A Guide to Upgrading your Ubuntu App’s Release

Canonical recently released Ubuntu 18.04 in the Microsoft Store. We received many questions around the various Ubuntu releases in the Store in addition to how best to upgrade your existing releases. With the help of our friends at Canonical, we have created a guide to upgrading your Ubuntu release. We will soon add a short-form version of this guide to the WSL distribution management documentation.

First, let’s start with an explanation of the Ubuntu apps in the Store.

Ubuntu apps in the Store

You’ll notice there are currently three Ubuntu apps in the Store – Ubuntu, Ubuntu 16.04, and Ubuntu 18.04.


The ‘Ubuntu’ app will follow the latest recommended LTS version. Consider this release the default recommended version. Right now, this is 16.04, but it will change to 18.04 in a few weeks once the 'point' release (i.e. 18.04.1) is published. This follows the guideline used by the 'do-release-upgrade' tool which will recommend upgrading from one LTS to the next after the first 'point' release is available. The ‘point’ release is set for the end of July.

Ubuntu 16.04

The ‘Ubuntu 16.04’ app was added as we prepared for ‘Ubuntu’ to change to 18.04. This will be maintained until 16.04 reaches end-of-life in 2021.

Ubuntu 18.04

The ‘Ubuntu 18.04’ app is the newest addition to the Store. It will always track the 18.04 LTS and will continue to receive updates even after 20.04 and 22.04 are released. ‘Ubuntu 18.04’ will be maintained until it reaches end-of-life in 2023.

The reason for the rolling ‘Ubuntu’ app approach is to give customers who just want a good Ubuntu experience to always be able to get the recommended version by installing ‘Ubuntu.’ And those who need more control over their environment or need to develop against a specific LTS can do so by installing the LTS specific version.

You will soon see changes to the app descriptions in the Store to reflect this process.

Upgrading your distribution

Now on to upgrading your release. Note, the Windows Store does not automatically upgrade your currently installed distributions like it does for other apps. So, once you install Ubuntu, that will be your working version unless you manually complete the upgrade steps. This is designed to always give you control of the specific versions of the software you run within your distribution instances.

There are two ways to upgrade a distribution. One is the distribution-specific way and the other is WSL-specific. We recommend you go with the distribution-specific route because that aligns itself with how Linux distributions are usually maintained.

For Ubuntu, the upgrade command is ‘sudo do-release-upgrade.’ This is recommended because it has the ability to handle system configuration changes between releases.

Please note, LTS systems are only automatically considered for an upgrade to the next LTS via ‘do-release-upgrade’ with the first point release. So, you can use the above to upgrade your installed 16.04 release when 18.04.1 is released.

Thanks & Feedback

Thank you for your feedback on the distribution upgrade path. We understand that there has been some confusion around this topic and hope this post cleared up some of that. Please reach out to us on Twitter or comment below if you have additional feedback. You can find us at #WSLinux @canonical, @tara_msft, and @benhillis.

We look forward to seeing what you do with Ubuntu 18.04!


Comments (10)

  1. Tito says:

    Thanks for the blog post. I was curious how to upgrade from 16.04 since the Windows store didn’t go from 16.04 to 18.04 automatically. I was missing two key points: 1) the point release isn’t available yet, which you explained. 2) trying from the Windows store doesn’t do this automatically, which you also explained.

    Thank you

  2. Christopher Lewis says:

    To find out your current Ubuntu install version:

    cat /etc/issue

  3. Nolan says:

    Thanks for the clarifications!
    Since you mentioned a “WSL-specific” way of doing the upgrade, you should explain what that is (otherwise remove mention of it altogether). If there’s downsides of using this method besides it not being the standard Linux way, then please expound.

    1. Hey Nolan. There is no “Linux way” of upgrading a distro. Each distro’s upgrade process is different due to the many (incompatible) package management tools (e.g. dpkg or apt on Debian/Ubuntu, rpm on RedHat, etc.)

  4. Hao Tong says:

    Does “WSL-specific” way mean when new release is available, we uninstall and reinstall ubuntu app?

    1. You CAN do that, but it might be unnecessarily destructive to do so. If you upgrade Windows to a newer version, your existing WSL instance will remain intact.

      You control when you upgrade your distro instances independently of the Windows build you’re running.

      This said, it’s wise to make sure you’re running a pretty recent build of Win10, since it’ll contain the most up-to-date WSL implementation, resulting in a better over-all experience due to the many fixes and improvements delivered with each WSL build.

    1. Hao Tong says:

      sudo do-release-upgrade still doesn’t give me anything

      1. rseiler says:

        I thought maybe it would take a couple extra days, but no, also nothing.

        1. rseiler says:

          It’s available now. The delay was a general Ubuntu-related thing, according to threads elsewhere, and nothing to do with the Windows implementation.

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