Last night I had one of those little crisises that computer users tend to run into. You know what I mean - when something breaks randomly and the computer decides that it will drop you into a repair shell and from the cryptic messages that it left during the boot process you have to somehow figure out what went wrong. (You don’t know what I mean? Aren’t you a lucky one then.)

My problem occurred with Gentoo deciding that it wouldn’t boot after a crash. Intrestingly the crash itself seems to be unrelated to the fact that it wouldn’t boot, even though my first fear was that something had gotten horribly corrupted.

Upon the stop in the boot process, the error message was from e2fsck, a utility which checks partitions for errors. It turned out that it was unable to read /dev/sda4, which after digging a bit I discovered was the drive I had set as root (I have an odd partitioning scheme, and the particulars had slipped my mind). I also discovered that, although it seemed to be mounted, the root directory was not writable. Apparently enough time had elapsed that the automatic check that I had enabled took effect.

A bit of research led me to the realization that I should not be allowing the root file system to be checked at all (what with the utilities required be on that drive, and the checking needing to take place before the drive is mounted) and found out that the 1 that terminated the relevant line in fstab needed to be changed to a 0 to stop the automated checking, making the line read /dev/sda4 / ext3 defaults 0 0.

However, as I mentioned before, the root partition was in a read-only mode at the time. This meant that I had to remount the partition to be readable long enough to fix the line in fstab. This turned out to be doable with the command mount -o rw,remount /. Fortunately, with the new version of fstab, my computer was able to boot without troubles into Gentoo.

Thanks to the posters at who over two years ago troubleshooted this problem for another poor soul.

By the way, the Gentoo handbook definitely used the check option in their sample fstab file.;=8