How to Upgrade to a Newer Version of Ubuntu

Ubuntu has two kinds of releases: Long Term Support and Interim. Upgrading your Ubuntu system to either type of release is a pretty easy process, as we’ll show you in this guide.

Ubuntu 20.04 Focal Fossa is the latest LTS release of Ubuntu. It’s packed with new features and will have continued support and updates from Canonical for the next five years (until April 23, 2025).

Interim releases of Ubuntu are sort of like beta versions of an upcoming LTS release, only really meant for testing and not for use in a production environment. Whichever you’d prefer to use, the steps in this article will get you onto the right version.

In this example, we will upgrade our Ubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver system to 20.04 Focal Fossa. However, you’ll be able upgrade regardless of what Ubuntu version you’re currently on and want to upgrade to.

Upgrade Ubuntu From Terminal

First, we’ll cover the commands to upgrade your Ubuntu version from the command line. If you have a GUI installed and would prefer that method, scroll down to the next section.

1. Start by opening a terminal and installing all the latest updates for your system. Ubuntu will refuse to upgrade if this requirement isn’t met.

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade

2. Next, install the update-manager-core package.

sudo apt install update-manager-core

3. Use nano or your favorite text editor to open the following file.

sudo nano /etc/update-manager/release-upgrades

4. You’ll need to edit the last line of this file accordingly.

  • normal – Upgrade to the latest supported release. Note this includes Interim releases.
  • lts – Upgrade to the next available Long Term Support (LTS) release.

In this example, we will be upgrading to an LTS release. Save your changes and exit the file when done.

Changing the release-upgrades file to either normal or lts

5. Now we are ready to upgrade. Type the following command in terminal.

sudo do-release-upgrade

Note that if an LTS version was only released a few months ago or less, Ubuntu will not want you to upgrade to it so soon. If you’re trying to upgrade too early, you’ll end up with a message saying there is no release available.

do-release-upgrade saying no version of LTS release available

If you’d like to go against the recommendation and upgrade anyway, you just need to run the same command with the -d flag.

sudo do-release-upgrade -d

6. Ubuntu will summarize the changes that will be made to your system during the upgrade. Enter y for yes and the upgrade will begin.

Confirm the changes and pressing y for upgrade

7. Upgrading Ubuntu will take a while, since there are likely many packages that need to be downloaded and installed. You may be prompted multiple times for input, so don’t leave the process completely unattended. You’ll probably also be asked about removing obsolete packages.

Upgrade process asking if it should remove obsolete packages

8. Finally, the upgrading process will complete and the last thing you’ll need to do is reboot your system.

Ubuntu upgrade process completed and prompting for system reboot

9. Ubuntu downloads a lot of dependencies during the upgrade which it doesn’t need afterwards. Consider running this command when the upgrade wraps up in order to free up some disk space.

sudo apt autoremove

Upgrade Ubuntu From GUI

Upgrading Ubuntu is also easy to do from a GUI. We’ll assume you’re using the GNOME desktop environment, which is what comes with Ubuntu by default.

1. Start by opening Software Updater from the Applications menu.

Opening Software Updater from Applications menu

2. When the app opens up, navigate to the Updates tab and select the appropriate setting under “Notify me of a new Ubuntu version.”

Selecting notify me of a new Ubuntu version in Software Updater

3. Close Software Updater and open it back up. It should notify you that an upgrade is available. Click the Upgrade button to begin the process.

Software Updater notifies us that a new version of Ubuntu is available

Note that your Ubuntu system must be completely up to date before Software Updater will display the message about upgrading.

If the version you want to upgrade to has only just been released within the last few months, Software Updater won’t notify you about upgrading. You can override this by opening Software Updater from a terminal and appending the -d flag.

update-manager -d

Then, just follow the same instructions as above, except use the aforementioned command when opening Software Updater.

Upgrade process via GUI on Ubuntu

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