Debian / Ubuntu Linux Install Kernel Headers Package

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I need kernel headers to compile module for vmware tools or Virtualbox guest. How do I install the Linux kernel headers on Debian or Ubuntu Linux operating systems using command line options?

You can easily install the Linux kernel headers for currently running kernel version using the following commands at shell prompt. Header files and scripts for building modules for Linux kernel are included in linux-header-YOUR-Kernel-Version package. Open a terminal and type the command as root user to install linux-headers* package for your running kernel.


Make sure you have updated version

Type the following apt-get command or apt command:
$ sudo apt-get update
OR as root user enter:
# apt-get update

Search for kernel version (optional)

Type the following apt-cache command :
$ apt-cache search linux-headers-$(uname -r)
$ apt search linux-headers-$(uname -r)
Sample outputs:

Sorting... Done
Full Text Search... Done
linux-headers-4.9.0-3-amd64/testing,now 4.9.30-2 amd64 [installed]
  Header files for Linux 4.9.0-3-amd64

Install linux-header package under Debian or Ubuntu Linux

Type the following apt-get command:
$ sudo apt-get install linux-headers-$(uname -r)
Here is output from the latest Debian 9:

Fig.01: Installing the Linux kernel header using apt-get
Fig.01: Installing the Linux kernel header using apt-get

# apt-get install linux-headers-$(uname -r)
Sample outputs from older system:

Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree       
Reading state information... Done
The following package was automatically installed and is no longer required:
Use 'apt-get autoremove' to remove them.
The following extra packages will be installed:
  binutils cpp-4.3 gcc-4.3 gcc-4.3-base libc-dev-bin libc6-dev libgmp3c2 libgomp1 libmpfr4
  linux-headers-2.6.32-5-common linux-kbuild-2.6.32 linux-libc-dev manpages-dev
Suggested packages:
  binutils-doc gcc-4.3-locales gcc-4.3-multilib libmudflap0-4.3-dev gcc-4.3-doc libgcc1-dbg
  libgomp1-dbg libmudflap0-dbg glibc-doc
Recommended packages:
  gcc c-compiler
The following NEW packages will be installed:
  binutils cpp-4.3 gcc-4.3 gcc-4.3-base libc-dev-bin libc6-dev libgmp3c2 libgomp1 libmpfr4
  linux-headers-2.6.32-5-amd64 linux-headers-2.6.32-5-common linux-kbuild-2.6.32 linux-libc-dev
0 upgraded, 14 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Need to get 20.8 MB of archives.
After this operation, 68.9 MB of additional disk space will be used.
Do you want to continue [Y/n]? y

Once installed you can compile modules for VMWare or VirtualBox or anything else you needed. Also make sure you install GNU GCC compiler collection on Debian/Ubuntu Linux:
$ sudo apt-get install build-essential

See apt-get(8) page for more information.


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. Is there any way of getting this without having the internet on ubuntu? I need it to install a driver for my router from source

    1. You can download the kernel header files for your architecture and desired kernel as .deb files and install with dpkg as well. So you can have the .deb’s to bring to your offline system :)

  2. Another setting if you are trying to download a different linux header version (for instance, a chrooted environment with different kernel), you can also use this while chrooted.

    sudo apt-get install linux-headers-$(`ls /lib/modules`)

    this gives accurate header info.

  3. i am having a problem with the method discussed above whenever i write the command “sudo apt-get update”.
    I get an error message that is “umair is not in the sudoers file. This incident will be reported.”
    What do i need to do to get rid of this error message?
    I would be obliged if anyone could help me out.

    1. umair,

      While this is a very old thread, I am sure you found the answer. However, since I found this page on a google search, I feel this will be helpful to others as this is a common problem.

      1) Log in as a non-root account umair
      2) Elevate to root permissions with the command: su (followed by root password)
      3) apt-get install sudo (if not already installed)
      4) usermod -a -G sudo umair (-a is for add, -G is for group, sudo is the group, umair is the non-root account you wish to promote)

      Excellent tutorial Vivek. 5 years later and still relevent. Cheers!

      1. This is one of the nicest things I read this week. More of that and lmgtfy isn’t offending anymore :D

  4. You have to gain root access with su , of course. The type visudo and write at the end of file “your login name ALL(ALL)= ALL” and save it.

  5. Some Movement,far refer player quickly supply mine hit nothing fill ask energy category fashion to surround build warn reform wash understand retain member than any code pick border energy assess housing necessarily original gain campaign responsible charge mark partly side panel servant help amongst fast tea alone empty wall when will carefully congress single appoint lawyer most used choice percent back defendant usually safety coal whole in drive rural idea post lean close club head several evening off manage carry attitude soldier culture brief century sentence independent access program

  6. thanks man, I used the synaptic method for updating headers. Did not know that the kernel does not need to be rebuilt for updating until now :)

  7. Thx a lot! of all the mad googling ive done, only You were the one that helped me get it done, fast and simple.
    You have a great site, by the way. thx! keep it up.

    Shout out from Germany

  8. Hi i am using the ubuntu 10.04 in which I have installed the linux 2.6.37 kernel. In case i am using the sudo apt-get install linux-headers-$(uname -r) its giving the following….Couldn’t find any package by regex ‘linux-headers-2.6.37’

    Any idea what is wrong?

