Linux Mint: how to upgrade quickly and safely to Mint 18.1 Serena


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The method for upgrading 18 to 18.1, is different from the method for upgrading 17.x to 18.1 (or 13 to 18.1).

In the column on the left you can find the method for upgrading within the 18 series (18 to 18.1) and in the column on the right you find the way to upgrade from 17.x to 18.1 (and from 13 to 18.1).


Upgrade from 18 to 18.1: by means of Update Manager (recommended)

1. An in-place upgrade of 18 to 18.1 is easy and safe, because they have the same codebase: Ubuntu 16.04. The main and recommended upgrade method within the 18 series, is by means of Update Manager.

This is how it works:

a. First of all it's probably best to disable the screensaver, so that it won't make a nuisance of itself during the upgrade process.

b. Launch Update Manager and apply all available updates, so that you're sure that you've got the latest version of Update Manager.

c. In the panel of Update Manager you click Edit and then:
Upgrade to "Linux Mint 18.1 Serena".

d. Then a wizard presents itself, that gives you some information.

After the last step, the installation begins. Wait patiently; sometimes it looks as if nothing happens, but that's just seemingly so. So just wait.

e. After completion of the upgrade you have to reboot your computer.

Note: during the upgrade you won't get a kernel upgrade to the recommended kernel for Linux Mint 18.1 Serena. There's a reason for that, because that's no problem: it's quite alright to continue to use your current older kernel in 18.1.

f. In the Grub bootloader menu, your Mint will still be called 18 and not 18.1. This is harmless. But if you wish to change the menu items into 18.1, proceed like this:

- Launch a terminal window.
(You can launch a terminal window like this: *Click*)

- Use copy/paste to transfer the following green line into the terminal:

sudo update-grub

Press Enter. Note that your password remains entirely invisible, not even dots will show, this is normal.

You're done. Enjoy the beautiful Linux Mint 18.1 Serena!

Didn't the upgrade succeed? Then try upgrading by means of the terminal, as described below (item 2).

Upgrade from 18 to 18.1: by means of the terminal (emergency measure)

2. Sometimes upgrading by means of Update Manager doesn't succeed, for unclear reasons. Even though the official upgrade feature has been made available.

In that case you can do the upgrade as follows, by means of the terminal:

a. Launch a terminal window.
(You can launch a terminal window like this: *Click*)

b. In your sources list, replace the Sarah source by the Serena source. For that, use copy/paste to transfer this line into the terminal (it's one line):

sudo sed -i 's/sarah/serena/g' /etc/apt/sources.list.d/official-package-repositories.list

Press Enter. Note that your password remains entirely invisible, not even dots will show when you type it, this is normal.

c. Then you update the packages list, like this:

sudo apt-get update

d. Then you perform the actual upgrade, in this way:

sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

This may take a while.

e. When it's done: reboot your computer. You're done!

Note: unlike upgrading by Update Manager, this terminal upgrade will also install the recommended kernel for Linux Mint 18.1 Serena.

If your hardware doesn't run well on that kernel, you can simply boot from the former kernel (it's still there, hidden under "Advanced options" in the Grub bootloader menu) and remove the latest kernel. You can easily remove a kernel by clicking View - Linux kernels in the panel of Update Manager.




(continued in the column on the right)

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From 17.x to 18.1: before you start: is it wise to upgrade at all, yet?

3. Linux Mint 17.x is still supported until April, 2019. So if you're running 17.x now, it's wise to consider if you really want to upgrade at all, yet.... After all, you can afford to wait for some time. It's safest to upgrade before April, 2017 though.

From 17.x to 18.1: a clean upgrade is best, so avoid the upgrade option

4. The best way to go from the older Mint 17 series (or Mint 13) to the newer Mint 18 series, is to apply a clean upgrade. Which means: format the hard disk partition on which the older version resides, and install the later version cleanly on that empty partition.

This reduces pollution, diminishes the risk of complications and is undoubtedly the fastest way to do it.

Only upgrading within a particular Mint series is safe and easy. Within a series, you can simply upgrade the older version to the later one by selecting the upgrade option in Update Manager...

The reason for this distinction is, that Linux Mint uses only LTS versions of Ubuntu as codebase. Within a Mint series that's always the same Ubuntu version, so the upgrade to a later Mint within the same series is technically no big deal. Most of the codebase remains the same then.

The Linux Mint 17 series contains 17, 17.1, 17.2 and 17.3. They all have the same base, namely Ubuntu 14.04 LTS. Which makes upgrading within that series swift and safe.

But the Mint 18 series (which starts with Mint 18 Sarah) is based on an entirely new Ubuntu, namely Ubuntu 16.04 LTS. This is a major leap, which increases the upgrade risks considerably.

On the basis of my own rather negative experiences with Ubuntu release upgrades, I consider it too big a step for too many systems. Because system tweaks and/or (manually installed?) drivers which were right for 17.x, may be wrong or even disastrous for 18.x.

The only way to make sure that no such deleterious leftovers are inherited in 18.x, is a clean installation. So a clean installation of Mint 18.x is definitely better than upgrading Mint 17.x to 18.x.

With a clean installation, with previous formatting of the target partition, you have the least chance of troubles afterwards. This old wisdom is valid for every operating system under the sun.....

Furthermore, a clean installation of Mint 18.x will probably be a lot quicker than an upgrade, because it doesn't require the complicated replacement of a tweaked and running system. It can't be compared in any way to an upgrade within the 17 series, which leaves most of the codebase intact.

