How to Get Newer Kernels on Ubuntu

One of the strengths of Ubuntu is its stability. Each bit of software included inside releases are vigorously tested. They are essentially  “snapshots” in time. Everything stays stable. This method has proven to be very effective. Ubuntu is used heavily in work and production environments as a result of this. This is great for most users, but for advanced users looking to get the latest and the greatest, this can be a bit of a drawback.

For the most part, new software can be added to Ubuntu with the help of personal package archives (PPAs). These methods of distribution can cut through Ubuntu’s “snapshot” method and allow newer, more current software to be easily delivered. Power users often turn to this to make their installations more “bleeding edge” than before.

Still, this is not very true for every aspect of Ubuntu, especially when it comes to the Linux kernel. This is because each version of Ubuntu ships with a frozen kernel. This means that during development, the team will go through various releases and choose one to stick with. For Ubuntu fans looking for the latest Linux kernel features, and improvements this can be frustrating.

Since this issue is one that power users on Ubuntu have complained about, a developer has come along and created software to solve this problem Ubuntu Kernel Update Utility (UKUU) allows users to install newer versions of the Linux kernel by taking kernels that are currently in development by the Ubuntu team and installing them directly to Ubuntu.

Caution: only install newer kernels if you know what you are doing!

Ukuu uses a PPA as the method of installation. This is good as users will get constant updates directly from the developer as they are released. To add this PPA to Ubuntu, open a terminal window and enter the following:

With the personal package archive added to the system, it is time to update Ubuntu’s software sources.

Ubuntu’s software sources are updated to reflect the new PPA. Users can install Ukuu with a single command.

ubuntu-kernel-list

To install an updated kernel, open Ukuu. On launch the software will refresh all available kernels and add them to a list. Find a suitable kernel to install, then select it with the mouse. Once highlighted, click the installation button to begin the upgrade process. Ukuu will ask the user for a password before installing. Enter it and the process will begin.

ubuntu-kernel-installing

To uninstall a kernel that was installed via Ukuu, the best thing to do is to load a previously installed kernel. When the new kernel is installed, the old one is not removed. Instead, Ukuu will update Grub so that it is possible to load the newly upgraded kernel as the first option and older kernels in other parts of Grub.

ubuntu-kernel-remove-installed-linux-kernel

With Ubuntu loaded with the older kernel, launch Ukuu, select the kernel to be removed from the list, then select the remove button. Soon after the updated kernel will be removed from the system, and everything will be back to normal.

Ubuntu is a solid operating system, but the fact that it chooses one version of the Linux kernel to stick with for six months at a time can make it so that power users miss out on features. That’s why Ukuu is such a great utility. It allows users to have the best of both worlds: stable software and newer kernels if they so choose. Adding newer kernels to Ubuntu isn’t as bleeding edge as installing Open SUSE Tumbleweed, or Arch Linux, but it’s a start!

Do you wish Ubuntu updated kernels instead of freezing them and backporting updates? Tell us why or why not below!

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

15 comments

  1. Ubuntu is a intentionally crippled system. All other Debian non-Ubuntu-based distros use Synaptic to update/upgrade all the software, including the kernel(s). Canonical, in its infinite wisdom and its infinite hubris, insists on forcing Ubuntu users into using multiple programs to accomplish the tasks that Synaptic performs. The one supposed negative about Synaptic is that it does not have a ‘pretty’ ‘modern’ interface full of glitz and eye candy.

    If one wants to get away from the GUI and use the terminal, there is a very good software management script for all Debian-based distros called ‘smxi’. It easily outperforms all of the Ubuntu-developed software-handling programs combined.

