How to Boot into an Older Kernel By Default in Ubuntu and Other Linux

Here’s a possible scenario. Your system received a kernel update but somehow things are not working as smoothly as previously.

You realized that if you boot into the older kernel (yes, you can downgrade kernel), things are back to normal.

That makes you happy with a little inconvenience. You have to manually select the older kernel at each boot.

This problem was faced by an elderly It’s FOSS reader. The new kernel update in Linux Mint wasn’t working as expected. Booting into the older kernel ‘fixed’ the issues but choosing the older kernel at each boot was a problem.

Removing the new kernel (while using the older kernel) is not a good idea because the new kernel will be installed and used with the next system updates.

So, I suggested booting into the older Linux kernel by default. How to do that? That’s what I am going to show you in this tutorial.

Booting into the older Linux kernel

If you are not already familiar with it, your Linux distribution keeps more than one Linux kernel installed on your system. Don’t believe me? List the installed kernels in Ubuntu with this command:

apt list --installed | grep linux-image

When you get a new kernel version with the system updates, your system automatically chooses to boot into the latest available kernel.

From the grub screen, you can go to the Advanced options (or older Linux versions):

ubuntu grub
Grub screen for Ubuntu

Here, you can see the available kernels to boot into. Choose the older one (without recovery option):

grub advanced options
Advanced options in Grub allow you to boot into older Linux kernels

You won’t notice any visual difference. Your files and applications remain the same.

Now that you have booted into the older kernel, it’s time to make your system boot into it automatically.

Making older kernel the default

If you are comfortable with Linux terminal and commands, you can modify the /etc/default/grub file and add the following lines to it:

GRUB_DEFAULT=saved
GRUB_SAVEDEFAULT=true

And then update grub with:

sudo update-grub

What you did here is to tell your system to save the currently used entry as the default entry for the future runs of GRUB.

However, not everyone is okay with the command line and hence I’ll focus on a GUI tool called Grub Customizer.

Installing Grub Customizer

Use the official PPA to install Grub Customizer in Ubuntu-based distributions:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:danielrichter2007/grub-customizer
sudo apt update
sudo apt install grub-customizer

For other distributions, please use your package manager to install this tool.

Using Grub Customizer to change the default boot entry

When you run Grub Customizer, it shows the available boot entries.

grub customizer ubuntu

You have two options here.

Option1: Select the desired kernel entry and use the arrow (displayed on the top menu) to move it up the order.

move older kernel up the order ubntu grub
Move older kernel up the boot order

Option2: Make the ‘previously booted entry’ the ‘default entry’.

make currently booted entry as default ubuntu
Make previously booted entry the default

I would suggest going with option 2 because it will work even when there are new kernel updates.

This way you downgrade the kernel in Ubuntu or other distributions without even removing the older kernel version.

Do note that most distributions like Ubuntu only keep two kernel versions at a time. So eventually, your preferred older kernel will be removed with the newer kernel versions.

This neat trick helped me when I installed the latest Linux kernel in Ubuntu and it had issues with my audio system for some reason.

Whatever may be the reason, you now know how to boot into an older kernel automatically.

Questions? Suggestions? The comment section is all yours.

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  • Thanks for the guide, it really helped me after rhe latest kernel update, 5.19.0-1013-oracle, really messed my Ubuntu 22.10 installation, the system just didn’t load, didn’t even show the Ubuntu load screen. Is there any trouble with that kernel version? Why Oracle?

  • Thanks a lot, this page saved my evening after a bad kernel update in mint 20 + (bullseye),did not go down well with my hardware (combined geforce/nvidia on amd64 ), the terminal examples did not work for me but after installing Grub Customizer and experimenting with it I finaly got my pc to boot on auto into last working kernel again. not losing rest of the “efi os”. well god that linux is gething faster to solve problems in and not so dependent on digging up keys that have to be pressed at boot to chose kernels etc…, even if its more effective.

  • Your input was really great….I noticed something with my system when I upgraded T ubuntu 22.04. I guess that action updated my kernel version and I started to have boot errors until I reverted to Ubuntu 20.04 using bootable usb without clicking the wifi option to update while installing. That made me revert to the old kernel version and the boot errors completely stopped….although I still want to upgrade to version 22.04 but my question is would the old kernel work for a 22.04 latest update?

  • thanks this is very useful, I didn’t realise the gui Grub Customiser existed. I assume once a new kernal gets installed it will leap frog the problematic one and go ahead and automatically default to the new one.