I'm currently downloading Debian 6 DVD.

I don't want to use Stable, I want to use Testing or Sid, but I don't know wich one is better for me.

Is Sid really unstable ? Is Testing up-to-date like Arch does ? Or it's like a non-rolling release distro ?


  • 3
    If you use Testing or Sid, I recommend you strongly to install apt-listbugs. It warns you before you update a package for which grave/serious bugs were reported to the bug tracking system. With it, the probably of getting a broken system or other nasty problems is much lower. – jofel May 17 '13 at 9:14

There is an interesting part of Debian GNU/Linux FAQ devoted to this question. In particular the choice depends on

  • security/stability considerations
  • expertise of the user
  • need for newer versions of software
  • support for new hardware

I would like to point out the following passage from that page:

  • Stable is rock solid. It does not break.

  • Testing breaks less often than Unstable. But when it breaks, it takes a long time for things to get rectified. Sometimes this could be days and it could be months at times.

  • Unstable changes a lot, and it can break at any point. However, fixes get rectified in many occasions in a couple of days and it always has the latest releases of software packaged for Debian.

  • Perfect answer. – bahamat Sep 13 '11 at 15:49

Using unstable implies you "know what you are doing". You have to be able to fix problems if they occur. Unstable tends to break occasionally in a major way. Not everyone has this level of expertise. In general, I advise people to run testing, which practically never has the major problems that unstable has, since problems with packages typically get caught on their way through unstable. I think this is a case of, if you have to ask, you shouldn't do it. :-) Also, using testing is better towards the end of the release cycle, once it is frozen and on route to becoming the next stable.

Having said that, why not run stable? I do. If you want more up to date package, you can backport to stable to a limited extent. There are some packages available at the official backports site, or you can do it yourself.


Packages arrive into testing after they have been sufficiently tested on sid, specifically, two weeks without any outstanding bug reports. Testing is an RC version, so to speak. It is typically a few days behind sid in terms of the latest software.

If you're not doing any Debian-specific development on your machine, go with testing. If you're planning to contribute to Debian, you'd be better off with sid, since all new changes have to work on a sid environment.

That said, I have been using sid on my desktop for over a year without any crashes.

Details: http://www.debian.org/doc/FAQ/ch-ftparchives#s-testing

  • "two weeks" - nowadays, the figure is quoted as 2~10 days. I'm not sure the packages I currently want are adhering to that figure, though! But I'll err on the side of caution and stay in testing for now. – underscore_d Apr 24 '16 at 16:12

To get the most updated packages but still have a usable system, you should use testing. Unstable should be used only by developers and people who like to contribute in Debian by testing the quality and stability of packages, fixing bugs, etc. From a user's and non-Debian developer's perspective you will feel much more comfortable using Debian testing rather than unstable. So I personally recommend Debian Testing, not Sid.

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