How to Update Firmware on Ubuntu 18.04 [Quick Tip]


Usually, the default software center in Ubuntu and other Linux handle the update of the firmware of your system. But if you encounter errors with it, you can use fwupd command line tool
for updating the firmware of your system.

I use Dell XPS 13 Ubuntu edition as my main operating system. I have done a fresh installation of Ubuntu 18.04 on it and I cannot
be happier with the hardware compatibility. Bluetooth, external USB headsets and speakers, multi-monitor, everything works out of the box.

The one thing that troubled me was one of the firmware updates that appeared in the Software

Updating firmware in Ubuntu

Clicking on the Update button resulted in an error a few seconds later.

Updating firmware in Ubuntu

The error message was:

Unable to update “Thunderbolt NVM for Xps Notebook 9360”: could not detect device after update: timed out while waiting for device

In this quick tip, I’ll show you how to update the firmware of your system in Ubuntu.

Updating firmware in Ubuntu 18.04

How to update firmware in Ubuntu

One thing you should know that GNOME Software i.e. the software center in Ubuntu 18.04 is also capable of updating the firmware. But in situations when it fails for some reason, you can
use the command line tool fwupd.

fwupd is an open source daemon that handles firmware upgrades in Linux based systems. It is
created by GNOME developer Richard Hughes. Developers from Dell also contributed to the
development of this open source tool.

Basically, it utilizes the LVFS, Linux Vendor Firmware Service. Hardware vendors upload redistributable firmware to the LVFS site and thanks to fwupd, you can upgrade those firmware from
inside the operating system itself. fwupd is supported by major Linux distributions like Ubuntu and Fedora.

Step 1: Check if your system is supported by LVFS

Since LVFS depends upon hardware vendors, it’s a good idea to check if your system manufacturer supports this feature or not.

Find out your system model and then go to this web page and see if it’s listed:

Step 2: Using fwupd for updating fimrware

Normally, fwupd should already be installed on your Linux system. If not, install it using the package manager of your distribution.

Open a terminal and update your system first (commands applicable for Debian and Ubuntu-based distributions):

sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade -y

After that you can use the following commands one by one to start the daemon, refresh the list of available firmware updates and install the firmware updates.

sudo service fwupd start

Once the daemon is running, check if there are any firmware updates available.

sudo fwupdmgr refresh

The output should look like this:

Fetching metadata
Downloading…                         [****************************]
Fetching signature

After this, run the firmware update:

sudo fwupdmgr update

The output of the firmware update could be similar to this:

No upgrades for XPS 13 9360 TPM 2.0, current is
No upgrades for XPS 13 9360 System Firmware, current is,,,,,,,,,,,
Downloading 21.00 for XPS13 9360 Thunderbolt Controller…
Updating 21.00 on XPS13 9360 Thunderbolt Controller…
Decompressing…    [***********]
Authenticating…      [***********] 
Restarting device… [***********]

This should handle the firmware update in Ubuntu 18.04. I hope this quick tip helped you with firmware updates in Linux.

If you have questions or suggestions, please feel free to use the comment section below.

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