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Is it important which version of a rolling release I start from? For example, if I download a version of Arch Linux 6 months older than the latest on the website, and then run update & upgrade, isn't it the same of running the same command on the latest version?

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    Probably yes, but the evil is in the details – Basile Starynkevitch Jun 28 '15 at 10:18
  • I am pretty sure Debian is the exact opposite of a rolling release. The Debian team focuses on stability and only make a release when it is ready. Rolling releases do not have versions. – StrongBad Jun 28 '15 at 10:22
  • Arch Linux then – Dom Jun 28 '15 at 10:32
  • @StrongBad Debian testing is pretty close to a rolling release... – Stephen Kitt Jun 28 '15 at 12:14
  • @StephenKitt sure, but you do not install Debian testing from a downloaded installer so it does not make much sense for this question. – StrongBad Jun 28 '15 at 12:31
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In a perfect and smooth world, you would be able to start with a several years-old version and get the same thing after update as if you had started with the very last version available.

But as Basile said, the evil is in the details. The Arch wiki recommend to do regular upgrades, mainly to avoid having plenty of manual interventions required at the same time on different packages.

Most of the time, when you upgrade your system, everything will work like a charm. But it only needs a few tricky updates (like the systemd/SysV) among the hundreds to get a real mess. And the chance of having such updates grows with the age of the system you upgrade.

So, maybe starting from a monthly-old system will work fine, but I don't get the point of taking the risk to loose time doing boring stuff to get things work when you just have to download a fresh iso to reduce this risk dramatically.

  • The Arch installer does not install the packages from the installer, but rather fetches them from the package repository. – StrongBad Jun 28 '15 at 12:49
  • Yeah, so? Saying that you will get the same state after an upgrade no matter the age of the system you start with is simply false because some updates require manual intervention, hence the state of a system depends on its history, not only the state of the repository. – Adrien Jun 28 '15 at 12:52
  • But with Arch there is no reason to do an upgrade immediately after installation no matter how old the installer is. – StrongBad Jun 28 '15 at 12:55
  • After reading it again, I am not sure whether Dom's question is about the version of the installer or the version of Arch you start with. If this is the installer, I am indeed off topic for Arch in particular (but my answer applies for distros with an installer embedding and using old packages). – Adrien Jun 28 '15 at 13:10
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Arch Linux periodically releases an installer image. The Arch installer, unlike the Debian installer, always installs, or attempts to install, the newest version of Arch, regardless of the "version" of the installer (assuming a somewhat recent installer from the past few years). The Arch installer downloads the newest version of packages from the Arch repos and therefore no matter what version of the installer you use, you will end up with an identical system.

The Debian installer installs a specific version of distro. Upgrading from, for example, old stable to stable, should theoretically give you an identical system, but there could be differences in the default packages installed. There could also be incompatibiities in the upgrade pathway, although the Debian team tries to avoid these issues. Using the Debian installer for stable, but a slightly dated point release, will likely install the core packages from the installer image. Depending on the installer type, it might install all packages from the image or it might install the most recent packages from the stable repositiory. After installing, you can update the packages to the most recent version. This is a much more throughly tested procedure and will like result in a identical system independent of the installer version.

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