X server fails to start with error - Fatal server error: could not open default font 'fixed'

Solution Verified - Updated -

Environment

  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.4
  • xorg-x11-server-Xorg-1.13.0-11.el6
  • xorg-x11-server-Xvfb-1.13.0-11.el6
  • libXfont-1.4.1-2.el6_1

Issue

  • X server fails to start after a system update.
  • The below messages are observed in Xorg log:
[   723.507] [dix] Could not init font path element catalogue:/etc/X11/fontpath.d, removing from list!
[   723.507] [dix] Could not init font path element built-ins, removing from list!
[   723.507] 
Fatal server error:
[   723.508] could not open default font 'fixed'
[   723.508] (EE) 
Please consult the Red Hat, Inc. support 
         at https://www.redhat.com/apps/support/
 for help. 
[   723.508] (EE) Please also check the log file at "/var/log/Xorg.0.log" for additional information.
[   723.508] (EE) 
[   723.681] Server terminated with error (1). Closing log file.
  • Running startx and Xvfb fails with a similar error.

Resolution

There are several different causes for this error; thus, the approaches below should be tried in order while verifying after each section if the changes have resolved the issue, by restarting X or rebooting.

Updating or Installing the libXfont package

  • Update or install the libXfont package by running:

    # yum -y update libXfont
    # yum -y install libXfont
    
  • For example, libXfont-1.4.5-2.el6 was required for this version of X server.

Install common fonts or X11 packages that may be missing:

  • Ensure that all packages for X are installed:

    • Install the minimal X Window System group:
    # yum groupinstall -y "X Window System"
    
    • And if it's ok to update X, then run:
    # yum groupupdate -y "X Window System"
    
  • Install a few fonts and rebuild the font cache by running:

    # yum install xorg-x11-fonts-{Type1,misc,100dpi}
    
    # yum install xorg-x11-fonts-ISO8859-1-{100dpi,75dpi}
    
    # fc-cache -f 
    

Update the xorg.conf to specify RgbPath and Fontpath

  • If the above does not help, update the RgbPath in xorg.conf

    • Add following to /etc/X11/xorg.conf
    Section "Files"
      RgbPath   "/usr/share/X11/rgb.txt"
    EndSection
    
    • Otherwise, if that does not work then try without the '.txt'
    Section "Files"
      RgbPath   "/usr/share/X11/rgb"
    EndSection
    
  • Try manually specifying some of the font paths directly:

    • Edit /etc/X11/xorg.conf and aff the following to the "Files" section:
    Section "Files"
      FontPath        "/usr/share/fonts/default/Type1"
      FontPath        "/usr/share/X11/fonts/misc"
      FontPath        "/usr/share/X11/fonts/75dpi"
      FontPath        "/usr/share/X11/fonts/100dpi"
    EndSection
    

Root Cause

  • The X server was updated to latest release without supporting the libXfont package.

Diagnostic Steps

  • Booting the system in runelvel 5 or runing the startx command from runlevel 3 produces the error messages.

  • Running Xvfb as below shows a similar issue

    Xvfb :1 -screen 0 800x600x24
    
  • For a working X11 environment, the current fontpath can be checked with:

    $ xset -q | grep -E 'Font Path' -A1
    Font Path:
    catalogue:/etc/X11/fontpath.d,built-ins
    

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