My /boot partition is nearly full and I get a warning every time I reboot my system. I already deleted old kernel packages (linux-headers...), actually I did that to install a newer kernel version that came with the automatic updates.

After installing that new version, the partition is nearly full again. So what else can I delete? Are there some other files associated to the old kernel images?

Here is a list of files that are on my /boot partition:

:~$ ls /boot/
abi-2.6.31-21-generic         lost+found
abi-2.6.32-25-generic         memtest86+.bin
abi-2.6.38-10-generic         memtest86+_multiboot.bin
abi-2.6.38-11-generic         System.map-2.6.31-21-generic
abi-2.6.38-12-generic         System.map-2.6.32-25-generic
abi-2.6.38-8-generic          System.map-2.6.38-10-generic
abi-3.0.0-12-generic          System.map-2.6.38-11-generic
abi-3.0.0-13-generic          System.map-2.6.38-12-generic
abi-3.0.0-14-generic          System.map-2.6.38-8-generic
boot                          System.map-3.0.0-12-generic
config-2.6.31-21-generic      System.map-3.0.0-13-generic
config-2.6.32-25-generic      System.map-3.0.0-14-generic
config-2.6.38-10-generic      vmcoreinfo-2.6.31-21-generic
config-2.6.38-11-generic      vmcoreinfo-2.6.32-25-generic
config-2.6.38-12-generic      vmcoreinfo-2.6.38-10-generic
config-2.6.38-8-generic       vmcoreinfo-2.6.38-11-generic
config-3.0.0-12-generic       vmcoreinfo-2.6.38-12-generic
config-3.0.0-13-generic       vmcoreinfo-2.6.38-8-generic
config-3.0.0-14-generic       vmcoreinfo-3.0.0-12-generic
extlinux                      vmcoreinfo-3.0.0-13-generic
grub                          vmcoreinfo-3.0.0-14-generic
initrd.img-2.6.31-21-generic  vmlinuz-2.6.31-21-generic
initrd.img-2.6.32-25-generic  vmlinuz-2.6.32-25-generic
initrd.img-2.6.38-10-generic  vmlinuz-2.6.38-10-generic
initrd.img-2.6.38-11-generic  vmlinuz-2.6.38-11-generic
initrd.img-2.6.38-12-generic  vmlinuz-2.6.38-12-generic
initrd.img-2.6.38-8-generic   vmlinuz-2.6.38-8-generic
initrd.img-3.0.0-12-generic   vmlinuz-3.0.0-12-generic
initrd.img-3.0.0-13-generic   vmlinuz-3.0.0-13-generic
initrd.img-3.0.0-14-generic   vmlinuz-3.0.0-14-generic

Currently, I'm using the 3.0.0-14-generic kernel.

  • 8
    It's worth mentioning that not every Ubuntu installation will have a separate /boot partition - often it will all just be one big partition. This answer applies for those who do have a separate /boot partition. Those using LVM or "full disk" encryption need a separate /boot, otherwise it may be optional. Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 3:38
  • 6
    If anyone else has the same problem as me: after /boot has no space left "apt-get upgrade" will fail when re-generating initrd files for the kernels that are installed or that the update-initramfs script believes are installed by examining the contents of /var/lib/initramfs-tools. In this situation one cannot remove old kernels using apt-get because the fscking /boot partition has no space left on device. One can do this using "dpkg -P" followed by cleaning up the corresponding entry in /boot (to free space) and /var/lib/initramfs-tools (the initrd image will not be generated).
    – wojci
    Commented Feb 11, 2017 at 8:20
  • 5
    A key point for correct answers is that they tell you to remove the packages containing the older versions of the kernel. Many web pages that address this problem recommend directly removing the files in the /boot partition; that may work for a while, but you may eventually update a package that re-creates files that are missing for the kernel versions that have packages, thereby running you out of space.
    – kgrittn
    Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 14:56
  • 6
    – jarno
    Commented Aug 12, 2018 at 20:03
  • 1
    All answers helped me greatly to understand, but the link that @jarno is sharing was what I actually did to solve this
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 15:59

24 Answers 24


You've a lot unused kernels. Remove all but the last kernels with:

sudo apt-get purge linux-image-{3.0.0-12,2.6.3{1-21,2-25,8-{1[012],8}}}

This is shorthand for:

sudo apt-get purge linux-image-3.0.0-12 linux-image-2.6.31-21 linux-image-2.6.32-25 linux-image-2.6.38-10 linux-image-2.6.38-11 linux-image-2.6.38-12 linux-image-2.6.38-8

Removing the linux-image-x.x.x-x package will also remove linux-image-x.x.x-x-generic.

The headers are installed into /usr/src and are used when building out-tree kernel modules (like the proprietary nvidia driver and virtualbox). Most users should remove these header packages if the matching kernel package (linux-image-*) is not installed.

