Ubuntu Update – Not Enough Free Space

Twice now this has happened to me. After clicking the button to install updates an error message appears saying “Not enough free disk space”.

Ubuntu not enough free disk space

After some Googling, I found a solution on the Ask Ubuntu Forums.

This happens because some kernel packages hang around even after updated ones replace them. The solution is simple. Delete what is no longer being used.

Step 1 – Find Your Kernel Release

There is a handy command you can use called uname, which can print out various system information. Type uname --help to find out more.

To print the current kernel release, use the -r option, which will look something like this:

# Print the current kernel release
uname -r

# OUTPUT: 3.13.0-40-generic

Hold on to the output of this for the next step.

Step 2 – Uninstall What You Don’t Need

It’s time for the scary part. We’re going to start removing old kernel packages that are no longer needed. If you remove the one that is currently in use, your machine will not boot!

Here’s what we’re going to do:

  • use the dpkg command to figure out what’s installed
  • remove packages that aren’t related to our current kernel release (from step 1)

Note: You might only need to remove one or two packages to recover the amount of space needed.

The following commands will list the packages that are installed. From here we can start installing things that don’t match our kernel release.

dpkg -l linux-image\*
dpkg -l linux-headers\*
dpkg -l linux-tools\*

# Sample output for "linux-image\*"
# ||/ Name                              Version               Architecture          Description
# +++-=================================-=====================-=====================-========================================================================
# un  linux-image                       <none>                <none>                (no description available)
# un  linux-image-3.0                   <none>                <none>                (no description available)
# rc  linux-image-3.13.0-32-generic     3.13.0-32.57          amd64                 Linux kernel image for version 3.13.0 on 64 bit x86 SMP
# ii  linux-image-3.13.0-37-generic     3.13.0-37.64          amd64                 Linux kernel image for version 3.13.0 on 64 bit x86 SMP
# ii  linux-image-3.13.0-39-generic     3.13.0-39.66          amd64                 Linux kernel image for version 3.13.0 on 64 bit x86 SMP
# ii  linux-image-3.13.0-40-generic     3.13.0-40.69          amd64                 Linux kernel image for version 3.13.0 on 64 bit x86 SMP
# rc  linux-image-extra-3.13.0-32-gener 3.13.0-32.57          amd64                 Linux kernel extra modules for version 3.13.0 on 64 bit x86 SMP
# ii  linux-image-extra-3.13.0-37-gener 3.13.0-37.64          amd64                 Linux kernel extra modules for version 3.13.0 on 64 bit x86 SMP
# ii  linux-image-extra-3.13.0-39-gener 3.13.0-39.66          amd64                 Linux kernel extra modules for version 3.13.0 on 64 bit x86 SMP
# ii  linux-image-extra-3.13.0-40-gener 3.13.0-40.69          amd64                 Linux kernel extra modules for version 3.13.0 on 64 bit x86 SMP
# ii  linux-image-generic               3.13.0.40.47          amd64                 Generic Linux kernel image

Alright, let’s remove some of these packages. Remember, you can remove any package that is is NOT associated with the kernel release outputted by uname -r.

sudo apt-get purge \
    linux-image-3.13.0-XX-generic \
    linux-image-3.13.0-YY-generic \
    linux-image-3.13.0-ZZ-generic \
    linux-headers...\
    linux-tools...

Step 3 – On With Your Life

After removing a couple unneeded packages, you should be able to open up the Software Updater and try again.

Ubuntu Software Updater

Wrap Up

So how can you prevent this from happening again? You can either delete more packages from the commands ran above, increase the size of your /boot partition (extremely scary), or be lazy like me and repeat this process when needed.

I’ve made a mental note to allocate more space for /boot next time I reinstall my computer but doubt I’ll remember when the time comes.

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