I am on Debian Wheezy (stable) and routinely update my system via the basic:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

In the future, once Jessie becomes the stable release, I wonder whether Wheezy will automagically become Jessie if I keep doing dist-upgrade, or not.

Will there be ANY manual steps needed, to make sure to always be on the current Stable release (years into the future, e.g. Sid after Jessie), or am I set to go as I am?

E.g. do I have to modify my sources.list file in some sort of way to ensure Jessie will simply saunter in without any manual steps down the track, or will some 'big' update ('dist-upgrade') do it all for me and change all instances of wheezy to jessie when it knows to do so?

(Every single line in my sources.list has wheezy in it. Perhaps I need only remove wheezy from them?)

I am a bit of a newcomer (from OS X, and before that Windows), so am not sure how 'release upgrades' on the same channel can be done automatically on Debian - where, OS X simply offers, via its automatic updates, full upgrades to its next (stable/ready) release with no manual checking required or complicated steps apart from normal system update checking.


3 Answers 3


If the lines in your sources.list say "wheezy", you will stay with Wheezy even when Jessie is released. If you change those lines to say "stable" instead, apt will upgrade you to Jessie when it's released, because "stable" will become an alias for "jessie" instead of "wheezy". (And if you change those lines to say "jessie", you'll upgrade to Jessie now, even though it's still in testing and hasn't been released as "stable" yet.)

Although it may be tempting to change your sources.list to say "stable" so that you upgrade to new stable releases automatically, I don't recommend it. The upgrade process may have special steps you'll want or need to do in addition to (and possibly before) upgrading packages, so it's better to wait for Jessie to be released and then look at the release notes before making the switch. (In practice, just upgrading the packages is usually okay, but it's safer to wait and read the release notes first. Look before you leap.)

BTW, Sid will never become a stable release. It's the permanent name of the "unstable" repository, and doesn't participate in the progression of names through the "testing" and "stable" aliases. After Jessie is released, some other Toy Story character will be chosen for the new "testing", and Sid will remain unstable as ever.

  • In short: as with so many other things Linux, this is entirely up to the administrator of the system. If you want it to upgrade automatically, it will... if you don't want it to upgrade at all, that's possible too.
    – user
    Mar 14, 2015 at 20:07
  • I can confirm the Wheezy automagically becomes Jessie. My sources.list only has Wheezy, When I run cat /etc/debian_version, it returns 8.2. This happens after a normal apt-get upgrade. Does anyone know why? Sep 11, 2015 at 1:02

No, the upgrade won't be automatic, you have to manually replace every instance of wheezy by jessie in your /etc/apt/sources.list.

Alternatively, you could replace them with stable and then, the upgrade will be automatic once Jessie is released.

Note that I wouldn't recommend the latter if you use unattended-upgrades, because your system may end up being a mix between stable and oldstable.

Last thing, apt-get dist-upgrade is usually only needed when you upgrade to a new release; the difference between upgrade and dist-upgrade is that upgrade only upgrades packages, whereas dist-upgrade is able to install new packages or delete conflicting packages. Normally, during a stable release's lifecycle, package dependencies don't change, so upgrade should be enough for day-to-day upgrades (of course, if you add third-party repositories, they may not follow Debian's strict policy regarding this matter, and package dependencies may change).

  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – MoonSweep
    Mar 14, 2015 at 17:45
  • i think it's just a difference of opinion no beef :) and BTW, i don't consider say, 7.6 to 7.7 or 7.8 a new release so i think that's where i may have misunderstood what you were saying
    – mchid
    Mar 14, 2015 at 17:50
  • 1
    No, indeed, those are not new releases but only new "point releases", and they're not supposed to introduce new dependencies either.
    – MoonSweep
    Mar 14, 2015 at 19:29

As mentioned it will only be automatic if you have "stable" in the source.list file, if you specifically have "wheezy" it won't automatically happen when you run an apt-get upgrade.

This is noted in the full release notes here.

Or take a look at a cut down guide which covers this here.

Essentially the sources.list must have either jessie or stable, then you run an apt-get upgrade / apt-get dist-upgrade. These alone are not automatic by default as far as I am aware, in my environment however I have the apt-get upgrade set to run weekly as a cron job, as I had stable in my sources.list this basically made some of my servers automatically upgrade to the minimal jessie installation.

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