To list all installed kernels, run:

dpkg -l linux-image-\* | grep ^ii

One command to show all kernels and headers that can be removed, excluding the current running kernel:

kernelver=$(uname -r | sed -r 's/-[a-z]+//')
dpkg -l linux-{image,headers}-"[0-9]*" | awk '/ii/{print $2}' | grep -ve $kernelver

It selects all packages named starting with linux-headers-<some number> or linux-image-<some number>, prints the package names for installed packages and then excludes the current loaded/running kernel (not necessarily the latest kernel!). This fits in the recommendation of testing a newer kernel before removing older, known-to-work kernels.

So, after upgrading kernels and rebooting to test it, you can remove all other kernels with:

sudo apt-get purge $(dpkg -l linux-{image,headers}-"[0-9]*" | awk '/ii/{print $2}' | grep -ve "$(uname -r | sed -r 's/-[a-z]+//')")
  • 22
    Fantastic answer. One further piece of info would help: How can you tell (for sure) which of the kernels you're using? Presumably you can't just assume it's the last one... Edit: And it looks like the answer is uname -a. Probably best to ensure you don't have a pending restart-to-install-new-kernel pending (as I did; but I noted the mismatch between uname -a and the "latest" kernel). Commented Jun 14, 2012 at 8:39
  • 5
    @freddyb Done. Note that the commands prints/removes kernels other than the loaded/booted one.
    – Lekensteyn
    Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 13:57
  • 13
    If apt-get purge fails because of unmet dependencies then you can follow the advice at askubuntu.com/questions/171209/…
    – svandragt
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 8:33
  • 11
    Very thorough answer and still works... and still needed in 2014. Kinda ridiculous that it's still not automatically done by the GUI tools.
    – allprog
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 8:30
  • 7
    @byf-ferdy The kernel is an essential part of the OS, if the newest version somehow does not fully work with your hardware, then you can still select a different one to boot from. A nice feature would probably be something that removes all automatically installed kernels older than a month (except for the latest two).
    – Lekensteyn
    Commented Nov 1, 2014 at 14:23

Your boot partition is full. Since this is a kernel update, these files will be copied to the boot partition so you need to clean in out. Here is a blog post that will show you how to clear the old kernel images with one command. I'll give a basic synopsis of the method. Use this command to print out the current version of your kernel:

uname -r

Then use this command to print out all the kernels you have installed that aren't your newest kernel:

dpkg -l linux-{image,headers}-"[0-9]*" | awk '/^ii/{ print $2}' | grep -v -e `uname -r | cut -f1,2 -d"-"` | grep -e '[0-9]'

Make sure your current kernel isn't on that list. Notice how this is the majority of the final command (down below). To uninstall and delete these old kernels you will want to pipe these arguments to:

sudo apt-get -y purge

Now we can do everything we want by combining these last two commands into this unholy mess:

dpkg -l linux-{image,headers}-"[0-9]*" | awk '/^ii/{ print $2}' | grep -v -e `uname -r | cut -f1,2 -d"-"` | grep -e '[0-9]' | xargs sudo apt-get -y purge

And that one command will take care of everything for you. I will confirm that this does work perfectly but never trust anybody on the internet. :) For more info, the blog post gives a very good explanation of what each part of the command does so read through it so you are satisfied that it does what you want it to do.

  • this also matches linux-libc-dev:amd64 Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 16:39
  • what will the unintended removal of "linux-libc-dev:amd64" cause? Commented Oct 12, 2014 at 0:37
  • @FrederickNord thanks for the heads up. Fixed this. It would have caused some difficulties compiling c programs.
    – dward
    Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 19:01
  • 14
    The command sounds good, but when I run it I get the same error that I get when I want to install something and it can not do it because boot is full: --------------------------The following packages have unmet dependencies: linux-image-extra-4.2.0-27-generic : Depends: linux-image-4.2.0-27-generic but it is not going to be installed linux-image-extra-4.2.0-30-generic : Depends: linux-image-4.2.0-30-generic but it is not going to be installed
    – Alex
    Commented Oct 1, 2016 at 3:29
sudo apt-get autoremove

This command is doing the job automatically.

  • 11
    As the name suggests, apt-get AUTOremove is an automated operation where the system takes its "best guess" what you are trying to achieve. It should not be used as a substitute for common sense system administration. The problem with this approach: If you (or an update) removes a package that is part of this dependency list the auto-remove function wants to remove all other packages in the dependency list, leaving you with a system without working desktop (and sometimes even with a completely broken system).
    – Rinzwind
    Commented Nov 5, 2012 at 10:09
  • 9
    if linux-image-generic is installed and new kernels were not installed explicitly, this will remove old kernels. Common sense is to not accept any changes to the system without reading them first. If common sense has been used prior to using this command then there will be no trouble.
    – mchid
    Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 23:34
  • 2
    @Rinzwind - This command emptied 250 mb of my disk space by removing old 'linux headers'
    – Chinmaya B
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 4:41
  • 9
    autoremove works if used before an out-of-space condition exists. However, once apt runs out of space and aborts (and the user finally notices the problem), it's too late to run autremove or any other apt-based solution. If that's the case for you, try one of the dpkg-based solutions.
    – user535733
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 14:25
  • 1
    It worked very well for me, but make sure to update your system afterward with apt-get update. I think it reinstalls anything that wasn't supposed to be removed. Commented Dec 3, 2017 at 17:33

The Synaptic Package Manager can be used to easily select and remove old kernel images. Screenshot of Synaptic Package Manager

If you don't already have Synaptic installed:

sudo apt-get install synaptic

Start the application and select the options shown.

