Configuring the Update Manager in Ubuntu Linux

Mon, Mar 2, 2009

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One of the great things about using open source software is the frequency with which bugs are fixed, security holes are patched, and new features are added. Ubuntu includes a very convenient update manager, which checks the software repositories for updates, and alerts you to install any new versions found. However, its default behavior of checking for updates every day annoys some people. Sometimes updates will be released multiple days in a row, and constantly upgrading your system. can start to be a burden. This guide will explain howto control how often the update manager runs, or howto set the update manager in Ubuntu to automatically install updates.

The software sources window

The update manager is controlled through the Software Sources control panel. Under your “System” menu, select “Administration”, and select “Software Sources.” You will be prompted for your root password; once the window opens, select the “Updates” tab:

Update manager updates tab

The section we’re concerned with is the bottom half, “Automatic Updates.” You should, however, probably make sure that all the update sources are checked.


First, you can disable automatic updates entirely by unclicking “Check for updates.” I don’t recommend this, as updates are important to keep your stable and secure; so unless you’re planning on updating your system manually, leave automatic updates turned on. You can select how often you’d like the update manager to check for updates via the drop-down menu; you can select “Daily,” “Every two days,” “Weekly,” or “Every two weeks.” This setting is really just a personal preference.

Automatic install or download

The options below the update frequency menu are pretty self explanatory. You can have the manager install updates automatically, without asking you; if you set it to do this, it will still prompt you before your computer reboots in the event that the machine has to restart for an update to take affect (unlike Windows, which requires restarts for lots of updates, Linux typically only requires a restart if the kernel is updated).

The other options are to download updates in the background, which will prompt you to install them at a later date, or to just tell you when there are updates available, in which case the update manager will download packages when you manually update your system.


Updates are an important part of keeping your system stable and secure. But sometimes they can be annoying, when updates are released almost every single day. Thankfully, the update manager allows you to configure often you want Ubuntu to update itself, or it allows you to make the process entirely transparent (by automatically installing updates).

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9 Responses to “Configuring the Update Manager in Ubuntu Linux”

  1. Alec says:

    I’m not sure about this…I’ve set it to automatically install updates as you suggest, but always seem to have to manually tell the update manager to install some updates.

    • CJ says:

      I’m having the same issue and it’s been this way since 8.04. In previous versions I’d get a popup notifying me when there were updates which doesn’t happen anymore.

  2. hafis says:

    why my ubuntu update manager not running correctly..and only some of software can be installed…..for you information i already use ubuntu 9.10 and i cannot solve this problem

    • benkamin says:

      In GUI:
      The Update manager works like “apt-get upgrade”, this means: upgrading packages, and if necessary, installing additional packages, but not upgrading packages that needs removing some installed packages.
      Upgrading in Synaptic (mark all upgrades) works like “apt-get dist-upgrade”, this means: upgrading packages, and if necessary, installing additional packages, or removing some installed packages to satisfy it (you will see packages marked to be removed).

  3. Newt Love says:

    I have Ubuntu 10.4 installed on a RAM drive netbook (small RAM-disk space). To save room, I uninstalled all of the printer stuff, and anything related to social networking and MS Exchange. I use this machine for scientific software development, and have other machines that do email and all that.

    Problem: Every day, Update Manager offers to update the packages I marked remove completely, and I have to uncheck them all before I can update the packages I have installed.

    Can’t Update Manager be aware of what I have installed and not offer to update the many packages I’m not interested in?

  4. dan says:

    Upgraded to 10.4 and now I don’t have the Update Manager what can I do to get it back

  5. daniel says:

    I have a DELL Mini with a 2Gig hard disk which is not enough to upgrade Ubuntu due to the Update Manager needing temporary storage. I do have a 4Gig media card install which should be enough. How do I specify that I want to use the media card storage for temp space?

    I only use the Mini for email and I want to use it with Google Talk via WiFi. Should I be looking at a diff. distro to reduce my storage limitation?

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