A Beginner’s Guide to System Updates in Linux Mint


Keeping your system updated is essential for any operating system. Linux Mint is no different.

Linux Mint has a powerful update system. It provides timely security patches for the kernel and other software packages. That’s not it. You can also get updates on apps you have installed using the Software Manager tool.

Basically, apart from security patches, your system receives new features, bug fixes, enhanced hardware support, performance improvements, and much more.

Although the Updater tool is straightforward, it can seem overwhelming if you’re new to Linux Mint.

That’s why we at It’s FOSS came up with this beginner’s guide idea. It will give you some ideas on using this tool and best practices that you should follow.

So in this guide, I will explain how you can perform system updates in Linux Mint and walk you through the following:

  • Create backups using Timeshift (optional but recommended)
  • Prioritizing and installing updates (learn about the different types of updates)
  • Restore from Timeshift backup (if the update corrupts the system)
  • Add faster mirrors (Optional but good to know)

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While you can use the apt command, this tutorial is focused on a GUI tool.

Linux Mint Update Manager

When there are updates available for your system, you will notice a “secure” icon with a red dot in the lower right corner of the screen (notification area).

Linux Mint update notification
Linux Mint system update notification

If you click on it, you will see the available system updates. By default, all updates are selected to be installed. You can uncheck some (if you know what you’re doing).

Linux Mint update manager interface
Linux Mint Update Manager

Before you learn more about the types and installation of updates, I’d like to talk about backups.

Linux Mint is a stable distro as it is based on the long term support release of Ubuntu. The updates you install rarely create problems.

It is rarely possible. Let’s say you force shutdown the system while it is installing package updates. This can mess up a perfectly working system.

Precaution is better than cure. So I recommend making regular backups. If nothing else, make a backup before applying updates.

Linux Mint comes preinstalled with Timeshift backup application. It is a third party tool but highly recommended by Mint developers.

To create a backup, start Timeshift from the system menu:

Start timeshift in Linux Mint

If you haven’t used it before, it will ask you several questions before letting you create a backup.

First, it will ask you what type of backup you want to create. There are two options: RSYNC and BTRFS.

RSYNC is based on hard links and can work on any file system, while BTRFS is only used for BTRFS file system.

If you don’t know what to choose, Select RSYNC Because it will work fine:

Select the type of shot in time shift

Next, it will ask you where you want to store the snapshots.

If you have multiple drives it will display multiple options but for most users it will only be one. In my case, vda3 was:

Select a location to store the snapshots

Now, it will ask you to choose the directories that need to be backed up.

By default it will exclude all files inside the home directory and I would recommend you to do the same.

🚧

Timeshift is mainly used to backup system settings. Using it to backup personal files in the home directory will take up a lot of disk space and is not practical. Use DejaDup to backup personal files to an external disk.

Select which directories should be included in the backup
Exclude home directories

Once this is done, a page will appear telling you that setup is complete.

Now, you can create a backup by clicking on File Create button:

Click Create Snapshot

It may take a while, depending on your choices during setup.

Once done, the snapshot will be mirrored in Timeshift:

Backup list created in Timeshift

great! So now you have created the backup. Let’s go back to System Updater.

Install updates

First, open the update manager from the system menu:

Open the update manager in Linux Mint

Here you will find a list of packages that need to be updated and they will all be selected by default (I recommend you to use the same packages).

But if you want to, you can deselect software updates or kernel updates if you want to stick to that specific version only.

List old packages in Linux Mint

To keep things simple, in Linux Mint, updates are divided into three categories:

  • Security patches (The highest priority is indicated by 🛡 ): You are supposed to install security patches right away as they are supposed to save you from the current vulnerability in your system.
  • Kernel updates (Medium priority and indicated by 🗲): New kernels bring hardware support for new hardware and bug fixes for your existing kernel and may also have a performance improvement.
  • Program updates (lowest priority and is indicated by ): These updates are intended to bring new features and bug fixes to your software.

Again, I advise you to go with the default settings!

Once you have made the selection, click Install Updates button, enter the password and it will start installing new packages:

Update Linux Mint using Update Manager

That’s it! The system has been updated!

Roll back in case of system crash after update (backup required)

If you have access to the GUI, you can easily roll back using the Timeshift backup you created earlier.

First, open Timeshift from the System menu and the backup will show snapshots created in the past:

List of backups at the specified time

To restore the previous state, select the snapshot and click on File Restore button:

Select and prepare the shot

Next, it will ask you to select the target devices. I recommend going with the given options:

Select and prepare the shot

Click the next button and the restore process will begin!

💡

If your system won’t boot, you can use a live Linux Mint USB, boot from it and install Timeshift in the live environment. Run Timeshift and it should detect Timeshift backups on your hard disk. You can restore it from here.

Add the fastest mirrors to speed up the download (optional)

Choosing the fastest mirror is nothing more than choosing the server closest to you, which will ultimately result in lower response time and a faster experience.

📋

This is how it should work in theory. But sometimes, sticking to the main server is more reliable because the closest server may not always work the best. This is why this is an optional step.

To add a faster mirror, first, open Software Sources from the System menu and enter your password when prompted:

Open Software Sources in Linux Mint

Once you do that, you must do the following:

  1. Select the first mirror (labeled main)
  2. Wait a few seconds and select the fastest mirror
  3. Click Apply
  4. Now, choose the second mirror (named Base)
  5. Choose the fastest mirror and click on the apply button
Select Fastest Mirrors to Download Packages Faster in Linux Mint

Once done, the message will appear that says, “Your configuration has changed, click OK to refresh the APT cache.”

Click the OK button and it will start refreshing the cache and will activate the fastest mirrors you have recently selected:

Enable faster mirrors for Linux Mint

That’s it!

Update Manager runs deb packages through the apt command line tool.

But Linux packages are also fragmented. There is Snap, Flatpaks, and AppImages. Using multiple package managers means manually updating each type of package.

This is where you can use a terminal tool called Topgrade which will update everything at once. interesting? Here is the detailed guide:

Upgrade different types of packages in Linux at once with Topgrade

Here’s how to upgrade different packages in Linux simultaneously, using a nifty tool like topgrade.

By now, you should have a good idea about the system update process in Linux Mint.

🗨 Please let me know if you learn something new in this tutorial. Also, if I missed something that you think I should have mentioned, please mention it in the comments.



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