    • @Dragonmouth seriously for real dude MTE should hire you to write the Linux column with your knowledge. Remember I started out with both kubuntu and then Ubuntu and thanks to you I switched to Linux Mint 18.1 and love it. And Linux Mint by the way comes with Synaptic Package manager. Now if only I can keep my wifi chip from disconnecting and reconnecting every 5 minutes. That’s my only problem that I haven’t been able to solve and I’ve even posted it on all the forums Linux Mint Reddit and even the Ubuntu forums and no one anywhere has suggested a solution for this

      • It is not that Dirk and other writers at MTE lack the knowledge. It is that, for some reason, they and writers at many other tech sites, keep pushing Ubuntu as if it was The Greatest Things Since Sliced Bread. To read the popular tech sites, Ubuntu==Linux and Linux==Ubuntu. I just try to get a little ‘air time’ for the other distros. :-)

        I have tried Ubuntu and found it wanting. AFAIAC, it is as confining as Windows. Ubuntu’s one redeeming virtue is that it and the vast majority of its apps are free to use.

        • I have noticed and you’re correct about everything you said here. If someone didn’t know anything about Linux and reading these forums you would swear that Ubuntu was the only Linux distro out there. I really appreciate you putting this information out there. For me as you know one of the aggravating points about Ubuntu is it’s clock and menu bar that’s on top like some other Linux flavors. That even though to you might be a stupid reason is why I chose Linux Mint Mate Desktop is because it has it’s taskbar clock and start menu on the bottom where it belongs

        • It’s because more people use Ubuntu and that is what they’re interested in.

          Its not as if I am unaware of all these things you comment on my articles.

        • @dragonmouth we have never claimed that Ubuntu == Linux, and I am sure many popular tech sites don’t mean that too. There are thousands of distro out there and it is impossible for any site to cover them all. For us, we wanted to focus on a base distro, and Ubuntu is the best choice since it has the biggest user base. I understand that each of us have our own preferences and favorite distro, but just because you dislike Ubuntu doesn’t mean you have to post the same complaint in all our Ubuntu articles.

      • Saul: Not sure if this will help, but I run an ancient Toughbook CF-52 (2005) with Linux Mint 18.1, and upgraded to 4.10.2. Wifi works perfectly, but was receiving a TPM error at boot. Enabled TPM in the BIOS, and voila, no issues, smooth system, and flawless wifi. Hope the 4.10.2 upgrade helps.

        • My Wifi chip is a Mediatek MT7630 E Is that what yours is? It seems as though lots of people are having issues with that chip in Linux Mint

    • Actually, the supposed downside to Synaptic is that it includes too much technical information. It lists every package, many of which are libraries or other support software, rather than just applications (which usually pull in their own dependencies anyway, and that is what regular users need). It is true that the Synaptic package lists can be a bit intimidating to inexperienced Linux users. Thus Ubuntu provides Gnome Software instead. I’ve never used Gnome Software, but I believe that you can use it to install Synaptic.

      The only Ubuntu developed software handling program that I know of still being maintained is the Software Updater, which is a fairly handy way of reminding inexperienced users to apply updates. Of course it does seem to lack any feature to remove old, unneeded packages other than when doing a distribution upgrade. I have also seen it miss updates that would get installed when you used ‘apt upgrade’.

      At any rate, synaptic is available from the repositories for all Ubuntu based distributions, and I always have it installed in my Ubuntu based distribution installs and for those I do for others. Usually, though, I make sure that Lubuntu Software Center is also installed for the installations I hand out to others, and I suggest they use that or ask me when looking for a new program.

      I’m not a fan of regular Ubuntu, but I like Ubuntu Studio, Lubuntu, and Xubuntu just fine.

      • “the supposed downside to Synaptic is that it includes too much technical information”
        A fact that is rarely mentioned by its detractors. Most of the time, they complain that it is not ‘pretty’ and that it is ‘legacy’ (as in old) software.
        I could be snide and say that only matters to ex-Windows users who want everything done for them. :-) Yes, Synaptic does list all the packages in all the repositories mentioned in your sources list file. Whether that is a ‘downside’ or an ‘upside’ depends on what type of a user you are. For those that just want to get on the ‘Net and do some word processing, Synaptic will be confusing. For others, it is a great tool. What I like about Synaptic is that I can install, uninstall and update packages, update/upgrade the system, and install and uninstall kernels all in one execution. I don’t need to run a separate program to handle the system software, another to update applications and still another to install/uninstall kernels. In the interest of fairness, I must admit that I have always used Synaptic as the package manager for any Debian-based distro that I used.

