Ubuntu – LUKS initramfs boot problem: “/dev/mapper/ubuntu-root does not exist.” How to fix it using a backup


First time asker, relatively new to Ubuntu/Linux. Haven't had much luck with the search function. Please forgive the essay below – the problem is a bit unique, I think…

I'm running 12.04 on a laptop (with UEFI BIOS), with full disk encryption set up up using the Alternate CD. I recently made a backup image of the entire hard drive using dd, to an external USB hdd. Having recently made some changes on the laptop, I tried to plug in the external USB clone to copy the files to it. Despite getting the password prompt and having it appear in the Disk Utility as a logical volume group, it would not actually mount the external drive, saying it was 'not a mountable file system'. Tried it on my desktop, and it mounted up just fine (once I installed lvm2).

Using pvdisplay, I noticed that both the external drive and internal laptop drive had the same UUID (duh, it's a clone!). So, on the desktop, I used pvchange -u to change the external drive's uuid. Plugged it into the laptop, alas, still no joy. Gave up, turned off the laptop (drive still plugged in), went and had dinner. Came back, unplugged external drive from now-off laptop, tried to boot. Problems!

It boots to the password prompt screen fine. Enter the password, and after a long wait, it drops to an initramfs prompt, with the error:
"ALERT! /dev/mapper/ubuntu-root does not exist."

If I reboot, and plug back in the external drive, it boots up, seemingly running root off the USB drive. I have tried the solution here, entering /dev/sda3 (and yet more variants) instead. No bingo, still get exactly the same messages. The fact I'm using LUKS with a LVM seems to complicate things. I think I've muddled a config file somewhere, probably by plugging in two drives with the same UUID (stupid!) and now it thinks /root is on the external drive. I'm stumped as to how to get it back.

Best Answer

I FIXED IT!! For the references of future generations, heres how:

The problem was that by plugging the a clone of the system I was running into it, I'd "confused" my system as to which drive to write to, and somehow nuked the Volume Group metadata for the original internal drive. Luckily, I still had the metadata from the clone I'd made.

This meant that I could plug in the working backup, unlock it, and use vgcfgbackup to make a copy of its metadata.

~$ sudo vgcfgbackup -f /tmp/trousers
  Volume group "ubuntu" successfully backed up.

This creates a text file with the metadata in /tmp called trousers (called it whatever you like, makes no difference)

Then, I dismounted and unplugged the functioning backup clone, and plugged in the borked internal drive. Unlocked it like I did the backup, then run:

 sudo vgcfgrestore -f /tmp/trousers ubuntu
  Restored volume group ubuntu

Upon doing this, the volume group suddenly sprang to life in disk utility, and the borked internal was unborked, mountable and readable again!

Critical bit here is that 'ubuntu' was the name of the original volume group. You can verify this by opening up the 'trousers' file in gedit and looking at the entry on the line below "creation_time".

Also worth noting that this only worked because the backup was an exact clone of the original internal, and hence the VG metatdata file had all the correct UUID's in place. I actually got an error message first time round because I'd originally manually changed one of the UUID's on the external drive. I had to use pvdisplay on the original internal to find its UUID, and then manually edit the 'trousers' file to get it to work.

Anyway, hope that helps someone one day.