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How to Install the Latest Linux Kernels on Ubuntu and Linux Mint

Recent versions of the Linux kernel have drivers for new devices and other innovations. Unfortunately, many popular Linux distributions are in no rush to update their kernel. This tutorial will show you how easy it is to install any version of the Linux kernel on Ubuntu and Linux Mint without compiling. You can choose to install either a newer kernel or an older one than your distribution's repository suggests.

If you wish, you can easily remove the installed Linux kernels and return to the kernel from the repository.

Since Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, this instruction is fully applicable to Linux Mint distributions, except for LMDE. For LMDE (Linux Mint Debian Edition) see “How to Install the Latest Linux Kernels on Debian and Debian Based Distributions”.

Kernel update warning

It should be remembered that due to the incompatibility of the kernel with programs (first of all, with proprietary GPU drivers), you may encounter problems, including a black screen during boot.

In most cases, the problems encountered can be resolved without reinstalling the distribution. Start by going to the advanced options in the boot menu and boot with the previous version of the kernel. When the computer boots up, remove the problematic kernel.

Proprietary graphics card drivers can cause problems, as older versions may not be compatible with the latest kernels without a patch. If you have proprietary video drivers installed, then seriously consider before following the instructions below. Also get ready, look for instructions on how to solve the problem when loading the distribution into a black screen.

Owners of old distributions should be especially careful – it is strongly recommended to update the kernel only on the latest OS versions.

Another very likely problem that you may encounter if you install the latest kernel is the problem with unresolved dependencies and, as a result, the inability to use the apt package manager to update and install programs. If you are faced with a situation where, after successfully installing a new kernel, you cannot update packages using apt, then try installing older versions of the kernel that suit you, and uninstall the versions that cause dependency problems. Remember that it is impossible to remove the kernel you booted with – boot your computer with any other version of the kernel before uninstalling.

mainline – Ubuntu kernels repository

For Ubuntu, there is a repository of compiled mainline kernels of all versions, including the most recent, so installation is not too difficult – you do not need to compile the Linux kernel. Moreover, there are tools, including those with a graphical interface, to install any kernels.

In fact, if the kernels have already been compiled, then it is enough to download the following files from one folder from the server:

  • linux-headers-*-generic_*_amd64.deb
  • linux-headers-*_all.deb
  • linux-image-unsigned-*-generic_*_amd64.deb
  • linux-modules-*-generic_*_amd64.deb

And install them with the command:

sudo dpkg -i linux*.deb

But the process can be simplified even further by using utilities for working with kernels.

Mainline (a continuation of the free version of ukuu) – a program with a graphical and console interface for updating the kernel

If you prefer a graphical interface then use Mainline.

To install the program run the following commands:

sudo apt-add-repository -y ppa:cappelikan/ppa
sudo apt update
sudo apt install mainline

To launch the graphical interface, run:

mainline-gtk

To run the console version, run:

mainline

Using the graphical version should be straightforward. At startup, you will receive information about the available kernels, you can select any kernel and install it by simply clicking on the “Install” button. Additionally, actions such as removing kernels and viewing the changelog for each kernel version are available.

Using the console version is as follows:

Syntax:

mainline COMMAND [OPTIONS]

Options and Commands Reference:

Commands:

  --check             Check for kernel updates
  --notify            Check for kernel updates and notify current user
  --list              List all available mainline kernels
  --list-installed    List installed kernels
  --install-latest    Install latest mainline kernel
  --install-point     Install latest point update for current series
  --install <name>    Install specified mainline kernel(1)
  --uninstall <name>  Uninstall specified kernel(2)
  --uninstall-old     Uninstall kernels older than the running kernel
  --download <name>   Download specified kernels(2)
  --clean-cache       Remove files from application cache

Options:

  --include-unstable  Include unstable and RC releases
  --hide-unstable     Hide unstable and RC releases
  --debug           Enable verbose debugging output
  --yes             Assume Yes for all prompts (non-interactive mode)
  --user            Override user

Notes:

(1) A version string taken from the output of --list

(2) One or more version strings (comma-separated) taken from the output of --list

Restart your computer to use the new kernel.

By default, your system will boot with the latest kernel, if you want to change this, then go to advanced boot options

and select the version you want from the installed kernels.

