Ubuntu 9.10: How To Upgrade

November 2009

So the new Ubuntu is here and you’re just dying to upgrade and have a look at all the new features! With just a few simple steps you'll be up and running the new system in no time! Before you dive right in, there are a few things you should know, and a few ways to (hopefully) make your upgrade process more pleasant.

This article is broken up into sections outlining the preparation, requirements and upgrade steps needed for each platform. It is important to follow the steps in order to ensure a full and painless upgrade. Also, please follow only one of the upgrade paths. In other words, there are different methods for a Desktop as compared to a Server. You only need to follow those steps applicable to you.

A Note Regarding Upgrades vs Fresh Installations

You may be wondering whether it is better to upgrade your current installation or do a fresh install from CD. There are benefits to doing a fresh installation to be sure, but there are also benefits to upgrading your system in place. I know people that swear by one method, and others that swear by another. In the end, both methods are supported and will give you the same Ubuntu experience.

Fresh installations will require a complete wipe of your hard disk. This means that you'll need to backup any important documents, pictures or other files that you'll want to keep. Have you ever done a fresh installation before and realized only too late that you forgot to back something up? I have. It's easy to miss something. Using the in-place upgrade methods found in this article you won't need to worry about backups.

With an in-place upgrade you can generally keep working on your machine while applications are upgraded in the background. This means you can continue to browse the web or send and receive email while the system is upgraded.

Bottom line is that upgrades are thoroughly tested and just as well supported as fresh installations.


When upgrading your system from one release to the next, there are certain requirements that you must meet in order to be successful. First of all, and most importantly in this instance, this upgrade path is only possible from Ubuntu 9.04 "Jaunty Jackalope" to Ubuntu 9.10 "Karmic Koala". If you are using a release previous to 9.04 (8.10 or earlier), stop now. This upgrade process will not work, is not supported and will likely cause problems.

If you are unsure which version you have installed, you can run this command in your terminal to find out. (Applications > Accessories > Terminal)

lsb_release -a

If you find that you are on a release previous to Ubuntu 9.04, you will need to decide whether it is best to do a fresh installation or do an incremental upgrade leading up to 9.10. Incremental upgrades, as well as fresh installations are beyond the scope of this article, but there is detailed documentation on the matter found here:



Once you have verified that you are using Ubuntu 9.04 "Jaunty Jackalope" you will be able to begin the upgrade proccess. In order for the latest version to become available to you, you'll need to apply any pending updates to your current version.

There are two ways to apply available updates pending a system upgrade. The first method applies to the graphical Desktop or Laptop platform. The second method applies to a server, or non-graphical installation. Remember, please only follow the steps applicable to you.

Graphical Updates (Pre-Upgrade)

If you are using the graphical environment you can check for and apply updates by way of the Update Manager tool. This can be found by navigating to: (System > Administration > Update Manager).

This tool will automatically scan for and list any pending updates. Be sure to apply all available updates before moving to the next step. You can ensure that there are no more pending updates by clicking Check and verifying that it displays the message "Your system is up to date".

Command Line Updates (Pre-Upgrade)

For those more comfortable with the command line interface, or those running a non-graphical Server installation, you can run the following command to check for and apply any available system updates.

sudo aptitude update && sudo aptitude safe-upgrade && sudo aptitude full-upgrade

Apply any updates that are pending from the command above before you move to the next step. You can repeat this command until no more updates are offered to ensure you are ready.

Now that you have applied the remainder of the updates for your current system, you can move to the next step. In the next step, Selecting a Mirror, you will learn how to use an alternate, often faster, package repository for your updates. This means that instead of using the default and often overwhelmed main Ubuntu servers for updates you can configure your system to use one closer to you. This often results in faster downloads and upgrades.

Ubuntu 9.10: How To Upgrade

Selecting a Mirror (Optional, Suggested)

During an Ubuntu release the primary Ubuntu servers generally slow to a crawl. Just imagine the hundreds of thousands if not millions of machines trying to connect to a few core servers for upgrades. While Ubuntu provides a few core servers as the source for all upgrades, there are hundreds of mirrors around the world duplicating the content. For years now I have been using a local Ubuntu mirror provided by my local Internet Service Provider. This has proven very reliable, as well as provided me with timely errata and security updates. At the same time, I have been able to avoid the internet traffic jam caused by trying to navigate to the core servers, particularly during a release.

