I have a variety of old computers running various versions of Ubuntu Linux. Works great. But how can I check to see if there’s an update, and apply any new OS software needed to keep them all updated?
Unlike many modern operating systems, Ubuntu Linux seems to keep it pretty quiet if there’s an OS update, so there are a lot of different major and minor versions of the system out in the wild. Part of it is the entire Linux philosophy of keeping out of the way so you can focus on your tasks or your server can dedicate its cycles to key tasks. That’s good. But when you realize that your systems are all running different versions of Ubuntu, well, you might long for the automatic updates of MacOS X or Windows.
Fortunately if you have even a somewhat modern version of Linux you’ll find that it automates much of the process of updating and upgrading your operating system once you start the process. The trick, as they say, is knowing how and when to invoke an update.
So let’s dive in. This is a lot of steps, so stick with me, or even better, have this article on one computer or a tablet while you’re checking your other system.
To start out, use the app launcher to search for Software Updater if it’s not already shown (as below):
Click to launch it and while its primary task is to ensure that the apps and programs on your computer are updated, it can also check to see what version of the Ubuntu operating system you’re running too. And, perhaps, give you the bad news:
Yes, I admit it. I’ve not kept track of version numbers on this Ubuntu Linux install and have fallen WAY behind. This particular machine is running 16.04 but the latest is 18.04.1 LTS. LTS, if you aren’t savvy to the acronym, is long term support. That’s a good thing 🙂
To update – any guesses? – click on “Upgrade…” and you’ll need to prove you have permission to update system software on this particular device:
Log in with your appropriate password and you’ll get a cheery splash screen about Ubuntu 18.04, which has the somewhat bizarre moniker “Bionic Beaver”:
You can investigate if you want to learn what’s new and cool in this release (tip: A totally different user experience!) or you can just proceed by clicking on the “Upgrade” button on the lower right…
You might as well get used to this window, you’re going to see it for a while as the system goes through a lot of steps to complete the operating system update. It’ll take 30min to an hour, or longer, and there are windows and options you’ll have to choose along the way, so you can’t just grab lunch and come back to a new OS.
Oh, like this window that suddenly pops up:
Notice that this upgrade is going to wipe out a lot of the optional software I downloaded and installed through the APT package manager. My logic: delete it all, I can always re-install.
To proceed click on the “Start Upgrade” button.
And after a while…
At least there’s progress as the lines get a little green check mark. But it takes a while…
Finally you’ll get to this prompt:
As I explained earlier, I’m going to just remove everything and reinstall as needed. To proceed, a click on “Remove“.
Ready to proceed? Excellent! Click on the “Restart Now” and watch as your computer powers down, restarts into a command line mode, and updates every little corner of the Ubuntu system, then launches into a completely new and frankly very different user interface.
Finally, double check by going into Settings > Details > About and double checking the current version number:
There ya go, running Bionic Beaver. Not too bad an update process, really, but more importantly now you know how to force an update check whenever you want to ensure everything’s running tip-top!
Pro Tip: I’ve been writing about Linux since the first version came out from Torvalds. Check out my many, many Linux help tutorials while you’re here!