The ubuntu-mainline-kernel.sh utility

Installing ubuntu-mainline-kernel.sh

The latest kernel on Ubuntu and Linux Mint can also be installed using the ubuntu-mainline-kernel.sh command line utility.

Download and install the ubuntu-mainline-kernel.sh script:

wget https://raw.githubusercontent.com/pimlie/ubuntu-mainline-kernel.sh/master/ubuntu-mainline-kernel.sh
sudo install ubuntu-mainline-kernel.sh /usr/local/bin/

ubuntu-mainline-kernel.sh help

Usage:

ubuntu-mainline-kernel.sh -c|-l|-r|-u

ubuntu-mainline-kernel.sh options:

Arguments:
  -c               Check if a newer kernel version is available
  -i [VERSION]     Install kernel VERSION, see -l for list. You don't have to prefix
                   with v. E.g. -i 4.9 is the same as -i v4.9. If version is
                   omitted the latest available version will be installed
  -l [SEARCH]      List locally installed kernel versions. If an argument to this
                   option is supplied it will search for that
  -r [SEARCH]      List available kernel versions. If an argument to this option
                   is supplied it will search for that
  -u [VERSION]     Uninstall the specified kernel version. If version is omitted,
                   a list of max 10 installed kernel versions is displayed
  -h               Show this message

Optional:
  -s, --signed         Only install signed kernel packages (not implemented)
  -p, --path DIR       The working directory, .deb files will be downloaded into
                       this folder. If omitted, the folder /tmp/ubuntu-mainline-kernel.sh/
                       is used. Path is relative from $PWD
  -ll, --low-latency   Use the low-latency version of the kernel, only for amd64 & i386
  -lpae, --lpae        Use the Large Physical Address Extension kernel, only for armhf
  --snapdragon         Use the Snapdragon kernel, only for arm64
  -do, --download-only Only download the deb files, do not install them
  -ns, --no-signature  Do not check the gpg signature of the checksums file
  -nc, --no-checksum   Do not check the sha checksums of the .deb files
  -d, --debug          Show debug information, all internal command's echo their output
  --rc                 Also include release candidates
  --yes                Assume yes on all questions (use with caution!)

Example of installing the latest kernel version

Checking the current kernel version:

uname -r
5.11.0-36-generic

The kernel is version 5.11.

We check which version of the kernel is the latest:

ubuntu-mainline-kernel.sh -c

To display a list of available kernels versions for installation, run the command:

sudo ubuntu-mainline-kernel.sh -r

For example, we want to install the kernel version v5.12.11, then the command is as follows (you do not need to specify the “v” prefix):

sudo ubuntu-mainline-kernel.sh -i 5.12.11

If you want to install the latest version at the moment, then run the following command:

sudo ubuntu-mainline-kernel.sh -i

You will be asked if you want to continue, enter “y”:

Latest version is: v5.14.6, continue? (y/N)

The program has exited – a restart is required for the changes to take effect.

Check the kernel version again:

How to recover Linux after installing the kernel

If your computer boots with a black screen, freezes, or something doesn't work after updating the kernel, reboot and select Advanced options for your distribution from the GRUB menu:

Then select the previous kernel version and press Enter:

Regardless of the reason, you need to boot with the previous version of the kernel if you want to remove the latest kernel. This is because you cannot remove the kernel that is currently in use.

If you do not see the GRUB2 menu, press and hold the Shift key or press the Esc key repeatedly (this may vary depending on BIOS or UEFI boot and the version of Ubuntu/Linux Mint you are using) while booting GRUB. The Grub menu should appear allowing you to select a previous kernel version.

After booting the previous kernel, you can remove the faulty kernel. ubuntu-mainline-kernel.sh allows you to remove kernels installed from the Ubuntu kernel PPA.

With ubuntu-mainline-kernel.sh you can remove the kernel version by running:

sudo ubuntu-mainline-kernel.sh -u VERSION

Where VERSION is the kernel version, for example 5.14. You can also use this utility with -u without specifying a version, in which case the tool will list up to 10 kernel versions and ask you which one you want to remove. It's worth noting that ubuntu-mainline-kernel.sh will not show official Ubuntu kernels in this list.

Update GRUB settings if not done automatically:

sudo update-grub

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