What is the update/upgrade path for my pre-installed Ubuntu system?

Created by Jeff Lane on
pre-install update upgrade

When you purchase a system with Ubuntu pre-installed, there's a good chance that the image on your machine is not "Stock" Ubuntu. It is possible that you are running a special custom image that we created for that OEM that makes their latest hardware work with Ubuntu. Because of this, you may find that re-installing with the latest version will cause things to no longer work.

But then you notice that Update Manager is telling you there are several updates. Are they safe? Can you apply them? Yes, you should be perfectly fine. So first, lets examine Updates.

Software updates on pre-install systems come from 2 places:
1) Ubuntu
2) An additional archive maintained by the Commercial Engineering team at Canonical

Generally 95-100% of software updates on a preinstall system will come directly from Ubuntu's security and updates archives. This is configured by default.

We try very hard with pre-install images to avoid making changes to packages that are part of Ubuntu. This helps to ensure that future updates to Ubuntu packages do not cause regressions in functionality. So your pre-installed system should already be configured to pull updates from the proper sources, and running those updates should be fine.

If, for some reason, you find that an update does cause a regression, please file a bug against that package, and be sure to indicate that you updated a pre-installed system and discovered the issue.

Now, let's talk upgrades for a moment. With a continuous 6 month release cycle, it's tempting to want to install the latest and greatest from Ubuntu on your machine. However, take care when deciding to upgrade.

First, the official upgrade path for pre-installed systems is LTS to LTS. So by default, your system will not prompt you to upgrade until the next LTS is released, skipping the non-LTS releases along the way. You will, as mentioned above, receive updates to your system, but shouldn't see a prompt to upgrade for a while.

But lets say you DO want to upgrade to the latest non-LTS release. There are some things you should keep in mind:

1: Wait a while after the release, and check your machine on the certification website at http://www.ubuntu.com/certification and see if your system has passed certification for the newer releases. We make every effort to get the changes made to your pre-install image into mainline Ubuntu, however, sometimes it takes a release or two for those changes to finally land. So if your system came with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS pre-installed, the changes that make it work properly may not appear in stock Ubuntu until 13.04 or later.

2: If you DO feel you just HAVE to upgrade, remember that you could very well experience breakage. Certain things may stop working. The most common items that will see problems are Video cards, Wireless adapters and Sound cards. You may also see things like problems with Suspend/Resume, kernel instability and other issues.

You should ensure you have completely backed up all your data, and ensure you have a means to re-install the original image on your machine BEFORE you attempt an upgrade to a non-supported Ubuntu Release.