Newbie questions about updating the kernel

I’m fairly new to Linux and up until now I have been installing updates through Pamac with the assumption that it would also keep my kernel updated, but I have recently found out this is not the case. I read through the Manjaro wiki about updating the kernel here:

This has a lot of information about how to update the kernel but doesn’t talk about when or why you should do it. From searching around the forums I have seen people say that there is no point in upgrading the kernel if everything is stable providing you are on one that is LTS. But I have also seen people saying they use kernels with rolling updates so they always have the latest versions (how does this work?).

I’m using 5.9 right now which is the kernel it installed when I started using Manjaro. I noticed that this is neither LTS nor recommended so I’m not sure why it would have installed that one. I can see the following options:

  1. Upgrade to 5.10 which is LTS and newer but not “recommended”.
  2. Downgrade to 5.4 which is both recommended and also LTS.
  3. Upgrade to 5.11 as it’s the newest (5.12 is experimental so I guess I should avoid that).

I’m trying to understand why I would choose between each of these options.

What is meant by recommended, is it recommended based on my hardware, or by the kernel developers, or the Manjaro devs?

Do I need to install newer kernels for compatibility with the latest versions of software packages?

Sorry for all the questions, I did Google many of these things but I’m just confusing myself even more.

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This is usually because the user has some new hardware, that benefit from having the newest kernels and such.

Recommended by the Manjaro devs. This is usually the prior LTS kernel and older LTS kernels, since they have been proven very stable over a longer period of time.

Usually not. If a software package requires newer kernel versions, it should have it in it’s dependency list and you will get prompted to install it, when you install the software.

PS: 5.9 is EOL (End of Life), so it’s no longer maintained or updated. I would say, stick to an LTS kernel (5.10 is the newest there).
The reason why it installed 5.9 when you installed Manjaro, is because that’s what the installation media was built with.


Thanks that clears a lot up, I guess I will install 5.10 and stick with it until it’s EOL. Is that what people generally do? (unless they have newer hardware).

If there’s any updates to an LTS kernel I assume they get installed through Pacman/Pamac?

Does hardware support ever get dropped from a kernel, like with really old hardware? Just wondering if there is any reason you would ever want to go backwards.

Updates via pacman or pamac keeps the kernels that you currently have installed updated. But it doesn’t install other kernels that you don’t tell it to.

Really depends on the person. Some people like to stay on Kernel 5.4 because it works for them, and kernel 5.4 has a long life.

For AMD systems (unless it’s really old AMD systems), it’s best to stay with the newest LTS because stuff gets backported to it from newer stable kernels or the newest stable kernel because there are constant updates and support, as AMD themselves contributes as well.

They still do some patches for older GPUs

They are very active here, and create patches released in newer kernels to fix issues.

Not that I know if, but sometimes there is regression.

See above comment


Yes, but usually only for very old stuff.
And only with a newer kernel series, never with revision updates.

One recommendation from my side: Always have at least two kernel series installed, e.g 5.4 and 5.10. That way if encounter issues with one of them, you can still switch to the other…

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Thanks guys. I’ll try 5.10 and see how it goes, if there’s any problems then I will try 5.4.

I’ve been having some problems with my sound card which is what led down this rabbit hole to begin with so maybe a different kernel will help with that.

Will it automatically boot using the latest kernel I have installed or do I need to change it somewhere? I see that I can select older versions from GRUB, apparently I have 5.4 installed already.

Yes. The first entry on the grub screen will always boot with the newest installed kernel.
In case you want to boot with another (older) one, there is “Advanced Options” where you can choose the kernel image to boot with.

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With the latest update and seeing 5.10 finally achieve the LTS tag, I deleted my 5.4 kernel. I am running the 5.11.14 currently. When first installing new kernel, the first entry does in fact select the latest, but when selecting with “ADVANCED OPTIONS” in Grub I find that it is ‘sticky’ and will boot whichever kernel I last ran, with either selecting the first option or just letting it timeout and boot.

Fairly recent AMD tech with an 3950X Ryzen x470 motherboard and RTX-2070 GPU. I am very happy with the latest Manjaro.

Yepp that happens only if you manually select something else than the first entry (e.g advanced options). With the default manjaro grub config, the last option you selected is saved. So if you choose to start with 5.4 for example it will remember that the next time you boot (until an update-grub is run, I believe)

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