How to Upgrade to Linux Mint 21 from 20.3: The Proper Way

This article will guide you through all the steps to upgrade your current Linux Mint 20.3 system to Linux Mint 21.

As we informed you earlier, Linux Mint 21 “Vanessa” has been available to all fans of this widely popular Ubuntu-based Linux distribution for some time.

As expected, most users of the previous stable release 20.3 were eagerly waiting for the official Linux Mint upgrading tool to emerge to update to the next version, Linux Mint 21.

Although its version debuted “unofficially” a few days ago, in keeping with our practice of providing our readers with only the best, most thoroughly tested solutions, we waited for the official announcement of the final version of the upgrade tool from the Linux Mint project.

And now, we are pleased to present the proper step-by-step approach, based on official recommendations and best practices, for upgrading your current Linux Mint 20.3 to Linux Mint 21.

So without further ado, let us get down to work.

1. Backing Up Your System

Although many authors fail to mention it, we urge that you never upgrade your operating system without first ensuring that you’ll be on the right side of things if something goes wrong.

The Timeshift application in Linux Mint is an excellent solution for this. It will take a snapshot of your system, which implies that you can restore your entire system, including its data, to its prior and working state at any time.

So, before upgrading to Linux Mint 21, run Timeshift to take a snapshot of your current Linux Mint 20.3 system.

Linux Mint Timeshift App

To start creating the snapshot, click the “Create” button. After successfully making the snapshot, you are good to close the Timeshift application.

Alternatively, you can always use a command like the one shown below to archive all of the more important directories and their contents in a single tar.gz archive file.

sudo tar czf /mint20-3.tar.gz \
     --exclude=/mint20-3.tar.gz \
     --exclude=/dev \
     --exclude=/mnt \
     --exclude=/proc \
     --exclude=/sys \
     --exclude=/run \
     --exclude=/tmp \
     --exclude=/media \
     --exclude=/lost+found \
     /Code language: JavaScript (javascript)

Of course, add more --exclude= parameters if you need to. Finally, the command creates a backup of all the files and directories by placing them in the mint20-3.tar.gz archive in the root partition (/).

Then, this file must be transferred to another computer or drive, for example, with the help of the SCP command.

2. Update All Currently Installed Packages

Before upgrading to Linux Mint 21, ensure your current Linux Mint 20.3 system is fully upgraded and has no packages waiting to be updated.

Linux Mint 20.3

If there are any, install them first, reboot if required, and then proceed to the next step.

3. Install Mintupgrade Tool

To upgrade Linux Mint from 19.3 to 20, you must first install the mintupgrade command-line tool. It is a utility created by the Linux Mint team to let you upgrade from one version of Linux Mint to another.

To install it, run the following command in the terminal:

sudo apt install mintupgrade
Installing mintupgrade command-line tool

4. Upgrade to Linux Mint 21 from Linux Mint 20.3

Everything is now in place to begin the upgrade to Linux Mint 21. Run the mintupgrade tool by typing the following command:

sudo mintupgrade

You will be greeted by a home screen alerting you that your system is about to be upgraded to Linux Mint 21 “Vanessa.” To continue to the next step, press the “Let’s go!” button.

Mintupgrade welcome screen

The tool will notify you that some tests will perform to ensure that your existing Linux Mint 20.3 system meets the requirements for upgrading to Linux Mint 21. Press the “OK” button to start the checks.

Mintupgrade preparation

Wait for the checks to complete. The entire procedure will take no more than a minute.

Mintupgrade tool checks

Upon completing the initial checks, Mintupgrade will notify you that additional tests are required. To proceed, click “OK.”

Mintupgrade additional checks

Again, this should not take more than a minute. Please wait for it to complete.

Mintupgrade additional checks

This is the step in which you are notified that downloading all the packages required to upgrade your system from Linux Mint 20.3 to Linux Mint 21 has begun. Click the “OK” button to confirm.

Linux Mint 21 upgrade simulation

You’ll need to be patient here because, depending on your setup, the mintupgrade tool may need to download several gigabytes of updates.

The speed of your internet connection is another aspect that will impact how long the operation takes. So, wait patiently for the entire process to be completed.

Downloading packages needed for upgrade to Linux Mint 21

Once all downloads have been completed successfully, you may begin the actual upgrading procedure from Linux Mint 20.3 to Linux Mint 21. To start the process, click the “OK” button.

Starting Linux Mint 20.3 to Linux Mint 21 upgrade process

As with the previous step, be patient and wait for the upgrading process to finish.

Upgrading to Linux Mint 21

If you look at the terminal from which you started the mintupgrade tool, you will be able to see what is happening behind the scenes in real-time.

Upgrading to Linux Mint 21

The mintupgrade tool will probably discover various orphan packages during the system upgrade. This means that, unfortunately, these are unavailable in the Linux Mint 21 repository and cannot be maintained or updated.

However, if you have a good reason to keep any of them, here’s what you need to do. First, select “Preferences” from the hamburger menu in the top right corner.

Keeping orphan packages

Press the “+” sign. Next, enter the name of the package you want to keep in the window that appears and confirm with the “OK” button.

Once you are done with all the packages you want to be preserved, click the arrow in the upper left corner to return to the home screen.

Keeping orphan packages

To apply your changes, click the “Check again” button. Then, wait until the operation finishes before pressing the “Fix” button to continue the upgrade process.

Keeping orphan packages

When the process is finished, the Mintupgrade tool will notify you that the upgrade from Linux Mint 20.3 to Linux Mint 21 succeeded. So, you can safely close the window now.

Upgrade process to Linux Mint 21 succeeded

Messages in the terminal also confirm the upgrade’s success.

Upgrade process to Linux Mint 21 succeeded

That’s all. Your system has been successfully upgraded to Linux Mint 21.

5. Remove Mintupgrade Tool and Reboot

After successfully upgrading to Linux Mint 21 from Linux Mint 20.3, remove the mintupgrade tool as you will no longer require it. Run the following command to accomplish this:

sudo apt remove mintupgrade
Removing the Mintupgrade tool

Reboot your system and log into your newly upgraded Linux Mint 21.

Linux Mint 21 (Vanessa)


This guide shows how to upgrade Linux Mint 20.3 to Linux Mint 21. Now you can enjoy the latest packages and hardware support from the newest Linux Mint release.

We tried to make this guide as simple to follow as possible yet while being detailed and comprehensive. We hope you found it helpful. Thank you for using it.

We recommend you check the official documentation for additional help or valuable information.

Bobby Borisov

Bobby Borisov

Bobby, an editor-in-chief at Linuxiac, is a Linux professional with over 20 years of experience. With a strong focus on Linux and open-source software, he has worked as a Senior Linux System Administrator, Software Developer, and DevOps Engineer for small and large multinational companies.

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