How Do I Update Ubuntu Linux Software Using Command Line?

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I have latest version of Ubuntu Linux LTS server. How do I update Ubuntu Linux for security and application fix/upgrades using ssh command line? How can I install updates via command line option?

Ubuntu Linux can be upgraded using GUI tools or using traditional command line tools such as:


  1. apt-get or apt commandapt-get command or apt command is the command-line tool for handling packages.
  2. aptitude command – aptitude is a text-based interface to the Debian GNU/Linux package system including Ubuntu Linux.

Update Ubuntu Linux Software Using Command Line

Let us see all commands and options.

Ubuntu Linux server – Install updates via apt-get command line (option #1)

The commands are as follows:

  1. apt-get update : Update is used to resynchronize the package index files from their sources on Ubuntu Linux via the Internet.
  2. apt-get upgrade : Upgrade is used to install the newest versions of all packages currently installed on the Ubuntu system.
  3. apt-get install package-name : Install is followed by one or more packages desired for installation. If package is already installed it will try to update to latest version.

First, open the Terminal application and type following two commands (Application > Accessories > Terminal).

Get updated software list for Ubuntu, enter:

Type the following apt-get command:
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt update
How to install Ubuntu Linux updates via apt-get command line

Update software(s) i.e. apply updates and patches on Ubuntu Linux

Type the following apt-get command:
$ sudo apt-get upgrade
$ sudo apt upgrade

Ubuntu software update command line terminal option
Installing updates on Ubuntu Linux system

Please note that above two commands will fetch files from the Internets or local mirrors. The location of update pages is specified in /etc/apt/sources.list (repositories). You need NOT to make any changes to this file until and unless you need extra repositories for your setup.

Install kernel updates on a Ubuntu LTS server

Type the following apt-get command:
$ sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
If a new kernel installed, reboot the server:
$ sudo reboot

To upgrade individual software called foo type command:

$ sudo apt-get install foo
$ sudo apt-get install apache php5 mysql-server

Ubuntu Linux server – Install updates via aptitude command line (option #2)

The syntax is as follows to Update the packages list:
$ sudo aptitude update
To actually upgrade the packages, type:
$ sudo aptitude safe-upgrade

Apply Ubuntu server updates over ssh based command line session

First, login to the remote Ubuntu server using ssh client:
$ ssh user@server-name-here
$ ssh

Once your log into your server, run the following two commands:
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get upgrade

$ sudo aptitude update
$ sudo aptitude safe-upgrade

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

From the apt-get(8) page:

The dist-upgrade in addition to performing the function of upgrade, also intelligently handles changing dependencies with new versions of packages; apt-get has a “smart” conflict resolution system, and it will attempt to upgrade the most important packages at the expense of less important ones if necessary. So, dist-upgrade command may remove some packages. The /etc/apt/sources.list file contains a list of locations from which to retrieve desired package files.

Using Ubuntu Update Manager GUI tool

Ubuntu Update Manage the GUI tool. It works like Microsoft or Red Hat update manager i.e. you will see a little icon in the kicker bar/taskbar when there are updates. It will only appear when new upgrades are available. All you have to do is click on it and follow the online instructions. You can also start the GUI tool by Clicking System > Administration > Update Manager

A note about the latest version of Ubuntu Linux

Press the Superkey (Windows key) > Type updater:

Fig.01: Ubuntu Launch the Software Updater
Fig.01: Ubuntu Launch the Software Updater

You will see the box as follows. Click on the Install now button
Fig.02: Installing updates on a Ubuntu Linux
Fig.02: Installing updates on a Ubuntu Linux

This entry is 3 of 5 in the Upgrade On a Ubuntu Server Tutorial series. Keep reading the rest of the series:
  1. How to upgrade Ubuntu 16.04 to 18.04 LTS using terminal
  2. AWS Lightsail upgrade Ubuntu 16.04 LTS to 18.04 LTS
  3. How Do I Update Ubuntu Linux Softwares Using Command Line?
  4. HowTo: Upgrade To a Newer Version of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS
  5. Upgrade Ubuntu 18.04 to 20.04 LTS using command line

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin, DevOps engineer, and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. Get the latest tutorials on SysAdmin, Linux/Unix and open source topics via RSS/XML feed or weekly email newsletter.


40 comment

  1. I installed ubuntu sofware in my laptop but I can changed the display of monitor (the evolution of screen is only 1240×768). I want to change it into 1240×800 to fit with the widescreen. So what do I do to change it.
    I want to have vietnamese font in ubunto? please let me know the way to get it!
    thank you very much!

