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Set default kernel in GRUB

Solutons:


After struggling for 2 hours, I have found a much easier way to achieve this. I just RTFM. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Add two lines to /etc/default/grub

GRUB_SAVEDEFAULT=true
GRUB_DEFAULT=saved

Do the sudo update-grub, reboot, get into your grub menu and select whichever menu or submenu item you need. The choice will be saved every time and then your computer will boot into it automatically. When you manually choose a different entry, that becomes the new default.

I think most distributions have moved additional kernels into the advanced options sub menu at this point, as TomTom found was the case with his
Arch.

I didn’t want to alter my top level menu structure in order to select a previous kernel as the default. I found the answer here:

http://www.humans-enabled.com/2014/08/how-to-set-default-grub-kernel-boot.html

To summarize:

1) Find the $menuentry_id_option for the submenu:

$ grep submenu /boot/grub/grub.cfg
submenu 'Advanced options for Debian GNU/Linux' $menuentry_id_option 'gnulinux-advanced-38ea4a12-6cfe-4ed9-a8b5-036295e62ffc' {

2) Find the $menuentry_id_option for the menu entry for the kernel you want to use:

$ grep gnulinux /boot/grub/grub.cfg
menuentry 'Debian GNU/Linux' --class debian --class gnu-linux --class gnu --class os $menuentry_id_option 'gnulinux-simple-38ea4a12-6cfe-4ed9-a8b5-036295e62ffc' {
submenu 'Advanced options for Debian GNU/Linux' $menuentry_id_option 'gnulinux-advanced-38ea4a12-6cfe-4ed9-a8b5-036295e62ffc' {
    menuentry 'Debian GNU/Linux, with Linux 4.18.0-0.bpo.1-rt-amd64' --class debian --class gnu-linux --class gnu --class os $menuentry_id_option 'gnulinux-4.18.0-0.bpo.1-rt-amd64-advanced-38ea4a12-6cfe-4ed9-a8b5-036295e62ffc' {
    menuentry 'Debian GNU/Linux, with Linux 4.18.0-0.bpo.1-rt-amd64 (recovery mode)' --class debian --class gnu-linux --class gnu --class os $menuentry_id_option 'gnulinux-4.18.0-0.bpo.1-rt-amd64-recovery-38ea4a12-6cfe-4ed9-a8b5-036295e62ffc' {
    menuentry 'Debian GNU/Linux, with Linux 4.18.0-0.bpo.1-amd64' --class debian --class gnu-linux --class gnu --class os $menuentry_id_option 'gnulinux-4.18.0-0.bpo.1-amd64-advanced-38ea4a12-6cfe-4ed9-a8b5-036295e62ffc' {
    menuentry 'Debian GNU/Linux, with Linux 4.18.0-0.bpo.1-amd64 (recovery mode)' --class debian --class gnu-linux --class gnu --class os $menuentry_id_option 'gnulinux-4.18.0-0.bpo.1-amd64-recovery-38ea4a12-6cfe-4ed9-a8b5-036295e62ffc' {
    menuentry 'Debian GNU/Linux, with Linux 4.17.0-0.bpo.1-amd64' --class debian --class gnu-linux --class gnu --class os $menuentry_id_option 'gnulinux-4.17.0-0.bpo.1-amd64-advanced-38ea4a12-6cfe-4ed9-a8b5-036295e62ffc' {
    menuentry 'Debian GNU/Linux, with Linux 4.17.0-0.bpo.1-amd64 (recovery mode)' --class debian --class gnu-linux --class gnu --class os $menuentry_id_option 'gnulinux-4.17.0-0.bpo.1-amd64-recovery-38ea4a12-6cfe-4ed9-a8b5-036295e62ffc' {
    menuentry 'Debian GNU/Linux, with Linux 4.9.0-8-amd64' --class debian --class gnu-linux --class gnu --class os $menuentry_id_option 'gnulinux-4.9.0-8-amd64-advanced-38ea4a12-6cfe-4ed9-a8b5-036295e62ffc' {
    menuentry 'Debian GNU/Linux, with Linux 4.9.0-8-amd64 (recovery mode)' --class debian --class gnu-linux --class gnu --class os $menuentry_id_option 'gnulinux-4.9.0-8-amd64-recovery-38ea4a12-6cfe-4ed9-a8b5-036295e62ffc' {

3) Comment out your current default grub in /etc/default/grub and replace it with the sub-menu’s $menuentry_id_option from step one, and the selected kernel’s $menuentry_id_option from step two separated by >.

In my case the modified GRUB_DEFAULT is:

#GRUB_DEFAULT=0

GRUB_DEFAULT="gnulinux-advanced-38ea4a12-6cfe-4ed9-a8b5-036295e62ffc>gnulinux-4.18.0-0.bpo.1-amd64-advanced-38ea4a12-6cfe-4ed9-a8b5-036295e62ffc"

4) Update grub to make the changes. For Debian this is done like so:

$ sudo update-grub

Done. Now when you boot, the advanced menu should have an asterisk and you should boot into the selected kernel. You can confirm this with uname.

$ uname -a
Linux NAME 4.18.0-0.bpo.1-amd64 #1 SMP Debian 4.18.0-0 (2018-09-13) x86_64 GNU/Linux

Changing this back to the most recent kernel is as simple as commenting out the new line and uncommenting #GRUB_DEFAULT=0:

GRUB_DEFAULT=0

#GRUB_DEFAULT="gnulinux-advanced-38ea4a12-6cfe-4ed9-a8b5-036295e62ffc>gnulinux-4.18.0-0.bpo.1-amd64-advanced-38ea4a12-6cfe-4ed9-a8b5-036295e62ffc"

then rerunning update-grub.

As mentioned in the comments, you can set the default kernel to boot into using the grub-set-default X command, where X is the number of the kernel you want to boot into. In some distributions you can also set this number by editing the /etc/default/grub file and setting GRUB_DEFAULT=X, and then running update-grub.

The number is the index to an array of kernels/kernel settings shown in the GRUB menu during boot, with 0 being the first (top-most) entry. You can usually find the right number by looking for menuentry lines in /boot/grub/grub.cfg, like so:

grep menuentry /boot/grub/grub.cfg

You’ll see each kernel listed with the name that is shown in the GRUB boot menu. The first one is 0, the second is 1, and so on.

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