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Unstable is where packages go after they've been uploaded by the maintainer, and cleared for release by the FTP master. If you use an unstable package, the only thing you can say with any certainty is that it compiled on the developer's system. It may contain [[DebianBug:155873|horrible bugs]]. Unstable is where packages go after they've been uploaded by the maintainer, and cleared for release by the FTP master. If you use an unstable package, the only thing you can say with any certainty is that it was compiled successfully. It may contain [[DebianBug:155873|horrible bugs]].

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DebianReleases > Debian Unstable


Debian Unstable (also known by its codename "Sid") is not strictly a release, but rather a rolling development version of the Debian distribution containing the latest and greatest packages which have been introduced into the Debian system. If you are a hardcore developer or tester you should use this release. If you are a power user you might also consider using Debian Testing. The best practices described below are applicable to testing users as well.

Life cycle

The Unstable repositories are updated every 6 hours. You can upgrade with apt-get dist-upgrade, taking all the necessary precautions beforehand of course.

The sequence of package propagation in the Debian development process is as follows:


See the auto-builder status.


How do I install Unstable?

See InstallFAQ.

What are some best practices for testing/sid users?

The most important thing is to keep in mind that you are participating in the development of Debian when you are tracking testing or unstable. This means that you should know your way around Linux, Debian and the Debian packaging system and that you should have an interest in tracking down and fixing bugs. There are a couple of things you can do in order to ease your life as a testing/sid user such as:

  • Always be careful when you perform updates and check if the actions proposed by the package managing tools are in line with your wishes and expectations. (i.e. make sure that you do not remove a plethora of packages you need by blindly accepting the proposed action)

  • Bearing this in mind, apt-get dist-upgrade to keep your system fully up-to-date, but if the proposed changes do look unreasonable, some of the simpler things that could help are:

    • put packages on hold until the problem in the archive is resolved,
    • use apt-get upgrade to avoid removals this time,

    • simply wait until the archive has settled down to a more reasonable state before upgrading.
  • Install the apt-listbugs and apt-listchanges packages in order to be made aware of grave bugs or important changes when you install new packages or during an upgrade.

  • Consider subscribing to debian-devel-announce@lists.debian.org (very low-traffic mailing list, 1 to 10 per month) to be notified on future technical changes or possible problems.

  • Keep a good live CD/USB such as Debian Live around at all times so you can still work on the system even if it is not booting anymore.

  • Automatically create daily, weekly and monthly backups in order to ensure that corrupted data is not a problem.

What's the current status of Unstable?

Some times are safer than others to upgrade packages in unstable, as at any given time, one or more OngoingTransitions may render some packages uninstallable, or release critical bugs may affect key packages. You should have a look at TopicDebianDevel (a mirror of the #debian-devel IRC channel topic, but that is not a place to ask for user support; see the next question) and Debian Weather.

Where can I get help with Sid?

You can get help in the #debian-next channel on http://www.oftc.net/ and on the mailing lists.

What is unstable?

Unstable is where packages go after they've been uploaded by the maintainer, and cleared for release by the FTP master. If you use an unstable package, the only thing you can say with any certainty is that it was compiled successfully. It may contain horrible bugs.

When packages have met certain criteria, they are automatically moved from unstable to the current "testing" branch. For more information about testing, see also the testing announcement.

For more information, see the Debian Releases page.

How do I install Sid?

The canonical answer is: Debian does not release unstable. You can only upgrade to it from testing. You do that by editing /etc/apt/sources.list and changing your sources from testing to unstable. (If you've currently got an installation of stable, then you should upgrade to testing first and then to unstable.)

It may also be possible to install sid packages instead of testing packages if you're using a net install from the testing branch. This is not supported, but if you want to try it, you're free to do so. It's your machine, after all. Just don't cry if it breaks.

Does Sid have package ''foo''?

Don't ask us -- you have the same resources available to you that we have! Here are some of them:

  • packages.debian.org has the version numbers of all the packages in all the branches.

  • On your local Debian system apt-cache search and aptitude search will let you search for packages. Use apt-cache policy PKG or rmadison PKG (from the devscripts package) to see which versions of the package are available.

