Why and How to install the LTS kernel in Arch Linux

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.

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 what kind of kernel you have:

    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 does not have ‘lts’ in its name, it is not the LTS kernel, To install the LTS kernel, run this command:

  3. Next, you need to register the new kernel in your bootloader. For the GRUB bootloader, run this command:

    terminal Arch Linux configure GRUB
  4. Reboot your Arch Linux.

  5. When you see this menu, select the Advanced options.

    Arch Linux GRUB menu

    To get this GRUB menu, you may need to press SHIFT key or ESC key just when the boot is starting. Boot with the LTS kernel from the Advanced options.

    Arch Linux GRUB menu select lts-kernel
  6. After the system boot, open the terminal and check the kernel version. It should be the LTS kernel.

    terminal: check of the LTS kernel is installed in Arch Linux
  7. It is safe to remove the non-lts kernel now, which is a default kernel in Arch Linux.

    ternimal: remove kernel in Arch Linux

After these steps, you will have only the LTS kernel in your system. If you do not remove the default kernel, Arch Linux will use the default kernel after the next reboot. 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.

You may also like these tips and tricks after installing Arch Linux. Thanks for reading.

Average Linux User
Average Linux User I am the founder of the Average Linux User project, which is a hobby I work on at night. During the day I am a scientist who uses computers to analyze genetic data.