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I've just run out of disk space on /. Looking into the situation I realised that since first installing 12.04, Ubuntu has upgraded the kernel ~23 times and has kept every old kernel, binaries and header sources.

I've just manually apt-get purge-ed all but the last couple, saving ~4Gb space (on a 20Gb partition, so that's v. significant). Why would Ubuntu want to keep all of those? Is it lack of a feature such as "keep last 4" or is there some other reason?

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Ubuntu used to keep the old kernels around for safety reasons, however it should be autocleaning old kernels now.

The system should be auto cleaning old kernels per this bug:

So you might want to ensure that your system is up to date and that you have apt (0.9.7.5ubuntu5.5) installed. If you're still getting the wrong behavior then please report a bug on the apt package.

This is also useful if you want to clean up stuff:

You don't need to manually purge each kernel package, doing a sudo apt-get autoremove every once in a while will remove kernels you don't need anymore. However finding the root cause as to why your system isn't autocleaning old kernels is probably easier.

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