You can find a list of mirrors worldwide listed on Launchpad here:


This list provides regional listings of Ubuntu mirrors including location, connection speed, connection type (http, ftp, rsync, etc) and how up to date the mirror is. I would suggest finding an up to date mirror close to you, and configuring your machine accordingly.

To configure your Desktop or Laptop system to use an alternate mirror you can follow the following steps:

  1. Open Update Manager (System > Administration > Update Manager). Click Settings.
  2. On the Ubuntu Software tab there is a drop-down box labeled Download From.
  3. Select Other.
  4. Manually select a regional mirror OR click the button Select Best Server.

Ubuntu 9.10: How To Upgrade

To configure your Server system to use an alternate mirror you'll need to update the configuration manually.

  1. Select a mirror from the list above.
  2. Edit the /etc/apt/sources.list file with your favorite editor.
  3. Replace the existing location (archive.ubuntu.com) with your selection.
  4. Save your changes, exit.

As an example, for those making changes manually, I've provided a copy of my /etc/apt/sources.list for reference. This is the entirety of my configuration. The default file includes a number of comments as well as deb-src lines. You may want to create a backup of your current config and replace it with something simpler, similar to what I have below.

# /etc/apt/sources.list

deb http://mirrors.xmission.com/ubuntu/ karmic main restricted universe multiverse
deb http://mirrors.xmission.com/ubuntu/ karmic-updates main restricted universe multiverse
deb http://mirrors.xmission.com/ubuntu/ karmic-security main restricted universe multiverse
deb http://mirrors.xmission.com/ubuntu/ karmic-proposed main restricted universe multiverse
deb http://mirrors.xmission.com/ubuntu/ karmic-backports main restricted universe multiverse

Upgrading to Ubuntu 9.10

So you've applied all of the pending updates for Ubuntu 9.04 and selected a regional mirror closer to you. Now you're ready to move on to Ubuntu 9.10 "Karmic Koala".

Again, there are different methods for upgrading your system from one release to the next depending on your installation base. Please only follow the steps related to your platform.

Graphical System Upgrade (Desktop or Laptop)

Upgrading a graphical system such as a Desktop or a Laptop can be done by using the Update Manager tool. This tool can be found by navigating to:

System > Administration > Update Manager

If you followed the graphical update method outlined above you'll notice that this is the same utility we used to apply updates to our current system. This tool also allows and helps manage upgrades between releases. If you have applied all updates for your current platform, clicking "Check" on this tool should present you with an option to upgrade to 9.10. Simply follow the steps presented to you and your system will be cleanly upgraded.

Ubuntu 9.10: How To Upgrade

Command-Line Upgrade (Server)

Upgrading a non-graphical or Server based Ubuntu installation is very simple. If you've been able to follow the steps above you should have no problem upgrading your system using the provided tools.

Once you have applied the remainder of the 9.04 updates and hopefully selected a regional mirror close to you, ensure that the required upgrade tool is installed. This can be done using the command:

sudo aptitude install update-manager-core

If or when this is installed you are ready to upgrade your system. You may begin the installation using the command:


This tool will walk you through upgrade of your system, adding and removing packages as needed. This tool should be safe to use over a remote ssh connection (I just succesfully did it the other day!) as well. I suggest using this method to upgrade a non-graphical installation over other methods, such as using the safe-upgrade and full-upgrade options to aptitude or apt-get. This tool is designed specifically for this reason, and can better handle upgrade related issues.


Please be sure to fully read any and all messages presented to you during the upgrade process. Whether you are using the graphical or non-graphical methods, these messages are important. Considering the fact that you are upgrading, installing and often even removing hundreds of packages from your system, these messages can be critical toward a successful, stable upgrade. In many cases the messages will be trivial, but be sure to be aware of what the upgrade process is communicating to you. While every attempt is made to ensure a stable, reliable upgrade process, no two machines are ever quite the same and situations may be a bit non-standard. Simply be aware during a system transition such as this.

With that, good luck and I hope you enjoy Ubuntu 9.10 "Karmic Koala" as much as I do!

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