I ran sudo apt-get upgrade and I get this :

The following packages have been kept back:  
linux-generic-hwe-16.04 linux-headers-generic-hwe-16.04 linux-image-generic-hwe-16.04 linux-signed-generic-hwe-16.04 linux-signed-image-generic-hwe-16.04  
0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 0 to remove and 5 not upgraded.

I'm afraid that if I run sudo apt-get dist-upgrade something could go wrong and could mess up my Ubuntu installation. I have seen similar questions here but I think they are different from my problem. What should I do ?

  • 6
    Possible duplicate of "The following packages have been kept back:" Why and how do I solve it?
    – Yaron
    Mar 16, 2017 at 11:53
  • @Yaron I dont think its the same thing.
    – FenrisL
    Mar 16, 2017 at 12:08
  • It is the same thing. Read the answers.
    – pzkpfw
    Mar 16, 2017 at 12:11
  • Apt never performs operations beyond those explicitly requested without user feedback; just answer the question with n for "no" (or the equivalent of the language that Apt uses). If you're still unsure about what might happen during an Apt operation you can use the command-line options -s/--simulate/--just-print/--dry-run/--recon/--no-act to see what Apt would do without actually doing it. Mar 19, 2017 at 8:44

3 Answers 3


If the upgrade of an existing package would require a "new" package (e.g. not-yet-installed) to be installed, then that particular existing package will be "kept back."

According to the man apt-get, upgrade by default does not install other not-yet-installed packages:


... under no circumstances are currently installed packages removed, or packages not already installed retrieved and installed.


Allow installing new packages when used in conjunction with upgrade. This is useful if the update of a installed package requires new dependencies to be installed. Instead of holding the package back upgrade will upgrade the package and install the new dependencies. ...

so, --with-new-pkgs needs to be added to allow inclusion of the related other packages.

sudo apt-get --with-new-pkgs upgrade

--with-new-pkgs allows the related "not-yet-installed" packages to be installed with a Y/n interactive prompt.

Also, as an added benefit, sudo apt-get --with-new-pkgs upgrade does NOT have side affect of causing packages to be marked as manually installed.


Ubuntu 18.04 provides a newer, streamlined syntax of apt which can be used instead of apt-get.

sudo apt upgrade --with-new-pkgs
  • The whole "if a package requires a new package to be installed" then it will be kept back doesn't make sense to me. I have my own deb package I manage, and if I add a dependency that isn't installed on my system apt upgrade will still upgrade the package and not keep it back.
    – shreddish
    May 3, 2019 at 17:40
  • @shreddish In my experience, some sudo apt-get upgrade scenarios have needed the --with-new-pkgs per the man page information. Apparently, the deb package you manage, or the test scenario being used, does not trigger the need for the --with-new-pkgs option with an added uninstalled dependency ... for some yet to be discovered reason. It would be interesting to know if you were able to isolate the reason why.
    – l --marc l
    May 3, 2019 at 18:35

Although the general topic "packages have been kept back" has been answered here before : There is something strange going on today ... when I executed sudo apt update a few hours ago, the new kernel 4.8.0-42 was offered for installation. I executed sudo apt dist-upgrade and after the restart of the system (Ubuntu 16.10 workstation), I was running that new kernel.

A few hours later I wanted to upgrade my Ubuntu server installation, but a new kernel was not offered. To re-check the situation I restored my clonezilla system backup image from yesterday on the Ubuntu workstation to re-check the situation. This time the new kernel was not offered anymore. It seems that kernel 4.8.0-42 was accidentally pushed to the main repository and is on the way to getting pushed back to the proposed repository - maybe Canonical has found a bug.

You have opted in to the HWE stack of Ubuntu 16.04, which means that you are using the kernel 4.8 of Ubuntu 16.10. Hence everything happens with the kernel in Ubuntu 16.10 first, a possible explanation for the time delay of the refreshing process for the Ubuntu 16.04 LTS repositories.

When you run sudo apt update a little bit later again, the message you got should not appear anymore. Conclusion : Do not run sudo apt dist-upgrade and wait right until the repositories got updated and the message about the held back kernel packages does not appear any longer. By the way, exactly the same happened with the kernel version 4.8.0-40 already some time ago.

  • The Package Index reports 4.8.0-42: packages.ubuntu.com/xenial-updates/linux-generic-hwe-16.04 ... which mirror are you using?
    – muru
    Mar 16, 2017 at 12:29
  • This is definitely a real thing/problem. I upgraded my system yesterday using the normal process. Today apt-cache policy linux-generic-hwe-16.04 shows *** 100 100 /var/lib/dpkg/status In other words, it got orphaned. Mar 16, 2017 at 13:37
  • @cl-netbox i did a sudo apt-get update again right now and the packages dissapeared.
    – FenrisL
    Mar 16, 2017 at 15:29

Being a relatively new Ubuntu user I bumped into the same issue and apparently solved it. I found that there were three pending updates on Ubuntu Software with the same names as the ones listed on the terminal as listed below:

The following packages have been kept back:
linux-generic-hwe-16.04 linux-headers-generic-hwe-16.04 linux-image-generic-hwe-16.04
0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 0 to remove and 3 not upgraded.

After installing those updates from Ubuntu Software I went back to the Terminal and did sudo apt-get update and sudo apt-get upgrade. The result:

The following packages were automatically installed and are no longer required:
  linux-headers-4.8.0-41 linux-headers-4.8.0-41-generic linux-headers-4.8.0-44 linux-headers-4.8.0-44-generic linux-image-4.8.0-41-generic
  linux-image-4.8.0-44-generic linux-image-extra-4.8.0-41-generic linux-image-extra-4.8.0-44-generic
Use 'sudo apt autoremove' to remove them.
0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.

Not being an expert I think installing updates from the Ubuntu Software seems to solve the problem. And the problem seems to be that there is no full communication between Ubuntu software and the apt-get update and upgrade packages. I'm sure you'll find a better explanation but I wanted to share this with you.

  • Thanks. Generally, Ubuntu advises us not to use aptitude or synaptic (by removing them from default installation. maybe thats the direction in which to look for answers. I will attempt to avoid those two for now. as soon as I saw your answer, I run to software Center and it showed me things apt was ignoring. Since the OS is built by Ubuntu, I will sti to SC. Its a bit like arguing with the AppStore when homebrew makes claims.
    – nyxee
    Aug 19, 2017 at 0:30
  • so, this software center appears to be a very bad solution for those of us with poor conncetions. is there another way?
    – nyxee
    Aug 19, 2017 at 0:49

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