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I'm still working on Debian squeeze which will be supported for only about 1 more year (it is server with KVM). How long is it possible to work on an old version of Debian (after Debian gets old) when is it no more supported?

How long is it secure and stable to work on an old version of Debian, in my case Squeeze (after is it no more supported)?

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If the system faces untrusted networks I would highly recommend not using any unsupported software. On the other hand on an embedded system running in a trusted environment I would not object running Debian Sarge. – Marco Dec 29 '12 at 11:26
up vote 4 down vote accepted

"Stable and secure" is a subjective evaluation. "Unsupported", however, can be clearly defined in this context: the binary repository your system is tied to will no longer be maintained.

That means if the day after the support ends a new version of some software is released by its upstream developers, including (eg.) a critical bug fix because someone found a security vulnerability, then you will never see it via an automatic update, because there will be no more updates to anything in squeeze.

If you have not been keeping the system updated, this will obviously make no difference to you. However, if you do apply updates regularly, then you will now be out of the loop; there won't be any more.

So, if you consider such support integral to maintaining a "stable and secure" system, then the answer to "how long will this be okay?" is until you fall victim to an issue that you could have avoided via updates. That is the definition I would use, and it could mean 3 days, 3 months, or 300 years. No one is going to be able to predict or estimate that amount, as there is no data to analyse vis., how many such failures have occurred in relation to how many such systems exist, etc.

However, if you are not worried about keeping the software updated with security fixes, etc. then the answer is as long as you want. You can use squeeze for the rest of your life and still think of it as "stable and secure". Until something goes horribly wrong, lol.

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The distribution won't magically stop working once the support period is over, but you risk problems. The most salient problem is that if a security issue is discovered in an application, you will remain vulnerable since you won't be getting updates. This also goes for major bugs that you may not have run into yet, so it is a concern even for an isolated, single-user system. For example, it's likely that some programs in current releases will not work correctly with dates past 2038 (which is when 32-bit dates counted in seconds since 1970-01-01 wrap around to negative values). Time zone indications also change over time as countries change their legislation. So it's better to keep your system up-to-date.

Apart from those security and date-related issues, a system that's been working fine will keep working. Your system will remain as stable as it was — i.e. typically long periods of running fine with the occasional trouble, and the runnnig fine won't stop but the trouble may become harder to fix. It's impossible to quantify when problems will occur. It's a risk. It's up to you to decide whether it's worth not upgrading.

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