This is a post about my experience restoring a Manjaro Gnome system that was ■■■■■■■ during a routine update. Maybe it will help someone. I'm new to Manjaro but experienced with linux (RedHat -> Gentoo -> Ubuntu -> Manjaro). During the update the white screen of death appeared with the announcement "Oh no! A problem has occurred and the system can't recover." Everything was frozen, even the drop to console mode, so there was no choice but to power off. I'm on a rather new Lenovo X1 Yoga laptop dual booting in UEFI with Windows 10 according to the excellent instructions here: [HowTo] Dual-boot Manjaro - Windows 10 - Step by Step. As suggested I have a second efi partition for the linux system but no second boot partition.
Searching the forums I found I'm not the first to encounter this screen. I had on hand an installation live usb stick so I used that to boot, chroot to the system using 'manjaro-chroot -a', and make backups. The warnings on older posts that 'manjaro-chroot-extended' is needed from AUR can apparently be ignored. Still it's necessary to choose '1' for the system listed '0', as written elsewhere.
The following steps were a downward spiral until I couldn't even boot the windows, yet all the diagnostics seemed to pass. 'pacman -Syyu' finished with "there is nothing to do" and efibootmgr showed all the entries in the right place. Looking closer, I saw that my kernel file in /boot/vmlinuz-5.4-x86_64 had a length of 0 bytes. I removed it and did pacman -S linux, which brought a new kernel (5.4.31-1-MANJARO) but no boot. I also noticed that /proc/cmdline listed BOOT_IMAGE=/boot/vmlinuz-x86_64 ... without the kernel version. I tried making a link to the new kernel but to no avail. I made a new initramfs with 'mkinitcpio -P', and still no boot.
Along the way the grub manu disappeared and the white screen came directly, and eventually even that was gone and I just got the Lenovo logo. I did find it was possible to log into Windows using the Boot menu (F12) on startup. With a focus on grub then, I erased the kernel link, redid the mkinitcpio, and did 'update-grub' and 'grub-install' from the chroot. Changing the line GRUB_TIMEOUT_STYLE from hidden to menu in /etc/default/grub was important to see the menu, and I think it should be default. I also removed the quiet from the kernel parameters so that I could see that it's doing something before the white screen appears.
I cannot point definitively to the crucial step but eventually the grub did work and I could boot both Manjaro and Windows from the menu. The Manjaro still went to the white screen but this time I was able to open a console. 'startx' brought a slightly different white screen and the log was helpful. There was an error "(EE) Failed to load module "fbdev" (module does not exist, 0)" and similarly for vesa. 'pacman -S xf86-video-fbdeb' and 'pacman -S xf86-video-vesa' brought the modules, followed by modprobe to load them. There was another error "(EE) open /dev/fb0: Permission denied". I changed permissions to rw. Still no gnome.
About this point I saw a post advising against upgrading to gnome-3.36 from the graphical environment, so from the console I did 'pacman -S xorg-server' and then 'pacman -S gnome', both of which brought new packages in spite of the earlier response from 'pacman -Syyu' in the chroot. At last, it's working again.
This is my first encounter with the white screen. My question to the maintainers is whether this is an unfortunate freak accident or a real vulnerability if gnome is updated from a running desktop. If so, it might make sense to issue a warning from the package manager. I'm on the stable branch: 'pacman-mirrors -G' > Stable.