You should be able to highlight all the "linux-" packages with the version "2.6.x" where x is between 31 to 38 according to the files in your /boot folder.

Right-click each of those linux packages and choose the option "Mark for Complete Removal". Finally click the apply button. This will remove all the files and any associated files. Your /boot folder should now be a bit tidier.

  • I'm on 14.04. I have handled this situation in the past via the command line, but I decided to try this method today... for me, my linux images were located under installed (manual), not installed (local or obsolete)
    – Ryan
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 20:32
  • 12
    Oh no. I can't install Synaptic because there is no space on /boot! Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 20:14
  • @JohnMcGehee fsck and parted should solve that issue for you.
    – FlipMcF
    Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 20:10

Thank you for your detailed post of your problem, this got me going in the right direction. Although it is useful to keep previous kernel files you can remove all of them in one go, check this post:
How to Remove All Unused Linux Kernel Headers, Images and Modules

Done via command line. If you are doing this via remote use something like WINSCP to open a terminal session and just paste it in, works very well.

Here it is copied from article link, I suggest you read the full article:

dpkg -l 'linux-*' | sed '/^ii/!d;/'"$(uname -r | sed "s/\(.*\)-\([^0-9]\+\)/\1/")"'/d;s/^[^ ]* [^ ]* \([^ ]*\).*/\1/;/[0-9]/!d' | xargs sudo apt-get -y purge

List all kernels:

dpkg --list 'linux-image*'

Display current kernel:

uname -r

List all kernels EXCEPT current one:

dpkg -l linux-{image,headers}-"[0-9]*" | awk '/^ii/{ print $2}' | grep -v -e `uname -r | cut -f1,2 -d"-"` | grep -e '[0-9]'

Make sure your current kernel isn't on that list.

Remove all kernels EXCEPT current one:

dpkg -l linux-{image,headers}-"[0-9]*" | awk '/^ii/{ print $2}' | grep -v -e `uname -r | cut -f1,2 -d"-"` | grep -e '[0-9]' | xargs sudo apt-get -y purge

Clear other stuff:

sudo apt-get autoremove

If it still gives you boot disk space error for installing/uninstalling files then directly remove one of OLD image from /boot directory,

ls -lh /boot/*-3.13.0-119*;

rm /boot/*-3.13.0-119*; 

NOTE: Please review current kernel image again before deleting any image.

If it stills throws any error then repeat following commands to remove unwanted kernels,

sudo dpkg --purge linux-image-X.X.X-XXX-generic linux-image-extra-X.X.X-XXX-generic linux-signed-image-X.X.X-XXX-generic
sudo dpkg --purge linux-image-Y.Y.Y-YYY-generic linux-image-extra-Y.Y.Y-YYY-generic linux-signed-image-Y.Y.Y-YYY-generic

sudo apt-get -f install

dpkg -l linux-{image,headers}-"[0-9]*" | awk '/^ii/{ print $2}' | grep -v -e `uname -r | cut -f1,2 -d"-"` | grep -e '[0-9]' | xargs sudo apt-get -y purge
  • I followed this and had a small error with the first commands, not the fault of this answer here, but my own fault. I could not boot anymore after this, being stuck at my OEM symbol on the screen when I ran the normal start item of the main menu. Solved this by choosing the right kernel for booting which I knew from the command at the top here. For more on this, see Ubuntu 20.04 black screen after installing, no booting. With that, I could come back here and run also the top commands, which now worked. Commented May 28, 2022 at 20:47
  • The comment above shall not put the answer here in a bad light! It worked in the end, and the mistakes were likely my own fault / a system setup problem on my side. I got it to work again, and I could clean the boot drive from its old kernels with the answer here. Perhaps just by chance, but I had also an error when I updated my system, and now there was just a kernel install left over after restart: 5.4.0-113 (from 5.4.0-100 before). It may be that the errors I had were just a follow-up of the update problems and had nothing to do with the commands here. Commented May 28, 2022 at 21:16

Notice that the software in this answer is not supported since 2016. I do not know of alternatives...

This is a new answer to an old question, but an easy way to clean this thing (and more) is to install Ubuntu Tweak. To install it:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:tualatrix/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-tweak

then you can run Ubuntu Tweak, Going to the "janitor" tab, and from here it's a matter of three clicks:

Ubuntu tweak janitor for old kernels

It is better to leave the last kernel (you never know) or a well-known working kernel for safety, though; but that's easily customizable.

You can use the same tool to clean a lot of things --- just remember that if you clean thumbnail cache or TB cache then the system will have to rebuild them if they are needed.

