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This page gives directions on how to upgrade your Debian distribution.

How to release upgrade your distribution

Upgrading from one stable release to the next (e.g. buster to bullseye) is done by following the release notes for your architecture. For most users, that means the Release Notes for AMD64.

Back up your data

Performing a release upgrade is never without risk. The upgrade may fail, leaving the system in a non-functioning state. USERS SHOULD BACKUP ALL DATA before attempting a release upgrade. DebianStability contains more information on these steps.

Upgrading a system can take several hours, depending on the number of installed packages and the speed of the system, especially its hard disks. While the download portion of the upgrade can be done separately, the actual install portion should be done in a single pass. Most of the upgrade process is quite hands-off, but some administrator action is needed towards the end of the process if the system has a custom configuration.

Upgrades are done with package management tools, root or sudo access, and generally involve the following steps.

# First, ensure your system is up-to-date in it's current release.
$ sudo apt update
$ sudo apt upgrade

# If you haven't already, ensure all backups are up-to-date.  

# In a text editor, replace the codename of your release with that of the next release in APT's package sources
# For instance, the line
#    deb buster main
# should be replaced with
#    deb bullseye main
$ sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list /etc/apt/sources.list.d/*

# Clean and update package lists
$ sudo apt clean
$ sudo apt update

# Perform the major release upgrade, removing packages if required
# Interrupting this step after downloading has completed is an excellent way to stress-test your backups
$ sudo apt full-upgrade

# Remove packages that are not required anymore
# Be sure to review this list: you may want to keep some of them
$ sudo apt autoremove

# Reboot to make changes effective (optional, but recommended)
$ sudo shutdown -r now

Now check the output of  uname -a ; lsb_release -a  and you should see info about the upgraded system.