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Questions specific to the Debian official distribution (stable, testing, or unstable); if you are using a derivative of Debian (e.g. Mint, Ubuntu, Kali, etc), then use that distribution’s tag instead.


Debian is a community-driven Linux distribution with a very large number of packages and many supported architectures. Development started in 1993. Several distributions derive from it in some form, including , , and , among many others.

Use this tag for questions that apply specifically to a Debian release; if the question concerns a derivative distribution, use that distribution's tag instead.

If you’re using a derivative, don’t assume that Debian works the same way — that may be the case, but it’s not always true.


The goal of the Debian project is to produce a free operating system. The Debian Free Software Guidelines are one of the notable definitions of free software, and the Open Source Definition derives from it. Debian provides a small amount of non-free software, though it is not formally part of Debian.


At any point in time, there are at least three distributions of Debian:

  • stable: the officially released distribution.
  • testing: the preparation ground for “stable”. This can be seen as a rolling release.
  • unstable: the latest packages as they come in.

The previous released distribution is known as oldstable and is supported in parallel of the current released distribution, initially by the project as a whole, later in life by the long-term support (LTS) effort.

In addition to Debian GNU/Linux, there are projects for BSD-based versions of Debian and Debian GNU/Hurd.


Common tasks

  • Install a package: apt install package-name
  • Apply updates: apt update && apt upgrade

Further reading