One thing I personally have found confusing is why so many Distros use different kernels and if there was a reason for this and were any security risks. Not being able to find a definitive answer online I asked Jessie Smith at Distrowatch and I received this reply.
The short answer is distributions use (typically) whichever stable
kernel version came out just before the distribution’s latest version
was launched. In Mint’s case, their main edition is based on Ubuntu and
their LMDE is based on Debian. Since they use different bases they use
There are security issues from not using patched kernels, but
distributions which do not constantly update their kernel version (like
Arch does) usually add fixes to their kernel package. So the kernel gets
updated with security fixes even if it is not the latest available
version of the kernel.
This helped me to understand and to cease worrying about it. So if you’ve every wondered now you know.
If you are using a Ubuntu based system this is their kernel progression:
They keep their own kernel schedule.
Thanks for that. It is very clear about the Ubuntu kernels
I would only add that many Linux installations support multiple kernels and if the latest stable strains your hardware, there’s no reason not to use the kernel series which works the best. I have an old laptop that runs 4.4 series perfectly, but stumbles running 4.15. Since the 4.4 series is still being actively developed, it will remain secure.
Moreover, part of the Zen on Linux is that you can totally borc your system and recreate it again from scratch in less than 2 hours. Meanwhile most minor catastrophes can fixed in 5 minutes with Timeshift.
So who’s afraid of the big bad kernel?
A year and a half ago I bought a Lenovo X1 Carbon, 5th generation (the 6th gen is out now). At the time I purchased the Carbon it was quite new on the market and the kernel distributed with Ubuntu 18.04 LTS did not at that point support all the hardware in the X1 (issues with the sound system and something else that I’ve forgotten.) So I had to install a newer kernel version and all was well.
I believe you should use a kernel that is still actively supported so that you get updates when new security flaws are discovered, even though an old kernel runs fine.
Currently I’m using 4.19.29. The 4.19.xx kernel series is an LTS kernel. It has been completely stable on the X1.
I guess the point I was trying to get across is that which kernel you use does matter. As you point out your spanking new machine runs best on the latest sable kernel.
Since it’s never been easier to pick and choose which kernel runs, it seems like a reasonable way to improve the performance of any machine–young or old!