        “I’ve never used Gnome Software, but I believe that you can use it to install Synaptic.”
        You can also use ‘apt’, ‘aptitude’ and ‘dpkg’ if you want to get your hands dirty with the command line.

  2. Can anyone give me a good reason to replace my 4.4-kernel, which comes with Linux Mint 8.1, with 4.8 or even 4.10?

    • According to the article, if you are a power user, you might want to replace it so that you “don’t miss out on features”, however, not a single feature is outlined. It would be helpful to list these, as to me, it sounds a bit like a piece from the “updating for the sake of updating” opera.

      • If you don’t find any functionality lacking, then you should not update your kernel. Most of the new features in newer kernels relate to new or improved hardware support. There may be some peripheral that doesn’t work, but would with the latest kernel, or there may be the possibility of improved graphics performance for Intel or AMD hardware (there are usually other things that must also be updated to take advantage). It’s also possible that a new file system could be supported. There are other possibilities as well.

        According to the official Linux kernel site http://www.kernel.org, the latest stable kernel is 4.10. However, the most recent Long Term Support (LTS) kernel is 4.4.50. Only releases with an “RC” designation are considered development kernels.

        The difference between stable kernels and LTS kernels is that once a new stable kernel is out, there is no guarantee that the old stable kernel will continue to receive security patches unless it is designated as an LTS kernel. You are expected instead to upgrade to the next stable kernel. The advantage to an LTS kernel is that you will continue to receive patches for an extended period of time without worrying about whether there will be some significant difference in functionality which is likely to affect some part of your system in an unexpected way (basically, they fit the Debian idea of “stable”). In practice, it is rare for a new kernel to make anything unrelated (that is, the stuff other than what’s routinely replaced as part of a kernel update) stop working on your computer.

    • Linux kernels, just like many Linux distros, come in three basic flavors: stable, development and unstable. Kernel 4.4.50 is the latest “stable” Linux kernel. The 4.4.x kernels form the core of most current distros.
      4.8.x and 4.9.x are the development versions and are packaged with some of the ‘rolling’ distros. 4.10.x is the unstable version and is used with ‘bleeding edge’ distros. There are also ‘nightly build’ versions but those are highly experimental and suited for Linux experts.

      On my every day PC, I use 4.4.50 and 4.9.8 kernels interchangeably. To tell the truth, I have not seen any noticeable differences between the two kernels. So, If I were you, I would stick with 4.4.x.

  3. @Dirk & Damien:
    Ubuntu’s popularity is a ‘chicken-egg’ question. Is Ubuntu popular because it is the best or is it popular because it is the most hyped? Let’s not forget that Windows is installed on more computers than all the other PC O/Ss combined. Is it because it is so great or because of certain Microsoft corporate policies in the past? :-)

    “we have never claimed that Ubuntu == Linux”
    Not in so many words. But when an article title states “How to do XYZ in LINUX” and the article text only refers to Ubuntu, a strong but misleading implication is made. If it is an Ubuntu article, title it as such. Should an article about ‘Operating Systems’ talk only about Windows? After all, it is the most used (popular) O/S out there.

    “There are thousands of distro out there and it is impossible for any site to cover them all.”
    Now you’re being disingenuous and silly. Nobody is asking MTE to cover ‘thousands’. Even the Linux-specific sites do not cover each and every distro extant. To my knowledge there are 5 or 8 other distros that are quite popular (Fedora, Debian, Mageia, Puppy, Arch, openSUSE, PCLinuxOS)

    “you have to post the same complaint”
    As as I said above, I’m just trying to make readers aware that there are alternatives.

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