  • I tried to install Ubuntu tweak and also going to the repository website. It says it is only for 13.10 and before. Do you have an updated version for 15.04? Commented May 10, 2015 at 13:57
  • @JayCouture.com The version in the site is for 14.04 (the "for 13.10 and before" is a link to older releases). I ignore if there is a version for 14.10 or 15.04 .
    – Rmano
    Commented May 11, 2015 at 22:15
  • Ubuntu Tweak is no longer under maintenance since 2016. See launchpad.net/ubuntu-tweak
    – Flimm
    Commented Oct 25, 2022 at 9:05
  • @Flimm too true... I updated the answer, thanks.
    – Rmano
    Commented Oct 25, 2022 at 12:10

I was able to fix the problem by using dpkg to remove the packages directly. Although the packages are still listed in dpkg -l, the files are removed from /boot, freeing up space.

phrogz@planar:/boot$ sudo dpkg --remove linux-image-2.6.32-30-server
(Reading database ... 145199 files and directories currently installed.)
Removing linux-image-2.6.32-30-server ...
Running postrm hook script /usr/sbin/update-grub.
Generating grub.cfg ...
Found linux image: /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.32-35-server
Found linux image: /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.32-34-server
Found initrd image: /boot/initrd.img-2.6.32-34-server
Found linux image: /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.32-33-server
Found initrd image: /boot/initrd.img-2.6.32-33-server
Found linux image: /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.32-32-server
Found initrd image: /boot/initrd.img-2.6.32-32-server
Found linux image: /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.32-31-server
Found initrd image: /boot/initrd.img-2.6.32-31-server
Found memtest86+ image: /memtest86+.bin

# Repeat for kernels -31 and -32 and -33, up to (but not including)
# the version listed by `uname -a`

After this, apt-get -f install fixed my dependency problems, and all was well with the world.

I'll not be accepting this answer of mine, however, as I still need to know if I should be increasing my /boot size or doing something else.

  • You should either not have a separate /boot partition in the first place, or you should increase its size as 100mb is too small.
    – psusi
    Commented Dec 4, 2011 at 4:07
  • 1
    Thanks, I delete via: sudo dpkg --remove linux-headers-3.5.0-28*
    – TiloBunt
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 17:34
  • 2
    and sudo dpkg --remove linux-image-3.5.0-28* for the image, checked via df -h
    – TiloBunt
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 17:57
  • Thanks, this served me too. I removed a few old kernels (not the one I was currently using) and then did the apt-get -f install. Also, don't forget later to do apt-get autoremove, to possibly remove other ones unneeded.
    – Yajo
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 12:40

You can stop using a separate /boot partition, then you won't have such limited space there. To do this, unmount the partition, then mount it somewhere else and copy all of the files there to the /boot directory in your root partition, then remove the entry from /etc/fstab and reinstall grub. For example ( you will need to use the correct partition ):

sudo -s
umount /boot
mount /dev/sda2 /mnt
cp -a /mnt/* /boot/
umount /mnt
gedit /etc/fstab
grub-install /dev/sda

You can then use gparted to delete the old /boot partition, and possibly extend the root partition to use that space. To extend the root partition you will need to boot from the livecd, and the free space needs to be immediately to the right. If the /boot partition is currently to the left of the root partition, then you will need to first move the root partition to the left, then extend it, but this can take a very, very long time, so may not be worth the trouble.

  • 12
    Moving /boot to my main partition isn't a solution for me since everything but /boot is encrypted. You couldn't know that from my question, sorry.
    – user6722
    Commented Dec 24, 2011 at 14:15
  • This is a good solution if the solutions above don't work due to having no space at all on the boot volume, or if you repeatedly have the "out of space" issue. Please read first why it's sometimes required to have a /boot partition though: (help.ubuntu.com/community/DiskSpace)
    – svandragt
    Commented Jul 10, 2014 at 8:26
  • @svandragt, there basically is no reason left to need a /boot partition these days. About the only one left is if your bios is broken and can't see the whole disk, and any machine made in the last decade doesn't have such a limitation. Other legacy cases such as using raid or LVM are now handled properly by grub2.
    – psusi
    Commented Jul 11, 2014 at 1:59
  • There's a few reasons for having a separate boot partition. But I'm not sure the benefits are worth the increased complexity setup. 1. OS can benefit from faster boot via ext2. 2. Security can be increased by mounting /boot as RO. (rootkits, etc.), or even remain unmounted at os runtime. 3. grub (1) has (had) some issues with ext4 still. 4. Required for running lvm (grubv1). Though this does not apply to the default ubuntu setup. Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 17:37
  • lsblk can be used to determine which partition is what
    – Mr Purple
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 9:51

Update: current versions (since at least 22.04) periodically purge obsolete kernel versions. However, this does not work under all circumstances – such as when the system has not been rebooted since the last kernel upgrade and is thus still running the older of two upgraded kernels.

Taking the best from the answers above, my tried-and-true approach is this:

  • uname -a to find the running kernel.
  • dpkg -l linux-{headers,image}-\* | grep ^ii to list all currently installed kernel-related packages. This will include the running kernel.
  • sudo apt-get purge linux-{image,headers}-3.16.0-{xx,yy,zz} to remove the old kernels. Replace xx,yy,zz with a list of the kernel builds you want to remove—these are all the builds listed by the previous command which are older than the currently running kernel. Make sure you don't remove the currently running kernel—your system will become unbootable. You may also need to change the kernel version from 3.16.0 to whatever is installed on your system.
  • Optionally, do an additional sudo apt-get autoremove—this will remove any leftover dependencies of the old kernels which are no longer needed by the current one, freeing up some more space.

