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I have a PC running Ubuntu server.

Sometimes when I ssh into it, I get a message that some packages need upgrading.

I upgrade the software by running (as root)

aptitude update && aptitude safe-upgrade

Sometimes that is enough. But sometimes I need to reboot as well, and I am not told this until I ssh in subsequently. How can I find out sooner?

Ideally I'd like to upgrade by running something like

aptitude update && aptitude safe-upgrade &&
if aptitude needs-reboot ; then shutdown -r now ; fi

but the aptitude needs-reboot command does not exist. What should I run instead?


  • Actually I have two PCs, one running 10.04 (lucid) and the other running 11.04 (natty). I'd hope it would be the same solution for both.
  • Strictly command line solutions only please. One of these PCs doesn't have a display, and neither of them has a keyboard.
share|improve this question

One sub-par way---maybe specific to Ubuntu---is to check the existence of this file:


If it exists, a reboot is required.

So a Bash function in .bash_rc (and co.) could do the job:

function needs_reboot {
  if [ -f /var/run/reboot-required ]; then
    read -p "Restart needed. Reboot? (y/N) " answer;
    if [ "$answer" = "y" -o "$answer" = "Y" ]; then
    echo "No restart";

Where does this idea come from? MOTD gets updated at login time by the pam_motd process, reading its contents from the /etc/update-motd.d directory. In this directory, there is a /etc/update-motd.d/98-reboot-required script (on Ubuntu 12_04) that checks for the existence of our /var/run/reboot-required. That's apparently how a reboot advice is decided. So the function above just makes the same check, interactively.

I'd really like to get that directly from APT, but for now, this works...

share|improve this answer

How about this (run as root): apt-get update && apt-get dist-upgrade --dry-run | grep linux-; if [ $? -eq 0 ]; then yes | apt-get dist-upgrade && reboot; else yes | apt-get dist-upgrade; fi

If there is a kernel update grep linux- will return 0 and then you will reboot. The yes command could be replaced by apt-get dist-upgrade --assume-yes. There will be no reboot if no kernel update is found.

share|improve this answer

You only need to reboot if the kernel is upgraded.

share|improve this answer
Is there an easy way of scripting that, without resorting to parsing the output of aptitude safe-upgrade? – dave4420 Jul 29 '11 at 17:30

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