I currently have Fedora 23 on my main work machine and the way configuration files are handled on updates is very nice. In some cases I change the configuration file that was installed by some package.

On non-config-breaking updates, dnf/RPM will just put the new configuration file next to the current one and append .rpmnew. When there is a config-breaking update it will move my changed one to .rpmsave and use the packaged one. In either case I can review the changes any time I wish with rpmconf -a.

On Debian and Ubuntu the default behaviour is to ask during the upgrade. I find this more and more irritating as a package update will often ask whether to replace some configuration file or not. In the meantime everything is halted.

Automatic updates (with unattended-upgrades, nothing self-made) will sometimes just fail as there is something left unconfigured. The package management seems to be in a limbo state which only becomes apparent when I want to install something manually. Only an apt-get install -f would get it back into working fashion and almost always prompt me for some configuration file to decide upon. In the meantime no other updates had been installed. On machines that are rarely administrated actively this seems bad.

I see the virtue in Debian's default that the system is never in the state where it has a configuration file that does not match the software version installed. However this introduces some friction in just keeping a software up to date automatically.

Is there some way to tell Debian some default to use for new packages? Then I would just do something like the rpmconf -a step every now and then.


This question is a duplicate of:

And the answer is given on this blog post:

  • It's an apples/oranges comparison: RPM doesn't show the differences and is not interactive. Debian is interactive and as a rule allows you to inspect the differences during the install and choose whether to use the installer's version or not. So there's no overlap between the two approaches. Jan 1, 2016 at 21:29
  • I do not think that it is apple and oranges in the following sense: Both package management systems install updates and stumble upon manually changed configuration files. Their default way to deal with that do differ. Are you saying that there is no way at all to make Debian non-interactive? Jan 1, 2016 at 22:08

1 Answer 1


There is some minor automatic configuration available in /etc/ucf.conf- do have a look at that. But after maintaining Scientific Linux (an RHEL variant) and SuSE servers over the past 15 years, I really want something like rpmconf(8).


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