You may have header files without matching kernel versions installed, or vice versa—just include all of these versions in the command. APT will complain that some packages can't be removed because they are not installed, but that will do no harm.

If something fails...

  • If the apt command fails due to a no space left on device error, use the corresponding dpkg command instead: sudo dpkg --purge linux-{image,headers}-3.16.0-{xx,yy,zz}.
  • If the dpkg command still doesn’t work because the linux-image packages are required by the linux-headers packages of the same version (which you also want to uninstall), dpkg may have failed to resolve that. Re-examine the output of dpkg -l and specify any package name suffixes on the command line. For example, on one of my systems the command that eventually worked was sudo dpkg --purge linux-{image,headers}-3.16.0-{xx,yy,zz}-generic-pae.
  • If you get any other error, seek help—you may have a different problem than you thought.


This script will perform all the above steps automatically.

As side effects, it will remove all unused dependencies and upgrade all packages on the system (not just the kernel – except for packages that have been held back).

The script can run with user privileges but will invoke sudo for the actual package operations. You will be prompted for any package purge/install operations:


# Determine currently running kernel by transforming `uname -a` output
current=$(uname -a | sed -E "s/Linux .* ($verpattern)-[a-z]+ .*/\1/")

if ! ( echo "$current" | egrep -q "$verpattern" ) ; then
    # Something went wrong; abort to prevent damage
    echo "ERROR: cannot determine currently running kernel version"
    exit 1

# Determine unused kernel versions: enumerate installed packages, discard entries
# for running kernel version (or without version pattern), then isolate the version
# from each line, remove duplicates and store version numbers in `$oldvers`
for ver in $( dpkg -l linux-headers-\* linux-image-\* | grep ^ii | grep -Fv "$current" | egrep "$verpattern" | sed -E "s/.* +.* +($verpattern)\.[0-9]+ .*/\1/" | sort -u ) ; do
    oldvers="$oldvers $ver"

for ver in $oldvers ; do
    for suffix in "image" "image-unsigned" "headers" ; do
        pkgs="$pkgs linux-$suffix-$ver"

# Purge unused versions (`$pkgs`), remove obsolete dependencies and upgrade kernel
sudo apt-get purge $pkgs && sudo apt autoremove && sudo apt-get upgrade
  • @user535733 the usual case (at least the one I keep running into) is that there’s still some space on /boot, just not enough for another kernel package. In those cases the above has worked well. Feel free, though, to add the corresponding dpkg command. As for purge, no, it’s not a kind of ‘force-remove’. What it does, differently from remove, is that it deletes configuration files as well. Since/as long as kernel packages install no config files, remove and purge will do the same for kernel packages.
    – user149408
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 23:55
  • Added fourth bullet with the corresponding dpkg command.
    – user535733
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 0:02
  • Great answer mate... in my case I also had "image-generic" files but one just has to adapt the regexp :) thank you
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented Aug 19, 2021 at 1:24

For me both apt-get purge and dpkg --remove both failed. So I had to deleted a couple of older kernel images from /boot with rm -f.

  • 5
    This is not a good way to remove packages. While this answer isn't very specific about why removing them the correct way failed, I'm sure if that information was given (in a separate question of course) we'd be able to try and figure out the cause of the problem. Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 9:55
  • 2
    I believe it was failed, because /boot partition was full. This commands try first to upgrade kernel to recent and crash with No space left on device while generating initrd.img
    – vp_arth
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 15:50
  • 2
    WARNING, directly removing files can lead to problems, as an update of the linux-firmware package can recreate the initrd.img file for every version it thinks is installed based on package information. See: askubuntu.com/questions/865577/…
    – kgrittn
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 13:57
  • 2
    thanks, this is the life-saving final solution when nothing else works. Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 3:28
  • This was a the quick workaround when I was too lazy too read through the other highly upvoted answers (and had made a mistake some time before with them, I think I just copied the command and did not change it to the needs of my files). I went into /boot, searched for the biggest files, and just kept the two youngest versions. I removed the older versions with sudo. Commented Sep 4, 2022 at 16:29

I show that still in 2017 this question has new comments and answers but missing one answer that I think is very useful here:

Ubuntu as a desktop OS of simple everyday usage has no reason to be installed with separate \boot partition and something like this will NOT offer something to a "common user"... So a solution is a fresh install without \boot partition and this way you will never have such a problem

PS: My answer can be deleted or added in the accepted answer... (I think it will help some people this way)

  • 2
    You need a separate /boot partition if you use full-disk encryption or if you use filesystems like ZFS. I think you also need it if you use LVM.
    – Flimm
    Commented Oct 25, 2022 at 9:47

I already deleted old kernel packages (linux-headers...)

linux-headers-* aren't kernels. Kernel packages are the ones named linux-image-*. The ones named linux-headers-* are development packages for compiling kernel modules: they don't live in the /boot directory and are not required for general day to day use of your system.

