Canonical releases new Ubuntu versions every few months. The interim releases are suited for developers who need access to the latest libraries or kernels, whereas most normal users should stick to the LTS releases.

LTS releases are only published once every two years. It’s a good idea to upgrade to them as they bring newer software and security patches. As for how to actually perform the upgrade, we’ve covered both GUI and CLI-based methods in this article.

Note: Please back up any important data before upgrading Ubuntu.

Upgrade Ubuntu using Software Updater

By default, the Software Updater will notify you when a new LTS version is available. Upgrading with this tool is a mostly automated process, as shown below.

  1. Launch the Software Updater from the application menu.
  2. If there are any pending software updates, click on Install Now and restart if prompted to finish installing them.
  3. Then, click on Upgrade and enter your password to authenticate.
  4. Read the release notes and click on Upgrade.
  5. Click on Start Upgrade to begin the upgrade.
  6. Remove the obsolete packages if prompted, then reboot your PC to complete the upgrade.

You can upgrade to an interim release in the same way, but you must configure the Update setting first. The same is true if you don’t see the Upgrade option currently; it’s likely because the upgrade policy is set incorrectly. To resolve this, 

  1. Open the Software Updater and click on Settings.
  2. In the Updates tab, set the Notify me of a new Ubuntu version setting to LTS versions or any new version (for interim releases) as you prefer.
  3. Enter your password to authorize the change.
  4. Launch the software updater again. The upgrade option should be accessible now.

Upgrade Ubuntu Version via Terminal

Upgrading to a new release involves updating the packages, updating the sources, and reinstalling the ubuntu-desktop package among other things. It is possible to perform each step of the upgrade manually, but it’s not recommended. You should instead use the do-release-upgrade script.

To start, update your software.

sudo apt update && sudo apt full-upgrade

Install the update-manager-core package which includes the upgrade script. Then, run the script.

sudo apt install update-manager-core
sudo do-release-upgrade

Accept the on-screen prompts for SSH, sources list, and to start the upgrade. You’ll also see other prompts for replacing config files and so on. These are system-specific, so answer them as appropriate for yours.

Finally, accept the prompts to remove obsolete packages and restart the machine to complete the upgrade.

Note: If you’re using an End-of-Life (EOL) version, it’s recommended to start with a fresh install of the latest Ubuntu release rather than upgrading. But if you’d like to upgrade anyway, you’ll generally need to use version-specific upgrader tools.

Anup Thapa

Senior Writer

Anup Thapa is a Linux enthusiast with an extensive background in computer hardware and networking. His goal is to effectively communicate technical concepts in a simplified form understandable by new Linux users. To this end, he mainly writes beginner-friendly tutorials and troubleshooting guides. Outside of work, he enjoys reading up on a range of topics, traveling, working out, and MOBAs.