still be able to connect via other means (i.e. SSH if available).

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