The files you listed in /boot do include several old kernel images (vmlinuz*) and compiled initrd images (initrd.img*) for those kernels, which is an indication that you still have a lot of old kernel packages installed.

You should be able to list your installed kernels with

aptitude search ~ilinux-image

(Note that this will probably return packages that aren't kernels, too).

There is usually no need for more than two kernels to be installed - the one currently in use and the previous one to that (as a fallback). So you can start removing the older ones, one by one, like this:

sudo apt-get autoremove linux-image-3.2.0-23-generic

Make sure you substitute "3.2.0-23-generic" with the actual kernel version you want to remove! Also, don't remove packages such as linux-image-generic. You have to be really careful not to remove the currently running kernel or you won't be able to boot (Ubuntu may or may not warn you about doing this).

You can find your currently running kernel with:

uname -r

I had this problem and more as I removed some initrd-img-xxx files manually from the /boot and I had a problem that these old versions keep generated and filling in the /boot folder. To fix it I followed the following:

  • I removed the generated old kernel version manually so to free space.
  • You’ll be editing a text configuration file as superuser, so paste the following into a terminal:

    sudo gedit /etc/initramfs-tools/update-initramfs.conf
  • Locate the line update_initramfs=yes and change it to update_initramfs=no. Save and exit the file, then run:

    sudo dpkg --configure -a

That solved my problem. That was based on this blog

Hopefully, everything should be fine when you reboot, and later you can try changing the no back to yes in update-initramfs.conf.


I wrote this bash script to selective purge old kernels all at once:

rm kernels real size

All the bash code and instructions are included in the link.


Super helpful utility that will clear out your boot partition

git clone https://github.com/erichs/bootnukem.git
cd bootnukem
sudo ./install.sh

Use at your own risk, but it worked for me:

sudo bootnukem
  • Why the downvote?
    – Jonathan
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 2:30
  • Linking to an arbitrary utility without any explanation of what it does and when should one use it ("Use at your own risk but it worked for me"). I would post this as a comment rather than an answer, hence, I imagine, someone downvoted it.
    – axolotl
    Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 22:03

/boot partition can be bit strange sometimes

do not directly start to delete kernal files.

Steps to follow

  1. Check for the currently installed kernal being used by linux system

    uname -r

    this should give you name of currently installed kernal image on system

  2. Now start deleting extra files except that one specific installed on your system

    apt-get remove linux-image-XXXXX

  3. Also remove the header file as well

    apt-get remove linux-headers-XXXXX

  4. Also there may be a condition where apt has stopped working, in that case switch to /boot

    cd /boot

  5. Start removing files manually but very carefully also keep in the mind not deleting the installed one's kernal files from your system.

    rm linux-image-XXXXX

    rm linux-image-extra-XXXXXX

  6. After removing the correct files cleanup partial installs if any

    apt-get -f install

  7. Remove extra files sitting there as boot files cleaned manually

    apt-get autoremove

  8. Update grub


  9. Lastly update your system packages

    apt-get update


linux-purge utility is made for the purpose:

Install the utility from Launchpad; you can find instructions from there.


sudo linux-purge --clear-boot --keep=1 --optimize

--keep=1 means the command will keep 1 kernel older than the current kernel, so 2 in total, if there are at least so many installed. It might keep even more, if you have more than one meta kernels installed. --clear-boot is probably unnecessary; it will purge kernels unknown to the package management system. --optimize is not necessary, but it will speed up the process, if you have many kernels to remove.

You could also use --choose option to choose manually which kernels to remove/purge.

If the above does not work, run

sudo linux-purge --fix

and re-try.

If you find a bug in the software, you can report it in Launchpad. See man linux-purge for more details on that and information about possible command line options.

  • command not found in both cases Commented May 28, 2022 at 16:47
  • 1
    @questionto42standswithUkraine you have to install the utility first.
    – jarno
    Commented May 28, 2022 at 21:26

In aptitude or synaptic there is a section "old or manually installed packaged". There should be the old linux packages there.


There's a bash script which I wrote give below that makes the process a bit more user-friendly.

YMMV - it was made for Mint 14. Still learning BASH so it's probably a bit clunky. Use at own risk, but it works for me!




function show_kernel_info {
current_kernel=$(uname -r)
echo "Current ACTIVE kernel is:"
echo -e "  "$bold_yellow$current_kernel$endCol
echo "This kernel will be TOTALLY EXCLUDED from all actions in this script."
echo "Also, one fallback non-active kernel will be always left untouched."
echo ""
echo "These are the non-active kernels stored in /boot:"
count_of_old_kernels_in_boot=$(ls -o /boot/initrd* | grep -c -v "$current_kernel")
if [ $count_of_old_kernels_in_boot = 0 ]; then
  echo " * No non-active kernels found! *"
  ls -o /boot/initrd* | grep -v "$current_kernel"
echo ""
list_of_old_kernels=$(dpkg --list | grep linux-image | awk -F' ' '{ print $2 }' | grep -v "$current_kernel" | grep -v "linux-image-generic")
current_old_kernel=$(dpkg --list | grep linux-image | awk -F' ' '{ print $2 }' | grep -v "$current_kernel" | grep -v "linux-image-generic" | head -n 1)
count_of_old_kernels_installed=$(dpkg --list | grep linux-image | awk -F' ' '{ print $2 }' | grep -v "$current_kernel" | grep -c -v "linux-image-generic")
echo "Listing of all unused kernels still installed in the system (these may not exist in /boot):"
if [ $count_of_old_kernels_installed = 0 ]; then
  echo " * No unused kernel installs found! *"
  dpkg --list | grep linux-image | awk -F' ' '{ print $2 }' | grep -v "$current_kernel" | grep -v "linux-image-generic"
echo ""

