What is End of Life in Ubuntu? Everything You Should Know About it

Learn what is end of life of an Ubuntu release, how it impacts you, how to check support status and what you should do if your system reaches end of life.
Warp Terminal

If you have been following It’s FOSS for some time, you might have noticed that I publish news articles like Ubuntu XYZ version has reached end of life (EOL).

This end of life is one of those essential concepts that every Ubuntu user should be aware of.

This is why I decided to write this detailed guide to explain what does an Ubuntu release reaching end of life means, why it matters to you and how to check when your Ubuntu installation has reached end of life.

What is end of life in Ubuntu?

First thing first, end of life is not really an Ubuntu-specific concept. It is a generic term widely used in the software industry.

The end of life of a software means the software has reached the end of its predefined support period. Beyond this date, the software won’t get any feature, maintenance, or security updates.

You may continue using the software past its end of life date, but at your own risk. If there are security vulnerability, your system, and data will be at risk.

Compare it to the use by date or the expiry date on a food item. You may consume the yogurt one day after its use by date, but can you eat it after a week or a month?

Why end of life?

Software is not a living being then why they have an end of life? Why doesn’t Ubuntu just keep on supporting one version forever?

It is to maintain a balance between stability and features. You want new features in your system, but you don’t want it to break your system. Software compatibility is complex and testing takes time.

So what Ubuntu does is to give you a release and takes the responsibility of maintaining it by providing security and other updates for a certain time period.

Ubuntu team and volunteers also work on the new release in parallel to add new features to the future release.

Support life cycle of Ubuntu releases

Ubuntu has two new version releases every year. These releases can be categorized into:

  • Regular release with 9 months of support period
  • Long-term support (LTS) release with 5 years of support period (extendable for 5 additional years with Ubuntu Pro subscription)

A new LTS version is released every two years while the regular releases come every six months.

This table should give you a better understanding:

Ubuntu Version Release End-of-Life
Ubuntu 18.04 (LTS) April 2018 April 2023
Ubuntu 18.10 October 2018 July 2019
Ubuntu 19.04 April 2019 January 2020
Ubuntu 19.10 October 2019 July 2020
Ubuntu 20.04 (LTS) April 2020 April 2025
Ubuntu 20.10 October 2020 July 2021
Ubuntu 22.04 April 2022 April 2027

The long-term support release focuses on providing stability for a longer period. You probably know that Linux distributions like Ubuntu are also responsible for providing applications to you. These distributions have thousands of applications/packages in their repositories.

The LTS versions often hold on to software versions, as they cannot test every new version of so many software in the five years of support period.

The LTS release can get an additional 5 years of maintenance and security support with Ubuntu Pro subscription (free for 3 devices). You won't get new software versions and features but your system will get regular security updates.

When Ubuntu releases a new LTS version, it also updates much software to a newer version. For example, Ubuntu 18.04 LTS has PHP 7.2 whereas Ubuntu 20.04 LTS has PHP 7.4 available. Similarly, Ubuntu 22.04 has GNOME 42 but Ubuntu 24.04 will have GNOME 46.

The regular releases are short-live, but they bring new features (like newer versions of software like file managers, desktop environments, newer kernels etc.).

Personally, I think of these regular releases as a stepping platform for the next LTS releases. For example, the features introduced in Ubuntu 22.10, 23.04, 23.10 will eventually be added in Ubuntu 24.04 (but not in 22.04).

How to check how long your Ubuntu system will be supported?

The simplest way to check the end of life support in Ubuntu is using this command in the terminal:

hwe-support-status --verbose

It will show an output that mentions the support period of your Ubuntu version.

Ubuntu Support status shown in the terminal
HWE Support Status

The Hardware Enablement Stack in Ubuntu allows you to receive the latest generic Linux kernel supported by Ubuntu. The important part is the support status date.

