linux kernel

Linux Basics: Understanding the Linux Kernel and Modules

In this installment of our Linux Basics series, we will delve into the heart of the Linux operating system – the Linux kernel. We will explore what the kernel is, how to check its version, and how to manage kernel modules.

What is the Linux Kernel?

The Linux kernel, simply referred to as the kernel, is the core part of any Linux system. It is the bridge between applications and the actual data processing done at the hardware level. The kernel has full control over the system and connects the operating system to the hardware of a computer.

How to Check the Kernel Version

Knowing your kernel version can be vital when troubleshooting, installing new software, or checking compatibility issues. To check the version of the kernel your system is running, use the uname command with the -r option:

uname -r

This command will output the version of your current Linux kernel.

Understanding Kernel Modules

Kernel modules are pieces of code that can be loaded and unloaded into the kernel upon demand. They extend the functionality of the kernel without the need to reboot the system. For example, every piece of hardware in your system needs a driver to function – these drivers are often kernel modules.

How to Check Loaded Kernel Modules

The lsmod command displays a list of loaded kernel modules. Simply run:


You’ll see a list of all the kernel modules currently loaded in your system.

How to Add or Remove Kernel Modules

The modprobe command is used to add or remove modules from the Linux Kernel. For instance, to add a module named example_module, you’d use:

sudo modprobe example_module

To remove it, you’d use:

sudo modprobe -r example_module

Remember, you should only add or remove modules if you understand what they do. Misuse of the modprobe command could destabilize your system.

Updating the Linux Kernel

Linux distributions often provide updates to the Linux kernel. These updates can introduce new features, improve performance, fix bugs, and offer better hardware support. However, updating the kernel can sometimes lead to issues with hardware or software compatibility, so it’s important to back up your data before proceeding.

The procedure to update the kernel varies across different Linux distributions.

On Ubuntu/Debian-Based Systems

You can use the standard system update process:

sudo apt update

sudo apt upgrade

This will fetch updates for all packages, including the kernel.

On Fedora, CentOS, AlmaLinux, and Rocky Linux

Use the dnf package manager to update all packages, including the kernel:

sudo dnf update

After updating the kernel, you need to reboot your system to apply the changes:

sudo reboot

Remember, after the system reboots, you can check your kernel version with uname -r to ensure the new version is running.

Updating the kernel can offer significant improvements but it’s important to ensure the update doesn’t introduce instability or incompatibility to your system. Always back up your data before performing a kernel update and test thoroughly after the update. 

Understanding the kernel and its modules is crucial to mastering Linux. The kernel forms the heart of the Linux operating system and bridges the gap between software and hardware. Learning about kernel modules allows you to further understand how Linux handles various hardware and software tasks. For more tips and tricks, check out the rest of our Linux Basics series.