Update Software in Ubuntu

September 17, 2011, By Christian Cawley

Making the best use of your operating system traditionally involves being aware of the all of the tools and applications that are included, how new software can be installed and removed and generally taking full advantage of what is on offer. However, it isn’t always as simple as that, especially in open source operating systems such as Ubuntu.

This Linux distro is one of the most user-friendly of them all, and even offers to manage your system updates for you!

Whether you want to install a full upgrade to the next version of Ubuntu or simply make sure that everything is running as smoothly as it should be, the Ubuntu Update Manager tool can be used to great effect to make this possible.

If the Ubuntu Update Manager doesn’t launch on its own (something that can be configured as described below) then it can be found via System > Administration.

Update Software in Ubuntu

Configuring Ubuntu Update Manager

When you first see the Update Manager open, it will check for updates (if your computer is connected to the Internet) and list what is available. You might not want all of those updates, however, just as you might not want Update Manager to automatically check for updates.

To adjust this behavior you should click the Settings… button and enter the administrator password when prompted to check through the list of configuration options. Under the section labeled Automatic Updates you are able to toggle on and off the Check for updates option, as well as specify how often the checks should be made.

You can even instruct Ubuntu to download updates without notifying you. This could be risky in some cases and lead to a failed installation if the download is a full Ubuntu update, so the Download all updates in the background option isn’t recommended.

Applying an Update in Ubuntu

The first thing to do when running Update Manager is to click the Check button. This will recheck the available updates and sources for the data to be downloaded to check that you’re not viewing a cached version of a previous update.

Next, browse through the list. It could be just a few items or it could be over 200, depending on how long it is since you last updated. Using the Description of update link you can expand into viewing details of the update, its purpose and type. Often these are security updates, so you might prefer to use the Install security updates without confirmation option in the Settings screen to deal with these.

If you prefer to avoid installing particular updates, you can do so by clearing the checkbox against the item in the list. This is particularly useful if the download is a full update and you’re using an older computer. Before any type of update process you should always backup vital data, of course, and when your updates are chosen and you’re ready to proceed, simply select Install Updates to start downloading and installing!

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