function exit_script {
free_space_after=$(df -BM /boot | tail -n 1 | awk -F' ' '{ print $4 }' | tr -d M)
let freed_space=$free_space_after-$free_space_before
echo ""
echo "Results (in MB)"
echo "---------------"
echo "Free space in /boot before script was run: "$free_space_before
echo "Free space now: "$free_space_after
echo ""
echo "Amount of space freed up = "$freed_space
echo ""
echo "Press any key to exit."
read -s -n 1
echo ""

# Main code
echo ""
echo -e $title_color" --------------------------- "$endCol
echo -e $title_color" -   Kernel Cleanup v1.0   - "$endCol
echo -e $title_color" --------------------------- "$endCol
echo ""
echo "Maximise this window for readability."
echo "Press any key to continue."
read -s -n 1
echo ""
echo "This script will remove old unused kernels, but it will prompt you before removing each one."
echo "It will never remove the current running kernel, and will also leave one fallback kernel."
echo "It can also remove source files from /usr/src for each kernel removed."
echo "This is normally safe to do and will free up lots more space."
echo ""
echo "Do you want that done as well? (y/n, enter=yes)"
while [ "$valid_input" = "0" ]; do
  read -s -n 1 YesNo_input
  if [ "$YesNo_input" = "" ]; then
  case $YesNo_input




free_space_before=$(df -h /boot | tail -n 1 | awk -F' ' '{ print $4 }' | tr -d M)
while [ $count_of_old_kernels_in_boot -gt 1 ]; do
  # failsafe check if somehow the current kernel is about to be removed!
  if [ "$current_old_kernel" = "$current_kernel" ]; then
    echo -e $bold_red"ERROR!"$endCol" Somehow the current kernel has crept into the removal process!"
    echo "I refuse to do that! Aborting script."
  # failsafe check if somehow a linux-image-generic entry is about to be removed
  if [ "$current_old_kernel" = "linux-image-generic" ]; then
    echo -e $bold_red"ERROR!"$endCol" Somehow one of the linux-image-generic entries has crept into the removal process!"
    echo "I refuse to do that! Aborting script."
  echo "Command about to be executed is:"
  echo "  $ sudo apt-get purge \"$current_old_kernel\""
  check_in_boot=$(echo $current_old_kernel | sed 's/linux-image/initrd.img/g')
  if [ -e /boot/$check_in_boot ]; then
    echo -e $bold_yellow"Note:"$endCol" This kernel exists in /boot but it NON-active, so it's OK to remove."
    echo -e $bold_green"Totally safe to remove:"$endCol" This kernel does NOT exist in /boot."
  echo ""
  echo "Are you sure you want to remove this kernel?"
  echo "(*upper case* Y=yes / any other key will exit the script)"
  read -s -n 1 yes_no
  echo ""
  # Only entering a single upper case Y will work!
  if [ "$yes_no" != "Y" ]; then
    echo "Aborting script."
  echo "Removing kernel "$current_old_kernel"..."
  sleep 1
  sudo apt-get -y purge $current_old_kernel
  if [ "$RemoveSource" = "y" ]; then
    current_old_source=$(echo $current_old_kernel | sed 's/linux-image/linux-headers/g')
    current_old_source=$(echo $current_old_source | sed 's/-generic//g')
    current_old_source=$(echo $current_old_source | sed 's/-pae//g')
    sudo apt-get -y purge $current_old_source

if [ $count_of_old_kernels_in_boot = 0 ]; then
  echo -e $bold_red"There are no NON-active kernels to remove!"$endCol
  echo -e $bold_red"There is only one NON-active kernel left in /boot!"$endCol
  echo "This script will not remove the last non-active kernel so that you have at least one backup kernel."
echo "Aborting script."

[As an AskUbuntu noob I can't comment until reputation = 50 so don't down-vote because of this.]

My server was doing this, too. Literally none of the expected answers here worked since these require some working room on /boot for them to complete. If the boot partition is full, it will abruptly end without deleting any of the images.

The only thing that worked for me was to review the current image, then to manually sudo rm filename for the oldest image files (each had -3.16.0-30 in their names). Once that was done, then sudo apt-get autoremove had the wiggle-room it needed to do its job. It did highlight some errors associated with that version, for example: "depmod: FATAL: could not load /boot/System.map-3.16.0-30-generic: No such file or directory" but that is to be expected.

When finished, the df returned a 42% in use for /boot to indicate that it's healthy again.

