How to Update Debian


Debian Linux has an intuitive package management system that lets you download one program or upgrade the entire system. With thousands of programs in its repositories, Debian can pull together all the peripheral software (or "dependencies") your new program needs to run, and it can install them. A system upgrade takes much more time and bandwidth, but the Apt and Synaptic package programs -- which are used by all Debian derivatives including Ubuntu -- will help keep your system current.

Things You'll Need

  • Root access
  • Internet connection

Upgrading With Synaptic

  • Select the Synaptic Package Manager from your menu.

  • Enter your root password when prompted, then click OK.

  • Click on "Reload" in the Synaptic toolbar. Wait for the repositories to update themselves on your computer.

  • Click on "Mark All Upgrades" in the Synaptic toolbar, then select "Apply."

  • Inspect the list of packages that will be added and updated, and click Apply to continue with the upgrade.

  • Wait until all downloads and installations are complete. In a full upgrade, several hundred megabytes may be downloaded.

  • Click on "Close" when the upgrade is completed.

Upgrading From the Command Line

  • Open a command shell by selecting Terminal from your menu.

  • Type "su -" (without the quotes) to gain root access, then hit "Enter." When prompted, type in your root password and hit "Enter" again.

  • Type "apt-get update" to bring your software repositories up to date. Wait until your usual command prompt returns to the command shell, indicating that process is completed.

  • Type "apt-get dist-upgrade" and hit "Enter."

  • Read the command shell printout to see what packages are involved and how large a download this will be. Type "y" and "Enter" to continue, or "n" and "Enter" to abort.

  • Wait for the packages to download and install. A complete upgrade often means a download of several hundred megabytes.

Tips & Warnings

  • If your Debian installation is based from the testing or unstable branches, do not upgrade too soon after a new version of Debian Stable is released.
  • You can upgrade your system while doing other work on the computer. Whether a program is running or not does not affect upgrades.
  • Updating does carry some risk, as you can break your operating system. If your Debian installation is built from the testing or unstable branches, the risk is greater.
  • Back up your/home directory to a thumb drive or optical disk before starting your upgrade.
  • The root command shell gives you access to your system files, so be careful of what you do there.

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