Friday, 3 October 2014

Upgrade to Linux Kernel 3.16

As you may know, a new version of the Linux kernel is released every 6-10 weeks. Each new version features various improvements, fixes issues, and adds support for newer hardware.

Because of the rapid release cycle, the version of the Linux kernel available in Ubuntu PPAs always lags behind the latest stable kernel that may be available. For example, the stock kernel included with Ubuntu 14.04 is v3.13 (released in Jan 2014) while the latest stable kernel is v3.16 (released August 2014). Ubuntu provides only security updates for the stock kernel and newer kernels are made available in the next Ubuntu release after 6 months.

If you are running Ubuntu 14.04 and wish to upgrade to the latest Linux kernel, you can do so easily by running a few commands. The changes between v3.13 and 3.16 are given in following links:

Linux v3.14
Linux v3.15
Linux v3.16

Generally, people recommend that users stick with the stock kernel since it has better support. Upgrading to newer kernels can cause some issues:

  • If you are using proprietary video drivers (downloaded from the NVIDIA or ATI website), you need to re-install the drivers after upgrading.
  • Some applications like VirtualBox may stop working.

I upgraded the kernel on my Linux Mint system to v3.16 today and so far I haven't faced any issues. I was using the proprietary NVIDIA driver provided by the Driver Manager in Linux Mint.

After rebooting, the system started just fine and I didn't have to re-install anything. If you downloaded and installed the video drivers from the NVIDIA or ATI website, then you will need to run the installer again after rebooting. This can be messy since you have to install it from the command line. If you are using the driver from the Driver Manager then you should be good, you won't have to re-install anything.

VirtualBox was also working fine after the update which was surprising. I was pretty sure that it would stop working. In any case you can always download and install the latest DEB file from the VirtualBox website in case of issues.


Open a terminal window and run the following commands one by one:

Create new directory:

mkdir /tmp/kernel
cd /tmp/kernel

Download packages:

Download the 32-bit or 64-bit packages depending on your system.


wget -c 
wget -c 
wget -c


wget -c 
wget -c 
wget -c


sudo dpkg -i linux*.deb

Reboot the system when done.

After reboot you can check the kernel version with the command:

uname -r

If you face issues with the new kernel, you can restore the previous kernel by running the following commands:

sudo apt-get remove linux-headers-3.16.0-* linux-image-3.16.0-*
sudo update-grub


  • The GRUB boot menu will display an entry for the previous Linux kernel after you reboot. If you face problems rebooting your system after the upgrade, you can boot using the previous version of the kernel by selecting the entry from the GRUB menu.

  • These packages are from Ubuntu 14.10 (Utopic Unicorn). If are not planning to upgrade to 14.10 you should at least upgrade the kernel in order to benefit from the latest improvements in Linux.

  • Upgrading to the latest kernel is important if you are using the BTRFS file system. There are a number of changes which improve stability and performance.

  • If you are using the drivers downloaded from the NVIDIA or ATI website it may be a good idea to switch to the driver provided by the Driver Manager in Linux Mint. After upgrading the kernel and rebooting, you can install the downloaded drivers again if things go fine.