Originally Posted by metallica1973
I can understand upgrading kernel on a server when you are in a business instead of having to upgrade it to a new distro and having to migrate over all of the previous configs. Is is worth upgrading only the kernel using a laptop and or desktop or is it better to upgrade the whole distribution? I feel that upgrading the distro on a laptop and or desktop is the way to go because everything else gets upgraded as well? Please correct me if I am wrong!
Any package can be upgraded without moving to a later version of your distribution. One consideration is how many dependencies the package has and thus how many packages you will have to upgrade simultaneously. There are very few packages that depend on the kernel version that you are using. Upgrading a kernel rarely involves upgrading any other package at the same time.
Linux is designed so that you can upgrade a program without having to even restart the program, much less reboot. Thus servers and other 24/7 systems can upgrade without a service disruption. The exception is the kernel which requires a reboot to go from one version to another. So deciding whether to upgrade a kernel depends on whether you are willing to reboot and not on the number of dependencies involved.
Some packages do have a lot of dependencies. The most important example is probably glibc. Others are KDE/Qt and Gnome/Gtk. Several years ago the answer to upgrading these packages was that it was easier to upgrade your whole distribution that to try to get all of the dependencies correct in one try. Now the distributions' package managers have become reliable enough that you can go through the more complicated dependency upgrades with a high (but not certain) degree of assurance that it will work OK.
I think that we are close to a new era in version management where it will never be necessary to do a complete upgrade install. Instead your distribution will update each package group on an as needed basis without having to reinstall everything on the same day.