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How To Upgrade The Linux Kernel in Ubuntu

The Linux Kernel is one of the most important area of the Linux based Operating Systems. The kernel acts as the bridge between the software application layer and the Computer’s hardware layer. Since it is an open source kernel, the users have the freedom to decompile, examine, and modify the kernel code to their needs. This is one of the key characteristics of the linux kernel. So, when the kernel is improved and patched, it is essential to securely upgrade to new kernel versions.

This guide focuses on Ubuntu, a popular Linux distribution, and explores various methods to update its kernel. Regularly updating the kernel is important to make sure that your system benefits from the latest performance updates and security patches.

Why Update the Kernel?

  • Security Enhancements: Kernel updates often include security patches to address vulnerabilities. Regularly updating the kernel helps protect your system against potential threats.
  • Improved Functionality: Developers frequently introduce new features and functionalities to the kernel. Updating ensures that your system can take advantage of these enhancements.
  • Performance Optimization: Updates can also include optimizations that improve the overall speed and efficiency of the operating system.

Method A: Using the System Update Process

The first method outlined in the article involves using the system update process, which is considered a safe and straightforward approach. Here’s a more detailed breakdown:

Step 1: Check Current Kernel Version

Open a terminal window and use the command uname -sr to display the current kernel version. The output will show the overall kernel package, version, and patch level.

uname -sr

For example, the output might be something like Linux 4.4.0-64 generic, where “4.4” is the overall kernel package, and “64” indicates the patch level.

Step 2: Update Repositories

Refresh the local list of software repositories with the command.

sudo apt-get update

This ensures that your system is aware of any newer revisions and updates available.

Step 3: Run the Upgrade

Execute the following command to perform the upgrade, considering dependencies intelligently.

sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

This command is a safe way to upgrade the Ubuntu Linux kernel, as the updates accessible through this utility have been tested and verified to work with your version of Ubuntu.

Note: The -dist in dist-upgrade indicates that Ubuntu should handle any dependencies intelligently.

Method B: Forcing a Kernel Upgrade

In some cases, a newer kernel might not be thoroughly tested with your version of Ubuntu. This method involves forcing a kernel upgrade, but it requires additional steps to ensure a smooth transition.

Step 1: Back Up Important Files

Before proceeding with any major system changes, it’s crucial to back up important files to prevent data loss.

Step 2: Use the Software Updater

Launch the Software Updater by searching for it in the Applications menu or using the super key. Check for updates, and ensure your computer is up to date.

Click the “Settings” button, navigate to the “Updates” tab, and configure the updater to install important security updates, recommended updates, and unsupported updates.

Choose whether you want to be notified of new Ubuntu versions for long-term support or for any new version.

Close the window and reopen it. If there’s a new version available, the option to upgrade should appear.

Step 4: Force the Upgrade

If the system does not offer an upgrade, you can force it using the terminal.

update-manager -d

This command triggers the update manager with the -d option, forcing the upgrade process. The system should respond with release notes for the new kernel and version of Ubuntu. If everything looks good, proceed with the upgrade.

Method C: Manual Kernel Update (Advanced Procedure)

For advanced users who want to select and install a new, possibly untested kernel, the manual update method involves using a graphical utility called Ukuu. This method requires additional caution and research.

Step 1: Install Ukuu

Install Ukuu using the following commands.

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:teejee2008/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install ukuu

These commands add the TeeJeeTech repositories, update the package list, and install Ukuu.

Step 2: Launch Ukuu

Open Ukuu from the terminal.

sudo ukuu-gtk

This utility displays a list of available Linux kernel versions.

Step 3: Install the Kernel

Select the desired kernel version and click the “Install” button. After installation, reboot the system.

Step 4: Reboot and Verify

Reboot your system, and after logging in, relaunch Ukuu to verify the installation.

Step 5: In Case of Failure

If the new kernel causes issues, GRUB retains a copy of the old kernel. On the boot screen, select “Advanced options for Ubuntu” and choose the previous kernel.

Step 6: Uninstalling the Kernel

Ukuu also provides the option to remove old kernels. Click the installed kernel in Ukuu and select “Remove” to uninstall it.

Additional Considerations and Best Practices

  1. System Configuration Check:
    • Assess custom drivers, especially video drivers, custom configurations, and packages for compatibility with the new kernel.
  2. Research Release Notes:
    • Review the release notes for the specific kernel version intended for installation.
    • Take note of the revision number and any features or improvements that may impact the system.
  3. Alternative Manual Update Methods:
    • Understand that alternative methods, such as manual downloading and installing or compiling the source code, exist for kernel updates.
    • Note that these methods are more advanced and require a deep understanding of Linux systems.
  4. Kernel Update Frequency:
    • Be aware that the frequency of kernel updates varies.
    • Understand that security updates are more frequent, while major updates may have a longer release cycle.
  5. Backup and Recovery:
    • Implement a backup strategy before initiating major system changes.
    • Know how to access and boot into a previous kernel version through GRUB for recovery in case of unexpected issues.

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