If you want a detailed overview of how many software packages you have got and how long those packages will be supported, you can use the pro security-status command:

pro security-status
Command "pro security-status" is used to get the security status
The Security Status command

In old versions of Ubuntu, the same command is known as ubuntu-security-status and in other older versions ubuntu-support-status. For commands, the output is nearly identical:

The security status command displays the security status of your system
Ubuntu Security Status

As you can see in the above output, my system will majorly get supported until April 2027. Ubuntu can provide security updates for Main/Restricted and Universe/Multiverse packages until 2032. But you’ll have to enable Ubuntu Pro with esm-infra and esm-apps. Ubuntu Pro is free for personal use up to 5 machines.

Suggested Read 📖

Ubuntu Pro Now Gives You 10 Years of Security Updates for Free
A free Ubuntu Pro plan for everyone to get 10 years of security updates. This is fantastic news.

The ESM is more useful to mission-critical business infrastructure where upgrading to a newer version of the OS will impact the business. For desktop users, upgrading to a newer version is the easier and more sensible thing to do.

What happens when your Ubuntu install reaches end of life? What if you continue using Ubuntu even after its end of life?

When your Ubuntu install reaches end of life, it stops getting system updates, including any security updates. There won’t be updates for installed software as well.

Without the security updates, your system will become vulnerable to hacking attacks (if you connect to internet). Suppose a vulnerability gets discovered in one of the software packages you use or even in Linux kernel. You don’t get the update, so this vulnerability is not patched, and some malicious hackers take advantage of it to steal your data.

Eventually, you’ll not be able to use the Ubuntu repositories. If you try to install a new application, you’ll see either “unable to locate package error”.

Unable to locate VLC package in Ubuntu 17.04 installation
Unable to Locate Package

Or, “No installation candidate” error.

The GIMP has no installation candidate error in Ubuntu 17.04 installation
GIMP has no installation candidate

So, basically, you won’t be able to install new software and your system will be at risk. Not a pretty scenario.

The worst part is that if you wait far too long, you won’t be able to upgrade to the newer version. For example, a system running 17.04 can no longer update to 17.10 and eventually to 18.04 LTS because even 17.10 is not supported anymore. A fresh new Ubuntu installation is the only suggested option in such case.

Upgrade is not possible from Zesty to another version
Upgrade not Possible

What should you do when your Ubuntu installation reaches end of life?

Ubuntu doesn’t just abandon you after your system reaches its end of life. It notifies you either in terminal or on the desktop that your system is no longer supported.

Ubuntu notifies the user when a new version is available
New Version Available

It even provides a mechanism to upgrade your current Ubuntu version to the newer version. Most of the software you have currently installed and your pictures, videos and other documents remain as it is. Making a backup of your important data on an external disk is still recommended.

The rule of thumb is:

  • if you are using an LTS release, you should upgrade when the next LTS version is available.
  • if you are using a regular release, you should upgrade whenever the next version is available.

Still confused?

I wrote this article because this is one of the most common confusion for It’s FOSS readers. I hope it clears the air, and you have a more in-depth understanding of Ubuntu release cycle.

If you still have doubts, please feel free to ask your question in the comment section. I’ll be happy to answer your queries.

Other than Ubuntu with the default GNOME desktop, there are several other flavors of Ubuntu available. Here is a neat guide on selecting a version of Ubuntu for your daily usage.

Explained: Which Ubuntu Version Should I Use?
Confused about Ubuntu vs Xubuntu vs Lubuntu vs Kubuntu?? Want to know which Ubuntu flavor you should use? This beginner’s guide helps you decide which Ubuntu should you choose.

Confused about the repository system in Ubuntu? Don't worry! We have an explainer article about the various repositories in Ubuntu.

Understanding Ubuntu’s Repository System [Beginner’s Guide]
Learn the underlying mechanism of the repository system in Ubuntu to better handle the package management and avoid common update errors.
About the author
Abhishek Prakash

Abhishek Prakash

Created It's FOSS 11 years ago to share my Linux adventures. Have a Master's degree in Engineering and years of IT industry experience. Huge fan of Agatha Christie detective mysteries 🕵️‍♂️

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