Doing `dist-upgrade` just bricked my Whonix.

To upgrade in-place to the point release I just did apt update and dist-upgrade, reboot, and it bricked my Whonix:

Kernel Panic - not syncing: VFS: Unable to mount root fs on unknown-block(0,0)

In my case I was even more severely locked out because I had set my grub timeout to 0, and pressing shift (etc) to access grub didn’t work.

I managed to attach my Workstation’s VDI as a second storage drive to another workstation VM, boot into the other VM, and after booting off that other VM’s grub it strangely loaded my broken workstation as the actual linux system. I could then easily change its particular grub timeout to 5 again instead of mounting its file system externally and doing a more advanced manual grub edit.

So with grub access restored, I booted back in using an older kernel version and did:

sudo dpkg --configure -a

which fixed it.

I can now boot into the Whonix with normal newest kernel 4.19.0-8, and the problem is resolved.

But if this will happen to others in the course of normal system upgrading, people not as advanced will suddenly lose their Whonix! That is terrible for Whonix remaining accessible to people who really need it.

As a possible clue in my case, I have had kernel updates fail at the end of updates for quite a while. (But if it’s happening in my Whonix, isn’t it happening in others?)

People shouldn’t be expected to backup their Whonix right before every dist-upgrade, just in case the upgrade bricks their Whonix. Unless dist-upgrade really is a major thing and people should only regularly perform upgrade without having unexpected concerns?

Either way, this was really bad, so here I am reporting it. What can be done about it?



Disagree. (Because the difference between dist-upgrade and upgrade is maybe different from what you might think.)

No reports of it happening by others.

Potential causes for bugs which only affect few users:

  • host hardware issues
  • host operating system bugs
  • virtualizer bugs

See also:

Theoretically: many things


I’ve never had this happen to me when upgrading Whonix.

I’ve only had stuff like this happen when messing with apparmor-profile-everything or hardened-kernel which isn’t used by ordinary users yet.

Did you do a lot of configuration? Why exactly did your updates fail? Was there an error message?

We can’t really deduce much from “there was an error”.

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OK, if it’s quite possibly an uncommon incident, that makes me more relieved. Thank you for the information.

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In my in-place upgrade from to, once again I had to do sudo dpkg --configure -a after sudo apt upgrade, in order to fix it. Any idea if it’s a common issue that’s commonly fixable? If I had not done that once again my Whonix would have been ‘bricked’ upon restart.

I do customize my Whonix quite a lot but it’s really not hardcore stuff that I change. If it comes up again next time I’ll try to get the terminal output before I apply the dpkg fix.

Not common. Might be fixable. Need to see it.

For sure needed.

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