  • In the #debian and #debian-next channels, the judd bot can be asked to provide package information. Type /msg judd info libc6 --release sid to see a short package description for the libc6 package in sid, or /msg judd versions libc6 to see the versions that are available.

  • Check for ITP and RFP bugs against the wnpp pseudo-package if the software has not been packaged yet.

  • If you ask the #debian-next channel whether sid has something (KDE version 3.2b or GNOME 2.5 or frobbitz version 42), we won't know! We would have to check for you, and then tell you. This is a sign of laziness on your part. You should check for yourself.

Is package foo broken?

Once again, how would you expect us to know? If it doesn't work for you, then there's a good chance it's broken -- but your problem may be common among users of package foo, or it may be unique to your system. That's why Debian has a Bug Tracking System (abbreviated as BTS). Check there before you ask for help with a package in sid. If you don't see your bug there, but you think it's a real problem in the package, then file a bug report yourself. Please read How to report a bug using reportbug and reportbug if you are unsure how to write a good bug report. You can also ask in the #debian-next or #debian-bugs channels for help.

If you don't see your problem listed in the BTS, but you aren't sure whether it's a real bug or just something you did wrong, then by all means ask for help. Be specific when you ask for help -- say what version of Debian you're using, what version of package foo, what you're doing (or trying to do), and what the error message says.

Failure to do your homework before asking for help with a package in sid demonstrates your laziness. We won't take you seriously until you've shown that you're taking Debian seriously.

If package foo is uninstallable, isn't that a bug?

No. See What's the current status of Unstable? Please do not file a bug, as it will not help resolve the problem any faster and just makes more work for the maintainers.

How do I know what version of package foo I'm using?

Check with

apt-cache policy package

When will package foo version bar be in sid?

When it is ready!

But I need package foo version bar right now!

Then go ahead and package it yourself. See the information in the Developers' Corner for details.

Can I use sid packages on stable?

No. Don't even bother trying. If you do it anyway, you get to keep all the pieces, and we get to laugh at you. You can, however, backport them to stable yourself which is explained below.

Can I use sid packages on testing?

Only if the dependencies are satisfied. In general, sid and testing are usually close to each other, except for when RC (release critical) bugs in some major package like libc or perl cause a slew of things to be held up. So your odds of getting the binary package to work in testing are pretty good... but you still need to check it out yourself.

If the library dependencies aren't satisfied, then you'll need to backport it.

How do I backport a sid package to testing or stable?

Install the Debian source (and the development tools, especially debhelper, devscripts, and build-essential), and then build the package.

Step by step:

  1. add a deb-src line for sid to your sources.list
  2. apt-get update

  3. apt-get build-dep PACKAGE_NAME

  4. apt-get -b source PACKAGE_NAME

The resulting debs should be in the current directory and can be installed with dpkg -i the.deb.

Aren't there already backports...?

Possibly. Check http://backports.debian.org/Packages/ first to see if someone has already done it.

Should I use sid on my server?

Are you insane? No!

Should I use sid on my desktop?

If you think you can handle a broken Debian system, sure. Do you know what to do if libpam0g breaks, preventing all logins? Do you know what to do if grub breaks, causing the boot process to hang forever? These things have happened. They will happen again.

If you'd like to avoid the brown-paper-bag bugs like these, then use testing instead.

Does sid have security updates?

Not in the same sense that stable does. If the maintainer of a package fixes a security bug and uploads the package, it'll go into sid by the normal means. If the maintainer doesn't do that, then it won't. The security team only covers stable (and possibly testing... there's a pending issue for that case).

Sid users are strongly urged to subscribe to the Debian security announce mailing list. And while you're at it, you should also be on the Debian devel announce list and Debian devel list.

When is sid going to be released?

Never. Sid will always be the unstable branch. When testing is released, then a new testing will be created (with a new codename), and packages will continue to trickle down from sid into testing just like they do now.

Which Toy Story character is Sid?

As with all Debian release names thus far, the Sid distribution takes its name from a ToyStory character. Sid is the kid next door who breaks his toys and makes nasty creatures of them. It is sometimes wrongly backronymed as "Still In Development". While other release code names progress in time from being testing to being stable, Sid is forever doomed to being unstable.

See also