Beginner's Guide to System Updates in Linux Mint

New to Linux Mint? It has an excellent system updater tool. Learn about this tool and the best practices you should follow.
Warp Terminal

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

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

Basically, apart from security patches, your system receives new features, bug fixes, improved hardware support, performance enhancement, and a lot more.

While the Updater tool is straightforward, it may still seem overwhelming if you are new to Linux Mint.

This is why we at It's FOSS came up with this beginner's guide idea. It will give you some ideas about using this tool and the best practices you should follow.

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

  • Create backups using Timeshift (optional yet recommended)
  • Prioritizing and installing updates (know the different types of updates)
  • Restore from the Timeshift backup (if the update messed up the system)
  • Adding the fastest mirrors (optional but good to know)
While you can use the apt command, the focus of this tutorial is on the GUI tool.

Linux Mint Update Manager

When there are updates available for your system, you'll notice a 'secure' symbol with red dot on it in the bottom right corner of the screen (notification area).

Linux Mint update notification
Linux Mint system update notification

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

Linux Mint Update Manager interface
Linux Mint Update Manager

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

This article is about updating the Linux Mint system. It is not about upgrading Mint to a newer version. That is a different topic.

Linux Mint is a stable distro as it is based on the long-term support version of Ubuntu. Updates you install will rarely create problems.

Rarely but possible. Say you forced power off the system while it was installing package updates. It is possible that it may mess up the 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 is highly recommended by Mint developers.

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

Start timeshift in Linux mint

If you haven't used it before, it will ask you several questions before allowing you to create a backup.

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

RSYNC is based upon hard links and can work on any filesystem, whereas BTRFS is only used for the BTRFS filesystem.

If you don't know what to choose, select RSYNC as it would work just fine:

select snapshot type in timeshift

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

If you have multiple drives, it would show multiple options but for most users, there will be a single option. In my case, it was vda3:

select location to store snapshots

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

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

Timeshift is primarily used for backing up system settings. Using it to backup personal files in home directory will take up a huge amount of disk space and is impractical. Use DejaDup for personal file backups on an external disk.
select directories that needs to be included in the backup
Exclude home directories

Once done, it will show you a page informing the setup is complete.

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

click on create snapshot

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

Once done, the snapshot will reflect in the Timeshift:

Listing created backup in Timeshift

Great! So now you have created the backup. Let's go back to the system updater.

Installing updates

First, open the update manager from the system menu:

open update manager in Linux Mint

Here, you will find a list of packages that need to be updated and all of them will be selected by default (I would recommend you go with the same).

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

List outdated packages in Linux Mint

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

  • Security patches (Highest priority and indicated by πŸ›‘ ): You are supposed to install the security patches immediately as it is supposed to save you from your system's current vulnerability.
  • Kernel updates (Medium priority and indicated by πŸ—²): New kernel brings hardware support for new hardware, bug fixes for your current kernel, and may also have performance improvement.
  • Software updates (Lowest priority and indicated by ⬆): These updates are meant to roll out new features and bug fixes in your software.

Again, I will advise you to go with the defaults!

Once you are done selecting, click on the Install Updates button, enter the password and it will start the installation of new packages:

Update Linux Mint using Update Manager

That's it! The system is updated!

Rollback if the system crashed after the update (Backup required)

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

First, open the Timeshift from the system menu and it will show the created snapshots backup you took in the past:

List backups in timehift

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

select and restore the snapshot

Next, it will ask you to select the targeted devices. I would recommend going with the selected options:

select and restore the snapshot

Click on the next button and it will start the restoration process!

If your system does not 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 the Timeshift backups present on the hard disk. You can restore it from here.

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

Selecting the fastest mirror is nothing but choosing the closest server to you, which will eventually reduce the latency and get you a faster experience.

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

To add the fastest mirror, first, open the software sources from the system menu and enter the password when asked:

Open software sources in Linux Mint

Once you do that, you'd have to do the following:

  1. Select the first mirror (labeled as Main)
  2. Wait for some seconds and choose the fastest mirror
  3. Click on apply
  4. Now, choose the second mirror (labeled as Base)
  5. Choose the fastest mirror and click on the apply button
Select fastest mirrors to download packages faster in Linux Mint

Once done, it will show the message saying, "Your configuration changed, click OK to update your APT cache."

Click on the OK button and it will start updating the cache and will activate the fastest mirrors you chose recently:

Enable the fastest mirrors for Linux Mint

That's it!

Update everything at once (for intermediate to advanced users)

The Update Manager works on the deb packages through the apt command line utility.

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

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

Upgrade Various Kinds of Packages in Linux at Once With Topgrade
Here’s how you can upgrade various packages in Linux at once, using a nifty tool i.e topgrade.

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

πŸ—¨ Please let me know if you learned something new in this tutorial. Also, if I missed something you think I should have mentioned, please mention it in the comments.

About the author
Sagar Sharma

Sagar Sharma

A software engineer who loves to write about his experience with Linux. While reviving my crashed system, you can find me reading literature, manga, or watering my plants.

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