  2. I installed the ubuntu 7.10 versiyon.At the beginning ı can not connect the internet then find a way and mozilla can connect the web.But there is a problem about updates ı have not a web connection for doing problem about modem no problem about networking and mozilla work good but other application like pidgin and updates do not connect web.What can ı do?

    1. Try updating your software sources. Go to linux ubuntu website and search for software sources. I had this problem similar to this with my Pidgen. I had to change the server addresses for my Yahoo chat to work. But you go to System>Administration>Software Sources. Hope This Helps You….

  3. I cannot update my Feisty 7.04 and don’t have GUI on the server!
    How can I do any updates at all?
    apt-get update returns a lot of errors but downloads some things? I do not know what or where?
    and apt-get install update does Not work and gives me E: error !
    I know now that ubuntu has abandoned the 7.04 version and has changed the link/ulr so the server cant find the files it needs (to download). but when I try to put a correct link in my sources.list file the errors continue!?
    Does anyone know how to Manually install the updates???
    Now if Microsoft had change the URL, we would never hear the end of it, that is only fair not to mess with the configuration files on a fairly new operating system (feisty 7.04 is not that old at all, compared to NT is a new born baby)!
    I am new in linux and really like some of the features but it sucks when you have to spend all your time on a dumb little simple matter as to an update,

  4. if you update your network settings and if you are getting IP address from DHCP you can run dhclient eth0 (or whatever NIC) and update the net info.
    this will improve your speed.

  5. Hello,
    I installed ubuntu linux 9.0 on my computer how can i install a program i bought from the store or add a new graphics card. I have been trying to put new programs on my computer but the disc always comes up as a file and doesn’t autorun the program for installation. need much help thank you

  6. If you are in the Graphical mode (GUI) then you can browse the cdrom to see what program is executable (usually or similar program).
    If the CD is a linux program then a shortcut (link) to it will appear on your desktop.

    If you are in the command line;
    There are usually a link (or shortcut) to the CDROM in the root of your drive, if there isnt then you have to cd /media then cd cdrom .
    if you have the rights (login as root or type su ) then you can cd /cdrom
    (after you load the cd in the drive) then you can do an ls to see any program or README file to tell you how to install that program.

  7. Very good if you have a working system! But mine is not working so I can’t up date cos my upgrade is not completed until the desktop is updated and running.

    So do I just re-load again or have I misses some thing?

    Rgds SEanS

  8. I am not an expert in Linux but I think you have to use the fdisk program in linux to create an NTFS or FAT32 partition so you can install Windows on it.
    fdisk in command prompt is easy to use really,
    you can do an fdisk -l (L) to see what is available then do fdisk /dev/sda1 or whatever
    press m for help. then l to see the list of partitions. (i.e 8e for LVM or virtual drives in Linux)…

    OR if you already have an unused partition (empty) you can install Windows on it.
    but take extra care not to format the linux partition.

    IF your Linux system does not come up correctly you can type fsck to fix it.

  9. There may be a suitable alternative to your Windows program, depending on what it is. There are lots of choices as far as open source software goes, you might get lucky.

    You might also be able to use Wine, a Windows Emulator to install and run your Windows program, again, depending on what program it is.

  10. Hello all….
    It’s been great with the Karmic. I’m using it almost anywhere. And it does work like charm after install.. And right now i’m learning the command so i can setup my own server box. Mehdi, you are a great guy, always trying to help others… So i want to add a bit on what mehdi talk about.
    If u want to run a windows program install WINE and then you can run a lot of windows program(not all.. go to winehq and read the list)
    I can run my warcraft & Counter Strike that reside on my NTFS(windows) partition just like that. WINE is really a great program.
    2. U don’t need fdisk all the way to manage a partition. Use gParted instead. Shrink the partition. make a new empty partition and boot up the windows cd and install windows. then configure the GRUB loader to boot your windows as well.
    3. Always make time to read some tutorial and browse the forum. It will help you greatly. And try to always use the terminal to make you more understand linux (although ubuntu have done a well done job on the GUI side)

  11. after installing packages how can i see the list of the packages or files that were just install? I am talking use terminal commands?

  12. I’ve faced a problem in using ubuntu to update softweres of midia player ,video player,to running & to compile fortran programming language & more help me

  13. I am very new to ubuntu linux, I was wondering, if I have Ubuntu and I want to upgrade it to the next version, will the drivers (and etc), get updated (or at least stay there) as well? Or do I need to install one and each of them again manually?

