I've exhausted my ability to search through Google for this, so I'm giving it a go here.

What I'm trying to do is increase the resolution (or decrease the font size) in the TTY terminals. Xubuntu 9.10 uses GRUB2, and everywhere I can find directs me to edit the


File in order to add vga=XXX to the GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX value, and this simply doesn't work. Out of endless fiddling with the file, nothing ever seems to change.

On my Netbook running an earlier version, I had success with this command

dpkg-reconfigure console-setup

But once again it yields no change.

Got any ideas?


I was looking for a way to do this for an Ubuntu 9.10 guest in VirtualBox, and got about halfway there. In my VM, the console TTYs get the correct resolution if I boot into single-user mode, but not if I boot into GDM.

Grub2 replaces the vga=XXX kernel option with a gfxpayload option that can be set in /boot/grub/grub.cfg. Ubuntu's update-grub command automatically generates grub.cfg from variables in /etc/default/grub and scripts in /etc/grub.d, so the best place to add this option is in one of those two places.

These are the Grub2 options (in grub.cfg syntax) that affect the console resolution:

  • gfxmode: Sets the resolution of the Grub menu.
    eg: set gfxmode=1280x800 (no explicit bitdepth)
    eg: set gfxmode=1440x900x32 (explicit bitdepth)

  • gfxpayload: Sets the resolution Grub passes to the kernel.
    eg: set gfxpayload=1024x720x16
    eg: set gfxpayload=keep (keeps resolution as set in gfxmode)

On my system, I added some scripting to the /etc/grub.d/00_header to support a new GRUB_GFXPAYLOAD variable that's specified in /etc/grub/default. This isn't strictly necessary, and there are lots of ways to do it; see the examples on the Debian and Ubuntu forum links below.


  • A +1 for you for such a comprehensive answer, but I've still yet to get this thing to change in any way. Bigger, smaller, GRUB menu or the TTY itself. AGH! – Zurahn Apr 1 '10 at 21:51
  • @Zurahn: yeah, i played around with it some more after jotting up this answer, and my VMs aren't any closer to what i want to see. one of the Ubuntu Forums links suggests replacing the linux and initrd commands with linux16 and initrd16 (and then using the older vga= syntax) but i haven't found any modes that that works properly with. :( – quack quixote Apr 2 '10 at 4:53
  • 1
    I finally got a solution: reverting to legacy GRUB. ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1298932 – Zurahn Apr 14 '10 at 0:54

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