This article is from the Frequently Asked Questions for Linux, the Free/Open Source UNIX-like operating system kernel that runs on many modern computer systems. Maintained by David C. Merrill with numerous contributions by others. (v1.0).
A: The answers to this question can, and do, fill entire books. If the installation program wasn't able to configure the X server correctly, Linux will most likely try to start the X display, fail, and drop back into text-only terminal mode.
First and foremost, make certain that you have provided, as closely as possible, the correct information to the installation program of your video hardware: the video card and monitor. Some installation programs can correctly guess a "least common denominator" screen configuration, like a 640-by-480 VESA-standard display, but there are many possible video hardware configurations that may not be able to display this standard.
The X Window System configuration file is called (usually) /etc/XF86Config, / etc/X11/XF86Config, or /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/XF86Config.
If you need to manually configure the X server, there are several possible methods:
*Try to use the XF86Setup program, which can help identify the correct X server and monitor timings for the video hardware. *Make sure that the X server has the correct options. If you log in as the superuser, you should be able to use X --probeonly to get a listing of the video card chipset, memory, and any special graphics features. Also, refer to the manual page for the X server. (E.g.; man X), and try running the X server and redirecting the standard error output to a file so you can determine, after you can view text on the screen again, what error messages the server is generating; e.g., X 2>x.error. *With that information, you should be able to safely refer to one of the references provided by the Linux Documentation Project. ("Where can I get the HOWTO's and other documentation? ") There are several HOWTO's on the subject, including a HOWTO to calculate video timings manually if necessary. Also, the Installation and Getting Started guide has a chapter with a step-by-step guide to writing a XF86Config file.
Also, make sure that the problem really is an incorrect XF86Config file, not something else like the window manager failing to start. If the X server is working correctly, you should be able to move the mouse cursor on the screen, and pressing Ctrl-Alt-Backspace will shut down the X server and return to the shell prompt in one of the virtual terminals.