Upgrading the Linux Kernel on Red Hat Linux systems


Red Hat, Inc.

Table of Contents
Before You Upgrade
The Upgrade
After the Upgrade
Alpha Systems
SPARC Systems
Appendix A: 6.2 and 7.0 Bug fix errata RHSA-2001:013-06 (kernel-2.2.17-14)


One of the most difficult tasks involved with the operation of any operating system concerns the upgrading of the kernel. Unlike the rest of the Red Hat Linux, you cannot simply use the common rpm -Uvh command, reboot the system, and expect the machine to utilize the new kernel properly (or even for your system to boot successfully).

The kernel is a special case. It can test your patience, but with the proper instructions you should be able to handle it. Just remember to stay calm, collected, and always to have a boot disk ready.

Thankfully, upgrading the kernel is much easier on Red Hat Linux systems configured to use the Red Hat Network. If you are using up2date version 2.5.4 or later, the Red Hat Update Agent will download and install the kernel upgrade for you. If you are not sure what version of up2date you are running, type rpm -q up2date to view the version. If you need a newer version of up2date, please view the errata page for your version of Red Hat Linux or visit http://www.redhat.com/support/errata/RHBA-2001-048.html.


If you use a version of up2date prior to 2.5.4 to upgrade your kernel, it will not properly update LILO. You will need to manually edit /etc/lilo.conf then run lilo -v -v . If you reboot before doing this, you may need to enter rescue mode to fix the problem. For more on rescue mode under Red Hat Linux 7.1, see http://www.redhat.com/support/manuals/RHL-7.1-Manual/customization-guide/rescuemode.html. For earlier versions of Red Hat Linux, refer to the Reference Guide for your version of Red Hat Linux at this URL: http://www.redhat.com/support/manuals/

If you are using Red Hat Network to upgrade your kernel, you should not need to follow any of the other instructions in this guide.

By following this guide, you should be able to manually upgrade your Red Hat Linux 4.2 and higher (including 7.x) system to the latest kernel RPMs on the listed in the correct errata page, available at http://www.redhat.com/support/errata/ . This guide will go over what you will need to manually download and what you will need to write down, helping you move through the various upgrade and post-upgrade steps to get your system to boot and utilize the new kernel.


If you have compiled your own kernel from sources, these instructions can be followed, but you may need to tweak a thing here or there. In this case, write down what you have changed from the defaults, and make sure you have a working rescue boot floppy in case a problem occurs. (Both of these suggestions are good ones no matter what you are doing.)

Platform specific problems

This guide was written specifically for the Intel platform. I am using a Red Hat Linux 5.2 system as an example. If you are trying to upgrade to the 2.2.x kernels on a Red Hat Linux 4.x or 5.x machine, please see http://www.redhat.com/support/docs/howto/kernel-2.2/kernel2.2-upgrade.html. If you have an Alpha or SPARC, you should read the sections that are specific for those platforms.