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It's true that how precisely you upgrade your system depends on the distribution (distro) that you are using. However all Linux distros upgrade in a very similar way. Once you understand the basic principles, it's easy to upgrade any distro.
Every Linux distro has a repository, which is like an app store. This is where the software is to be found. All packages in the repository are safe to use, mutually compatible and free of viruses. Typically each package file comes with a signature file that is used to check its integrity.
Every Linux distro also has a package manager, a program that can unpack and install the packages. In practically all modern distros, the package manager goes to the repository itself, finds the packages you need, downloads them, checks their integrity, unpacks them and installs them. You don't have to do anything but twiddle your thumbs!
The same package manager can be used to install additional software or remove packages that you are not using and don't want.
Some distros have a unique package manager (for example Crux has prt-get and Gentoo has portage) but many package managers are more widely used. The Debian Apt system is used in all Debian derivatives such as Ubuntu and Mint.
Just find out what the package manager in your distro is called and read the associated documentation.
Dearcat, can you please open the application called Terminal and type in the following:
and then cut and paste the output on here please.
Assuming you are running Ubuntu, and if you don't know how to open the terminal, you can (i) press the Ctrl-Alt-T keys together, or (ii) press the Windows/Superkey, type in "terminal" (without the quotes) and hit Enter.
Personally I'm not keen on updating a distribution in place. I however do not participate in any of the rolling distributions.
Instead I keep my home directory away from the install and when I want a new distribution, I try it out via live boot and at some point I install it after having decided what additional tweaks it needs to become my new desktop boot of choice.
I'm a slow adopter, I keep distributions pretty much on a "per computer" basis and don't upgrade them until I do an entire new system.
However in having noticed this just after I posted:
Originally Posted by hydrurga
Dearcat, can you please open the application called Terminal and ...
OP, if you are getting a pop-up message telling you that "upgrades are ready for your computer" (or something similar), try clicking on the the message.
If the message appears to come from a little icon in the system tray (notification panel), you should also be able to click the little icon. Often, doing that opens a dialog with instructions on how to proceed.
Posters are referring to Ubuntu because the user agent icon in your post indicates that you posted from Ubuntu.