So I advise to avoid the upgrade option that's offered for the upgrade from 17.x to 18.x. The best way to do a clean upgrade instead, is as follows:

Optimal situation (most common): no separate home partition

5. By default, the Mint installer doesn't create a separate home partition. Which is good, because I advise against creating a separate home partition.

Among other things, it makes upgrading more simple. Proceed as follows:

Backup your important files

5.1. You will probably want to save some things from the old installation. For this, keep a USB memory stick or an external USB hard drive at hand.

a. Backup your documents, pictures and music (duh).

b. Backup your bookmarks.

The easiest way to backup your Firefox bookmarks is from within Firefox itself: 

Bookmark button - down below: Show All Bookmarks - change "Import and Backup" to "Export...."

Copy the exported .json file  to your USB memory stick. After you've installed the new Ubuntu, you can use the Import function in Firefox to, well, import your old bookmarks.

c. Save e-mails and some application settings.

First, make the hidden files visible.

Click in the Ubuntu sidebar on the icon of your home folder.

Use the shortcut (key combination) Ctrl h to make the hidden files visible, or do it like this:

In the task bar of the file manager: View - check: Show hidden files

Now close the file manager and open it again.

Now you can see the hidden files and folders (with a dot before the name, such as .config/google-chrome). They contain application settings.

Some of those you'll want to keep. For example: if you use Thunderbird as an e-mail program, then the e-mails are in the hidden directory .thunderbird (as well as the account settings of Thunderbird and the address book).

If you want to save your e-mails and settings, copy this directory to the USB memory stick.

Same goes for other specific application settings that you want to keep.

The rest is easy

5.2. The next things to do are easy.

a. Boot your computer from the new Mint DVD. If you have a modern computer with UEFI, you get to see the boot menu of the DVD first. Select Start Linux Mint 18.1.

After the booting has completed, launch GParted from the menu:
Menu - Administration - GParted

Then use this fine disk partitioner, to completely destroy the Mint partitions. Including the swap partition.

All actions you do in Gparted have to be confirmed by a click on the Apply button in the panel, before they are being executed. An extra security measure, no doubt....

Note: don't format the Mint partitions, just destroy them. The result will be "unallocated free space". Have a separate home partition? Destroy it as well (good riddance...).

Note: the swap partition needs to be unmounted before you can destroy it. In Gparted, you can do that as follows: click with the mouse on the swap partition, then right-click with the mouse, and choose Swapoff.

b. Reboot your computer. Don't remove the Mint DVD.

c. Let the DVD check itself for errors: in the beginning, hit the space bar and choose "Check the integrity of the medium" in the DVD boot menu.

d. When no errors are found, boot your computer from the DVD again. On a modern computer with UEFI you'll get to see the boot menu of the DVD: choose "Start Linux Mint 18.1".

e. Establish internet connection and start the installation by clicking the desktop icon of the installer.

During its course, the installer will use the unallocated space automatically, without notification, when you select the "alongside" option for the preservation of your existing Windows. Which is exactly what you want.

So: after you've agreed to its proposal, the installer takes automatically care of the rest!

However, should you feel so inclined, you can also do a manual partitioning.

Separate home partition (less common)

6. I advise against creating a separate home partition.

However, if you already have a separate home partition, and want to keep it, this is a safe and easy way to upgrade to Mint 18. Proceed as follows:

Backup your important files

6.1. Create a backup.

a. Boot the old Mint version for the last time and backup your documents (duh) and your Firefox bookmarks.

The easiest way to save your Firefox bookmarks is from within Firefox itself: Bookmark button - down below: Show All Bookmarks - change "Import and Backup" to "Export...."

Copy the .json file to your USB memory stick. After you've installed the new Mint 18, you can use the Import function in Firefox to, well, import your old bookmarks.

b. Boot your computer from the new Mint DVD and choose "Start Linux Mint 18".

c. Mount the home partition: launch your file manager and click on the home partition of the hard disk.

d. Then launch a terminal window and open your file manager with root authority, namely with "gksudo".

e. File manager toolbar: View - tick "Show Hidden Files". In all user accounts on the home partition, delete all hidden files and directories with configurations (all directories and files that start with a dot, such as .mozilla and .mplayer).

Notable exception: if you use Thunderbird as an e-mail program, then the e-mails and account settings are in the hidden directory .mozilla-thunderbird. If you want to save your e-mails, copy this directory to the USB memory stick.

f. Reboot anew from the DVD and let it check itself for errors.

g. When no errors are found, boot your computer from the new Mint DVD. On modern computers with UEFI, you'll get to see the boot menu of the DVD: choose "Start Linux Mint 18.1".

h. Establish internet connection and start the installation by clicking the desktop icon of the installer.

Install the new Mint

6.2. During installation, the best choice is now manual partitioning. Mint itself will be placed on the root partition: give it the mount point "/" (without the quotation marks). It should be reformatted, so make sure that the format box is ticked.

If you have an existing separate home partition, then give that the mount point "/home" (without the quotation marks). Normally you won't want to reformat it: so don't tick the format box.

The existing swap partition will automatically be mounted as Linux-swap. No action needed.

See this page with screenshots (from Ubuntu, but applicable for Mint as well).

Complete your new Mint

7. Done? Now finish your shiny new Mint installation with some polishing (10 things to do first).


Want more tips?

Do you want more tips and tweaks for Linux Mint? There's a lot more of them on this website!



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