How to set up automatic updates on Ubuntu Server 18.04

This guide explains how to configure automatic updates in Ubuntu Server 18.04 “Bionic Beaver”.

Automatic Updates in Ubuntu Server

This tutorial is based on the following official Ubuntu Documentation article:
Ubuntu Server Guide » Package Management » Automatic Updates

Step 1: package installation

Install the unattended-upgrades package:
sudo apt install unattended-upgrades

This package may already be installed on your server.

Step 2: configure automatic updates

Edit the configuration file (here with nano – replace with any other text editor):
sudo nano /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/50unattended-upgrades

The beginning of the configuration file should look like this:

Install unattended upgrades on Ubuntu Server

Anything after a double slash “//” is a comment and has no effect. To “enable” a line, remove  the double slash at the beginning of the line (replace with nothing or with spaces to keep alignment).

The most important: uncomment the “updates” line by deleting the two slashes at the beginning of it:

Optional: You should uncomment and adapt the following lines to ensure you’ll be notified if an error happens:
Unattended-Upgrade::Mail "";
Unattended-Upgrade::MailOnlyOnError "true";

Recommended: remove unused kernel packages and dependencies and make sure the system automatically reboots if needed by uncommenting and adapting the following lines:
Unattended-Upgrade::Remove-Unused-Kernel-Packages "true";
↑ You may have to add a semicolon at the end of this line. ↑
Unattended-Upgrade::Remove-Unused-Dependencies "true";
Unattended-Upgrade::Automatic-Reboot "true";
Unattended-Upgrade::Automatic-Reboot-Time "02:38";

To save your changes in nano, use Ctrl + O followed by Enter. To quit, use Ctrl + X.

Step 3: enable automatic updates

Enable automatic updates and set up update intervals by running:
sudo nano /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/20auto-upgrades

In most cases, the file will be empty. Copy and paste the following lines:

APT::Periodic::Update-Package-Lists "1";
APT::Periodic::Download-Upgradeable-Packages "1";
APT::Periodic::AutocleanInterval "7";
APT::Periodic::Unattended-Upgrade "1";

The time interval is specified in days, feel free to change the values. Save changes and exit.

Step 4: check if it works

You can see if the auto-upgrades work by launching a dry run:
sudo unattended-upgrades --dry-run --debug

The dry run should output something like this:

Unattended upgrades on Ubuntu Server 18.04 Bionic Beaver

Another way to check if automatic updates work is waiting a few days and checking the unattended upgrades logs:
cat /var/log/unattended-upgrades/unattended-upgrades.log

Done! Ubuntu Server 18.04 should now update itself once a day.


By Johannes Eva, April 2018 – November 2019

Posted in Allgemein.


  1. is there a way to setup the updates to run on a specific day of the week, eg: Saturdays at 6am? or something like that?

  2. Pingback: LINUX SERVER MANAGE TIPS – CFC Studio

  3. Personally, I would not recommend to configure the auto reboot (step 2).
    One of the good things about linux is that nearly all updates do not require system reboot.
    This setting makes linux behave like windows, doesn’t it?

  4. Don’t uncomment ${distro_id}:${distro_codename}-updates unless you know what you’re doing. This will enable unattended NON-SECURITY updates, which may break your server configuration.

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