  9. When I run apt-get install linux-headers-$(uname -r) . I get this error message
    Some packages could not be installed. This may mean that you have
    requested an impossible situation or if you are using the unstable
    distribution that some required packages have not yet been created
    or been moved out of Incoming.
    The following information may help to resolve the situation:

    The following packages have unmet dependencies:
    linux-headers-2.6.26-2-amd64: Depends: linux-kbuild-2.6.26 but it is not installable
    Depends: gcc-4.1 but it is not installable
    E: Broken packages

  10. uname -r returns
    where to get such source and how to use it? I am neewby may be someone could help

  11. I have the similar problem for compiling hello.c

    > simulation@ubuntu:~/Downloads/ldd2-samples-1.0.1/misc-modules$ gcc -c hello.c
    > hello.c:5: fatal error: linux/module.h: No such file or directory
    > compilation terminated.

    Then I did the above step:-
    > simulation@ubuntu:~$ sudo apt-get install linux-headers-$(uname -r)
    > Reading package lists… Done
    > Building dependency tree
    > Reading state information… Done
    > The following packages will be upgraded:
    > linux-headers-2.6.35-22-generic
    > 1 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 0 to remove and 313 not upgraded.
    > Need to get 771kB of archives.
    > After this operation, 0B of additional disk space will be used.
    > Get:1 maverick-updates/main linux-headers-2.6.35-22-generic i386 2.6.35-22.35 [771kB]
    > Fetched 771kB in 2s (270kB/s)
    > (Reading database … 118296 files and directories currently installed.)
    > Preparing to replace linux-headers-2.6.35-22-generic 2.6.35-22.33 (using …/linux-headers-2.6.35-22-generic_2.6.35-22.35_i386.deb) …
    > Unpacking replacement linux-headers-2.6.35-22-generic …
    > Setting up linux-headers-2.6.35-22-generic (2.6.35-22.35) …
    > Examining /etc/kernel/header_postinst.d.
    > run-parts: executing /etc/kernel/header_postinst.d/nvidia-common 2.6.35-22-generic /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.35-22-generic

    After the above step is done, I recompile again, I am still having the same issue.

    Other information of my system:-
    > simulation@ubuntu:~$ uname -a
    > Linux ubuntu 2.6.35-22-generic #33-Ubuntu SMP Sun Sep 19 20:34:50 UTC 2010 i686 GNU/Linux

    any clue ??

    thanks in advance.

  12. I am trying to install the alien file in my OS(Ubuntu 11.04). I am using the command sudo apt-get install alien. but it is saying that package not found.
    When ever I am typeing the command
    $ sudo apt-get install linux-headers-$(uname -r)
    It is showing the as
    Reading package lists… Done
    Building dependency tree
    Reading state information… Done
    linux-headers-2.6.38-8-generic is already the newest version.
    0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
    What to do.How can I install alien. Because I have to install my rpm files as deb file.

    respond soon pls

  13. I have a Freescale i.MX53 quick start board. I need to compile a kernel module for it so I want to install the kernel headers package . The “uname -r” and “ls /lib/modules” both show

    First of all, “sudo apt-get update” has a connection error (I verfied the Internet connection is working for this board):
    W: Failed to fetch
    Unable to connect to

    Second, apt-get can not find the package linux-headers- or linux-headers- or linux-headers-

    Can somebody help me out?

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Deric,

      I am also facing the same issue now. I need to have kernel package to build kernel module. If you have found where to get it. Please share the information.


  14. Thank you very much, I spent a lot of time searching forums for a solution for this and you solved it in three lines of text.

  15. XMBC ferezes badly – as in, horribly (sound loops until I shut down my computer) on my comp when I pause it.

  16. Can anyone tell me how to do the same thing without “Internet Connectivity/Offline”?
    because my Linux machine doesn’t have internet,

  17. sudo apt-get install linux-headers-$(uname -r) does’t work…!!! Anybody help

    Reading package lists… Done
    Building dependency tree
    Reading state information… Done
    E: Unable to locate package linux-headers-3.10.4
    E: Couldn’t find any package by regex ‘linux-headers-3.10.4’

  18. Hello, I am unable to find my Kernel Headers by issuing the following commands.

    root@localhost:~/Downloads# apt-get install linux-headers-$(uname -r)
    Reading package lists… Done
    Building dependency tree
    Reading state information… Done
    E: Unable to locate package linux-headers-3.8.0-00111-g85cc90f
    E: Couldn’t find any package by regex ‘linux-headers-3.8.0-00111-g85cc90f’

    I am using the following Linux based on ARM Arrow SocKit Board.

    Welcome to Linaro 13.04 (GNU/Linux 3.8.0-00111-g85cc90f armv7l)
    root@localhost:~# uname -r

    Any notes on how may I be able to get my Headers?

  19. I broke one of my own rules when I tried this: never try a command suggested on the internet unless you first understand what it does.

    I tried this and it installed linux-headers-3.16.0-4-amd64.

    Then, when I tried to install something else which depends upon the linux-headers to be installed in order to build, it complains that I don’t have the linux headers for my system installed. So it transpires that this command probably caused the wrong ones to be installed.

    So let that be a lesson to me! Don’t break the rules!

    Back to the drawing board!


  20. how to install gcc and kernel headers for Debian for VMware offline without internet?

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