Why and How to install the LTS kernel in Arch Linux

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Arch Linux GRUB menu select lts-kernel
The LTS kernel in Arch Linux is often recommended installing if you want to make your Arch system more stable. But what is the kernel? What are the differences between the default Linux and the LTS kernels, and which one should you choose? Finally, how to install the LTS kernel in Arch Linux? All these questions are about to be answered.

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What is the kernel?

The kernel is the core program of the system. It is responsible for managing memory, CPU and other hardware of the system. Many drivers are built-into the kernel. It also communicates with the installed applications.

Kernel Layout

Actually, Linux is the kernel. The desktop environment, applications and all the other stuff is just a superstructure above the kernel. So, using the word Linux is not very accurate, if you mean a distribution. For example, Android uses the Linux kernel but it is not called Linux. That is why many people say GNU/Linux when they mean Linux distributions. Linux is much simpler to say.

Why install the LTS kernel?

If you have not changed your kernel in Arch Linux, by default you have the latest stable kernel version.

The LTS (long-term support) version is advantageous if stability is your first priority. It doesn’t mean that the latest kernel, or the default kernel, is less stable, it just means that the LTS kernel won’t be updated as frequently. So, there is a smaller chance of some conflicts after you update your system. Besides, the LTS kernel doesn’t change much, so if it works fine on your system it is likely that it will keep working properly.

comparison table: linux vs linux-lts in Arch Linux

On the other hand, the latest kernel is updated frequently and there are constant changes to it, so there is a higher chance of breaking something after the update. The main version of the LTS kernel doesn’t change but it keeps receiving security fixes and it may also receive some feature backports.

So, what should you do?

Installing the latest kernel is good if you want to have the latest feature, and this is what many Arch users aim for. If you have the latest hardware, it is possible that the LTS kernel may not fully support it. So, you have to use the latest kernel OS.

How to install the LTS kernel in Arch Linux

To install and activate the LTS kernel in Arch Linux, follow these steps:

  1. Check your current kernel version
    uname -r

    check kernel version in Arch Linux

    4.12.4 was the latest stable kernel version at the time of writing this post

  2. If it is not LTS, install the LTS kernel.
    sudo pacman -S linux-lts
  3. Update your bootloader, if you use GRUB run the command:
    sudo grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfgterminal Arch Linux configure GRUB
  4. Reboot your system.
  5. After the reboot, you should see this menu:Arch Linux GRUB menu
    If you don’t see it, press SHIFT key or ESC key during the boot time to enter this GRUB menu.
    Go to the Advanced options, and select to boot with the LTS kernel.Arch Linux GRUB menu select lts-kernel
  6. After you logged in to your system, check the kernel version and make sure that it is an LTS version of the kernel.
    uname -rterminal: check of the LTS kernel is installed in Arch Linux
  7. Now, you can remove the latest kernel and only keep the LTS kernel.
    sudo pacman -R linuxternimal: remove kernel in Arch Linux

If you want to keep both kernels, Arch Linux will use the latest kernel by default after you reboot your system. If you use the latest kernel, you can install the LTS kernel as a fallback kernel. In case that something happens to your latest kernel, you can boot with the LTS kernel.

Benefits of the LTS Kernel

Personally for me, the LTS kernel has several advantages.

It works better with VirtualBox.
I had some problems with the latest kernel and VirtualBox because the kernel updates were more frequent than the updates for VirtualBox. Once VirtualBox just stopped working and to fix it, I needed to switch to an older kernel.

It’s better for a multi-boot system.
I also like the infrequent updates of the LTS kernel. I multi-boot my Arch Linux with several other Linux OSes and I need to update my GRUB manually every kernel update. As the LTS kernel is not updated as frequently as the latest kernel, I don’t have to update my GRUB often with the LTS kernel.

So, I use the LTS kernel. Please, comment on what your preference is.
Thanks for reading.

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