    1. I am new and still learning but here’s what I know:
      If you have a computer which is running Windows then I suggest to use the Wubi which is a small file but installs the latest version of Ubuntu for you (without making changes in your file allocation table or boot sector and you will Not lose any of your Windows files, and it defaults into Windows with Ubuntu as 2nd choice).
      As for the updates and upgrades Ubuntu has a program which comes up automatically and asks you to verify username/password and then it updates it regularly (You can turn that option off or set it in longer intervals), Otherwise you can do it in terminal by sudo apt-get updates or upgrade.
      I had a bit of problem with the Auto Updates (In GUI) with version 10.x, I have not had any trouble with (the auto-updates) in this new (11.x ) version so far and I have been using it for few weeks now.
      In the last version it would totally freeze the computer and the last time it froze I lost everything (of course it was a learning machine and I didnt rely on it for anything) But then other people told me they had same problem (in version 10.x).
      So to be on the safe side, try to use the command line for updates and upgrades.

      Also I think with updates you update the lib. files and some drivers but with upgrade you upgrade the kernel file?!
      good luck.

  14. I am having troubles updating my 7.04 Feisty. I am trying to update to 11.04, but am not successful. I have the CD for it, and every time i run it, it takes forever, and doesnt seem to do anything. After a while, at the bottom, a few numbers and file names appear. it counts up from 1, and just keeps going up every second. It reached 8500 until i turned it off. Why will 11.04 get installed?

  15. I used to have the same problem with updating, it was my hardware I think , I used different method of installation (used all the different options) but nothing worked.
    Have you taken different options to see if it works? Do you have enough Hard Drive space left for an update?
    Anyway now I do a partition-less install using Wubi but that is an exe file and only works in Windows. If they have something like Wubi for Linux, it would be excellent cuz it works great. (May be you can use Wine to run Wubi inside Ubuntu)? it is a 1.4 meg file but it picks up the latest version of Ubuntu for you and installs it.
    good luck.

  16. I did a mistake when I was running some programs. By mistake I pressed the update button on the software update page. Immediately I pressed the cancel button to cancel the update installation. But I didn’t able to cancel it. Then I pressed the shut down button immediately. After that when I started the computer, I didn’t able to open the computer anymore. it shows some spectral line on the screne.

    Please give me some suggestion. Thank you.

  17. I used to have the same problem with updating, and lose sound and other software by the way it was my hardware, I used different method of installation with network connection and I used all the different options and all worked.

  18. I’m VERY VERY new to ubuntu:

    I installed 12.10 rebooted and ran the update and upgrade commands! after rebooting all I see is a dos looking window with something like the below:

    Last login: Wed Nov 7 21:24: CST 2012 on tty1
    Welcome to unbuntu 12.10 (GNU/Linux 3.5.0-17-generic i686)

    * Documentation:

    I was hoping to see some sort of a window GUI screen after installing and updating!

    Any ideas?

  19. I’ve been away for so long…anyway
    login as root or admin, the root is there but you probably have to change his password so first do a su for super uswer then see if it takes your login, if not do a passwd root and set a new password but never log in as root bc it is dangerous and can wipe out your hard drive or do other damages without you meaning to do so…

    create a user by adduseror useradd and then passwd user (whatever name you gave it) enter password 2ice and then run X for xwindow
    you ,might want to try holding the Alt key then pressing F7(or shift alt f7) to see if the windows already loaded.
    If not then reinstall the GUI or xwindows…(Hopefully you have netwirk connection because you will need to use the command apt-get a lot to downoad and install programs).If you are using MS Windows then you may want to install Wine(its a huge progrqam but you can run .exe and other files just like in windows)
    good luck!

    sorry I have been away for so long that I have forgotten a lot of my linux. I ythink 7x was the latest when I was running linux servers heh..been a while
    hopefully someone else will reply.

  20. sorry about the typos..
    both work but one is more elaborated

    anyway it was network not netwirk…also it was supposed to be “I think version 7.x was the latest” not I ythink…anyway:
    hopefully one of these days I’ll get me a job then I can get back into working on linux….

  21. I have tried all the commands i know and have seen, but none is working or my laptop, i keep getting these same message in the terminal
    E: Encountered a section with no Package: header
    E: Problem with MergeList /var/lib/apt/lists/security.ubuntu.com_ubuntu_dists_raring-security_restricted_i18n_Translation-en
    E: The package lists or status file could not be parsed or opened.
    E: _cache->open() failed, please report.
    what should i do to upgrade my system?

  22. I have installed Ubuntu 14.04LTS on my laptop everything is OK but when I open the terminal page it’s working(keyboard) but when I going to write c program on page the keyboard is not working
    Pls give tell me resoan why it’s not working on that time

  23. The official ppas never have the latest software, is there a way to update all the applications i have installed without having to go to each ppa site to download manually ?

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