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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 packages that have been introduced into Debian.

As with all Debian release names, Sid takes its name from a ToyStory character. In the movie, Sid is the kid next door who breaks his toys and makes nasty creatures of them.

While other release code names progress in time from being "testing" to being "stable", Sid is forever doomed to being unstable. Sid will always be the unstable branch. When the current "testing" repository becomes mature and is released, "testing" becomes the latest "stable" release. From there, a new "testing" repository will be created with the next planned code name, and packages will continue to trickle down from Sid into "testing" just as before.

Sid is where packages go after they've been uploaded by their maintainer, and cleared for release by the FTP master. When packages have met certain criteria, they are automatically moved from Sid to the current "testing" repository. The "Unstable" repository is updated every 6 hours.

Sid exclusively gets security updates through its package maintainers. The Debian Security Team only maintains security updates for the current "stable" release.

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


There are no "unstable" full CD or DVD images. Due to the fact that the packages in "unstable" change so quickly, it is more appropriate for people to download and install "unstable" using a normal Debian FTP mirror.

If you are aware of the risks, choose one of the following ways to get set up on Sid:

  • Use the current "stable" installer to install a minimal stable system (recommended).

    • Change your /etc/apt/sources.list file to point to "unstable".

    • Run apt update and apt full-upgrade.

  • Use the current "testing" installer to install a minimal stable system.

    • Change your /etc/apt/sources.list file to point to "unstable".

    • Run apt update and apt full-upgrade.

  • Use the Unstable "mini.iso" image.
    • Download the "mini.iso" for your location and CPU architecture located here: Debian mirrors under debian/dists/unstable/main/installer-*/current/images/netboot/

    • During the installation choose "Advanced options" -> "Expert install".

    • In the step "Choose a mirror of the Debian archive" choose version "sid - unstable".


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.

There are a couple of things you can do in order to ease your life as a testing/sid user such as:

  • Automatically create daily, weekly and monthly backups in order to ensure that corrupted data is not a problem.
  • Use a COW supported filesystem like btrfs or take advantage of LVM snapshots. Take snapshots before and after an upgrade. In case, if the system is in unrecoverable position, rollback to the last snapshot from a system rescue LiveCD.

  • 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)

  • In regards to handling updates with the package manager, keep in mind a few of the following tips:
    • Use apt upgrade instead of apt full-upgrade to avoid unwanted removal of any packages that you depend on.

    • Wait until the archive has settled down to a more reasonable state before upgrading.
    • Put packages on hold until the problem in the archive is resolved.
  • You may also want to disable or remove unattended-upgrades to be in control when package updates take place especially on unstable.

  • 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.

Does Sid have package "X"?

You can track the status of any package on by using the Debian Package Tracker.

Is package "X" broken?

If it doesn't work for you, then there's a good chance it's broken. Your problem may either be unique to your system or experienced between several users. Because of this, Debian has a Bug Tracking System (abbreviated as BTS). Feel free to submit a bug report if you don't see your bug already there. Please read How to report a bug using reportbug and reportbug if you are unsure how to write a good bug report.

Can I use Sid packages on "stable" or "testing"?

Trying to do so is highly discouraged. Attempting to mix packages between Debian repositories will likely create an unusable system. For more information about best practices, check out DontBreakDebian.

If you wish to use newer software, it is best to install packages from Backports.

Where can I get help with Sid?

You can get help in the #debian-next channel on OFTC and on the mailing lists.

See also