As your computer starts, Ubuntu will show a message prompting you to press Escape to see the GRUB menu. If you do that, you'll see a list of bootable operating systems, which will include Recovery Mode options for your Ubuntu install. If you boot into recovery mode, you'll get automatic root access to your machine where can fix your problems safely.
Alternatively, you can insert your Ubuntu installation disc and use the recovery mode from there. Keep in mind that these recovery modes are designed to be text-only systems for serious system recovery purposes; don't expect them to be hand-held, and don't expect much in the way of ease of use!
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