Very often now I have seen sources.list files (including my own) that contain lines like these:

deb     http://security.debian.org/         testing/updates main contrib non-free
deb     http://security.debian.org/         wheezy/updates  main contrib non-free
deb     http://http.debian.net/debian       wheezy-updates  main

I understood the meaning of the components (main, contrib and non-free). I also partially understood the meaning of the distribution (wheezy, testing, stable etc.) and that of the path. This is all well documented in the wiki.

  • But what does the /updates or -updates mean?
  • Should I write it with - or / myself?
  • How am I supposed to know that?

1 Answer 1


Here is an explanation of the three source URIs you have listed.

  1. wheezy-updates: See the StableUpdates page on the Debian Wiki

    As the page explains,

    This path will be used for updates which many users may wish to install on their systems before the next point release is made, such as updates to virus scanners and timezone data.

    These were previously known as volatile.

  2. Both wheezy/updates and testing/updates are security fixes, to the stable release and testing respectively. Security fixes for testing are relatively recent, and supported on a best-effort basis.

    These correspond to the pages Security Information for wheezy/updates and security fixes for testing for testing/updates.

If you are asking why these have different forms, that is just how the people concerned choose how to have things set up. The / forward slash corresponds to the structure of the underlying URL, which in turn corresponds to the directory structure of the corresponding apt repository.

So, for example

  1. the source URI

    deb http://http.debian.net/debian wheezy-updates main

    corresponds to the URL


  2. the source URI

    deb http://security.debian.org/ testing/updates main contrib non-free

    corresponds to the URL


  3. the source URI

    deb http://debian.lcs.mit.edu/debian/ wheezy-updates main contrib non-free

    corresponds to the URL


  • So (in a production environment) one should never only take the stable deb but ever also the stable/updates, because the stable might have open security issues? (Thanks btw for the nice answer!)
    – Matmarbon
    Aug 2, 2014 at 16:35
  • @Matmarbon No, you should use both. The stable/updates only contains security updates. For everything else, you will need the stable sources. Aug 2, 2014 at 17:48
  • Example nr 1 looks wrong to me? Shouldn't the URL contains wheezy-updates instead of wheezy/updates? Dec 14, 2020 at 17:51
  • @MartinvonWittich Can you give more details why you think it's wrong? If you mean the security.debian.org url, then security.debian.org/dists/wheezy/updates is hte right form, though I'm not sure why I wrote that that the first URL corresponds to the second. Dec 15, 2020 at 6:55
  • @FaheemMitha: I meant the first URL. When the distribution is called "wheezy-updates", the URL should also contain "wheezy-updates", and not "wheezy/updates". Stephen Kitt has fixed it now. Dec 15, 2020 at 11:56

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