  • 1
    The post you're looking for is askubuntu.com/questions/171209/…
    – muru
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 2:02
  • @muru Well, yes... I would suggest that the original poster would need this advice, too. Once /boot is full, these scripted versions which attempt to fix it also fail since, well, /boot is full. Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 18:36
  • Well, there are two similar problems: a) where the system warns that your disk is getting full, but apt-get has enough space to go on, and b), where apt-get fails because the disk is too full. That's the other post.
    – muru
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 4:56

Save this script as /usr/local/bin/remove_kernels.sh (remember to give execute permissions sudo chmod 755 /usr/local/bin/remove_kernels.sh ):

if test $(id -u) != 0; then
 echo Error: You must be root to run this script!
 exit 1
apt purge $( dpkg --list | grep -P -o "linux-image-\d\S+" | grep -v $(uname -r | grep -P -o ".+\d") )

Then to remove all old kernels just type: sudo remove_kernels.sh


For anyone with full-disk encryption:


  1. List installed kernels

    $ dpkg -l | grep linux-image-.*-generic  | grep ^ii
    ii  linux-image-5.19.0-50-generic                               5.19.0-50.50                            amd64        Signed kernel image generic
    ii  linux-image-6.2.0-39-generic                                6.2.0-39.40~22.04.1                     amd64        Signed kernel image generic
    ii  linux-image-6.5.0-14-generic                                6.5.0-14.14~22.04.1                     amd64        Signed kernel image generic
    ii  linux-image-6.5.0-15-generic                                6.5.0-15.15~22.04.1                     amd64        Signed kernel image generic
  2. Uninstall the oldest kernel, e.g.

    sudo apt purge linux-image-5.19.0-50-generic linux-modules-5.19.0-50-generic

That should temporarily fix the issue, until of course the next time Ubuntu installs a newer kernel as part of updates 😑

You can also remove one more kernel to give yourself more time until you run into this problem again, but unless /boot is resized it's just a temporary measure.

If you want you can also clean up any unneeded packages afterwards, e.g.

sudo apt autoremove

(Or sudo apt autopurge)


The real fix would be to resize the /boot partition to make it bigger.

In order to do this, you would first need to shrink the other partitions, but this is made more complicated by the fact that one or more of them are encrypted, to the extent that I'm having trouble finding reliable documentation for how it should be done.

This is the best answer I've found so far as to how to do it: How to edit/resize an LVM partition graphically (with a GUI)?


None of the other answers have mentioned full-disk encryption. For those of us using full-disk encryption, the /boot partition may be undersized due to this bug: https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/partman-auto/+bug/1959971

Out of the box, Ubuntu keeps 3 kernels. As far as I understand, this logic is baked into the packages that handle the logic for apt autoremove and there's no way to change it without recompiling those packages. So I suppose that would be a possible "fix," but it doesn't seem to be a viable fix as far as I'm concerned.

In my case, /boot is 704 MB, which should be enough for 3 kernels:

$ df -h /boot
Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/nvme0n1p2  704M  582M   71M  90% /boot

However, when installing updates, Ubuntu will install additional kernels first before removing old kernels, so /boot runs out of space. Here's the log from the last time I ran into this error during an update:

Setting up initramfs-tools (0.140ubuntu13.4) ...
update-initramfs: deferring update (trigger activated)
Setting up linux-firmware (20220329.git681281e4-0ubuntu3.26) ...
update-initramfs: Generating /boot/initrd.img-6.5.0-15-generic
I: The initramfs will attempt to resume from /dev/dm-2
I: (/dev/mapper/vgubuntu-swap_1)
I: Set the RESUME variable to override this.
zstd: error 25 : Write error : No space left on device (cannot write compressed block) 
E: mkinitramfs failure zstd -q -1 -T0 25

And sure enough, 4 kernels are installed:

$ dpkg -l | grep linux-image-.*-generic  | grep ^ii
ii  linux-image-5.19.0-50-generic                               5.19.0-50.50                            amd64        Signed kernel image generic
ii  linux-image-6.2.0-39-generic                                6.2.0-39.40~22.04.1                     amd64        Signed kernel image generic
ii  linux-image-6.5.0-14-generic                                6.5.0-14.14~22.04.1                     amd64        Signed kernel image generic
ii  linux-image-6.5.0-15-generic                                6.5.0-15.15~22.04.1                     amd64        Signed kernel image generic

(There also seems to be other scenarios in which 4 or more kernels may be installed, such as when using HWE packages: Why is Ubuntu keeping 4 kernels installed?)

Even apt autoremove fails because before it will uninstall packages, it first tries to fix existing broken packages, which fails because /boot doesn't have enough space.


If you cannot remove more unused files and if you have other partition with/or free space on same device, you can resize of /boot partition by parted/gparted. (It is included on installation media, too.)

Warning: Resizing of partition is dangerous operation, save your important data on other media before doing it!

  • 1
    Most sufferers of small separate /boot partitions chose 'whole disk encryption' upon install, which requires LVM. This solution will seems to cause more problems than it solves for those users.
    – user535733
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 14:40

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