What is HWE?

Hardware Enablement Stacks (HWE) are incorporated into installers for select Ubuntu LTS (Long Term Support) point releases. It is a special Ubuntu feature that provides an LTS release with hardware support introduced in newer Ubuntu releases. For Ubuntu 12.04 the point releases are .2/.3/.4/.5 and the corresponding Ubuntu releases are 12.10/13.04/13.10/14.04.

The HWE path can be obtained in 2 ways:

  1. Installing Ubuntu from the media (ISO) for these point releases (where HWE is used by default)
  2. Manually installing some packages

End-of-life (EOL) for 12.04, 12.04.1, and 12.04.5 HWE is April 2017 but for the other HWE stacks it is roughly when 14.04.1 is released: Aug 8, 2014.

Further reading:

And why should I care?

Starting Aug 8, 2014 systems running 12.04.2 HWE, 12.04.3 HWE, or 12.04.4 HWE will no longer receive software updates for the kernel and, if you're running it, the graphics stack.

How do I know if I'm affected?

You can:

  1. use a tool expressly designed to let you know
  2. look at what packages you have installed


The tool is called hwe-support-status and it will be available first in the -proposed and then in the -updates repositories:

  • precise-proposed (by June 13)
  • precise-updates (by June 27)

It will become available in package update-manager-core.

To run:

hwe-support-status --verbose

Get it from Launchpad if you want it earlier:

sudo apt-get install bzr -y
cd ~
bzr co --lightweight  lp:~mvo/update-manager/hwe-support-status
cd hwe-support-status
./hwe-support-status --verbose

Notes on this tool:

  • Contains the central logic used by other mechanisms/software that have been modified to alert the user of HWE EOL. These are:
    1. update-manager (desktop)
    2. update-notifier
    3. ubuntu-support-status
  • On affected systems, it provides command line instructions for machines not running a graphics stack (typically servers). It will refer you to a graphical tool (update-manager) if a graphics stack is detected (typically desktops).


Check your running kernel version:

uname -r
  • you are affected if it shows a kernel in these series: 3.5 or 3.8 or 3.11
  • you are not affected if it shows a kernel in these series: 3.2 or 3.13

This method does not check for a graphics stack HWE. However, you cannot get a HWE graphics stack without a corresponding HWE kernel unless you've done things manually. Note that such a combination (HWE graphics with non-HWE kernel) is not supported.

What to do if I'm affected?

You have three options:

  1. Install 12.04.5 HWE (Trusty kernel/graphics)
  2. Upgrade to 14.04 LTS
  3. Fresh install of 14.04 LTS

1. Install 12.04.5 HWE (Trusty kernel/graphics)

The hwe-support-status tool will tell you what you need to do.

2. Upgrade to 14.04 LTS

The hwe-support-status tool will tell you what you need to do.

If you want to upgrade a desktop system to 14.04 before July 16, 2014 (the date at which all necessary software components are in the regular -updates repository) you will need to invoke update-manager from the command line:

update-manager -p

For both servers and desktops it's strongly recommended to ensure a system is in a good state before upgrading. Here are some tips:

  • Enough free space (2x the size of all installed packages)
  • Update all packages
  • Run sudo apt-get autoremove to clean up old packages

  • Ensure a reboot works normally (and on dual boot Linux machines, note which operating system controls the bootloader/GRUB)
  • Perform a backup of important data

3. Fresh install of 14.04 LTS

Redeploy with a fresh copy of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS.


  • I am running 12.04.2 HWE. From August 8, 2014 onwards my system will no longer receive package updates?

Not true. Such a system will only stop receiving updates for the kernel and the graphics stack. The rest of the software will continue to get updates.

  • So if I am running 12.04.3 (as seen from lsb_release -d) then starting from August 8, 2014 my kernel and graphics stack will no longer receive package updates?

Not true. 12.04.3 is not 12.04.3 HWE. And since HWE (and thus a new kernel series) cannot be introduced through regular package updates it is possible to update a non-HWE system to arrive at a later point release, such as 12.04.3, and still preserve the EOL date of April 2017.

  • What are the pros and cons of those options?

HWE Upgrade Only

Full 14.04 Upgrade

Fresh 14.04 Install


14.04/Trusty version (v3.13)

14.04/Trusty version (v3.13)

14.04/Trusty version (v3.13)


14.04/Trusty Xorg and drivers

14.04/Trusty Xorg and drivers

14.04/Trusty Xorg and drivers


12.04/Precise EOL (April 2017)

14.04/Trusty EOL (April 2019)

14.04/Trusty EOL (April 2019)


Generally no change1

Newer 14.04 versions will be installed, may need reconfiguring

Require complete installation and configuration

Time (minutes) 2



30, not including configuration

  1. It's important to note that changing the Linux kernel/Xorg stack can affect applications. For example the 14.04 kernel can online resize ext4 partitions much faster than the 12.04 kernel can. VirtualBox's DKMS kernel module fails to build with the lts-trusty HWE. (1)

  2. These are just estimates and do not include reboot times. Base downtime window length on tests performed in your environment. (2)

1204_HWE_EOL (last edited 2014-07-18 00:18:26 by seth-arnold)