Setup Bootsplash on Ubuntu/Debian – grub silent or verbose boot mode

The splash screen of a Linux system, which is the first screen you see when the operating system is booting up, is fully customizable.

Behind the bootsplash screen is textual output, detailing the startup process of the system. Having the ability to view this information can be helpful in troubleshooting, or it can just be nice to see what the system is busy doing as it starts up. If you’d like to see this output, it’s possible to disable the splash screen entirely. Otherwise, you can replace the default splash screen with something nicer looking.

In this tutorial, you will learn how to replace the grub bootsplash screen in Debian and Ubuntu Linux. This will include disabling the splash screen and replacing it with an alternative design. Read on to learn how.

In this tutorial you will learn:

  • How to configure verbose bootsplash screen
  • How to implement a custom bootsplash design
Setup Bootsplash on Debian – grub silent or verbose boot mode
Setup Bootsplash on Debian – grub silent or verbose boot mode
Software Requirements and Linux Command Line Conventions
Category Requirements, Conventions or Software Version Used
System Debian and Ubuntu Linux
Software grub
Other Privileged access to your Linux system as root or via the sudo command.
Conventions # – requires given linux commands to be executed with root privileges either directly as a root user or by use of sudo command
$ – requires given linux commands to be executed as a regular non-privileged user

The default splash screen



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Just in case you’re wondering what exactly the splash screen is, it’s the logo (and possibly other imagery) that you see when the system is booting up. Here’s what the default one looks like on Ubuntu:

Default splash screen on Ubuntu Linux
Default splash screen on Ubuntu Linux

Users may want to disable this splash screen in order to view detailed output about the boot process, which can come in handy in some situations, especially if your system starts to hang during boot up. Other users may want a different aesthetic and choose to customize the splash screen with other graphics. Both are possible in Debian and Ubuntu.

Disable splash screen / enable verbose output

If you’d like to avoid a graphical splash screen, and instead be presented with verbose output about the system’s startup process, we need to make an edit to the grub configuration file. Follow the step by step instructions below to enable the verbose output.

  1. Use nano or your favorite text editor to open the grub configuration file with root permissions.
    $ sudo nano /etc/default/grub
    
  2. Next, find the following line:
    GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash"
    

    And change it to:

    GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=""
    

    After you have made this change, you can save your changes to the file and exit.

    Editing the grub configuration file to disable splash screen and enable verbose output
    Editing the grub configuration file to disable splash screen and enable verbose output
  3. Next, you will need to run the update-grub command with root permissions in order for the changes to take effect.
    $ sudo update-grub
    

    Running the update-grub command to implement the changes to the boot splash screen
    Running the update-grub command to implement the changes to the boot splash screen
  4. Finally, you can reboot your system and will see the verbose output in place of the usual graphical splash screen.


    $ sudo reboot
    

    Verbose output from startup screen, instead of a graphical splash screen
    Verbose output from startup screen, instead of a graphical splash screen

Customize splash screen

So, you don’t like the default splash screen, but you also don’t care to see the textual output that shows up from disabling the splash screen. In that case, you may want to customize the splash screen with some other type of graphic. Follow the step by step instructions below to setup a custom splash screen on Debian or Ubuntu.

  1. Start by opening a terminal and typing the following commands to install the plymouth-themes software package.
    $ sudo apt update
    $ sudo apt install plymouth-themes
    
  2. The plymouth-themes package comes with a few pre built splash screens that we can implement, but it also allows us to customize them, if you wish. The themes that come with the package by default can be found in the following directory:
    $ cd /usr/share/plymouth/themes
    
  3. If you see a theme in this directory that you would like to try, we can now try it out as the new boot splash screen. For an example, we will implement the fade-in theme. To do so, execute the following command.
    $ sudo update-alternatives --install /usr/share/plymouth/themes/default.plymouth default.plymouth /usr/share/plymouth/themes/fade-in/fade-in.plymouth 100
    

    The important part of this command is the last file we reference, which is /usr/share/plymouth/themes/fade-in/fade-in.plymouth. You can change this with any .plymouth theme file that you wish to try out. Alternatively, you could edit the .plymouth file or some of the images within the fade-in directory in order to implement a more custom design.

  4. Next, execute the following command:
    $ sudo update-alternatives --config default.plymouth
    

    Type the number that corresponds to your selection for a new theme, then press enter. In our example, it would be number 2, fade-in.

    Selecting the new theme file to use for boot splash
    Selecting the new theme file to use for boot splash
  5. For the changes we’ve made to take effect, we will also need to execute the following command:


    $ sudo update-initramfs -u
    
  6. Finally, you can reboot your system to see the new splash screen.
    $ sudo reboot
    

    Our boot splash screen has been changed to the fade-in theme
    Our boot splash screen has been changed to the fade-in theme

That fade-in theme is a bit boring. Not much of an upgrade over the default splash. In our testing, we settled on the solar theme as being our personal favorite, which looks like this:

Solar theme for bootsplash screen
Solar theme for bootsplash screen

Closing Thoughts

In this tutorial, we saw how to change the bootsplash screen in Debian and Ubuntu Linux systems. In particular, this involved disabling the default graphic to see textual output, or implementing a variety of pre built themes, and implementing our own. This can be helpful if you want to see more information about the startup process or if you just think it looks better to see a cooler graphic at startup.