Ade Malsasa Akbar contact
Senior author, Open Source enthusiast.
Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at 22:02

You may have been familiar with the name Debian Unstable also known as Sid and may want to try it. As an Ubuntu user, this curiosity is nothing weird, as every release of Ubuntu itself is created from it, and many persons around you may talk about it pretty often. The secret is, there is no image file to download for it, so you cannot install it as an operating system. This is why I make this simple guide to invite you to try Debian Unstable on your computer. Let's go!


About Debian

Debian is an advanced operating system. To understand Debian, it is not Windows nor MacOS at all, it is far more. In essence, Debian is divided into three, namely, Unstable, Testing, and Stable while the one you can download is one, namely, Stable. Their difference is between Newest, Newer, and Conservative versions of packages respectively. To use either Unstable or Testing, you must change your installed Debian Stable on your computer, by updating your system's software packages following a repository designated for either one. As a result, you may have a system with Debian Testing (newer packages) or Debian Unstable (newest packages).

Benefits of Debian Unstable

  • Newest software packages versions.
  • Get software versions you cannot get with Debian Stable.
  • Test new software & technologies e.g. Wayland, LibreOffice, GNOME.
  • Enable you to use same versions of software as other distros had.
  • You can compare software packages versions at



  • Debian Stable
  • Internet access with big quota
  • Ability to edit text
  • Time

You must have a computer with Debian Stable installed. For example, you may install Debian in a virtual machine as it counts as one computer. At the time I write this, Stable is Debian 10. Next time, Stable will be Debian 11. If you do not have one yet, download Debian 10, and install it to your computer. Please be aware that doing this will require you large data transfer and also time. As an example,in an expe riment it requires ~2GB download, ~4GB storage, and no less than 4 hours to finish.



Basically, what you need to do is simply to change the name 'stable' into 'unstable' and disable any other ones. See example below:


deb stable main
deb stable-updates main
deb stable/updates main


deb unstable main

# deb stable-updates main# deb stable/updates main

Picture before:

Picture after:

1) Open your sources.list file.
$ sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list

2) Edit 'unstable' code line like example above.

3) Save it.

4) Refresh your repository settings.
$ sudo apt-get update

5) Do full upgrade. 
$ sudo apt-get full-upgrade

6) Watch your screen and answer every question patiently.

7) Once finished, restart your computer and check your Debian Unstable. As an example, a successful upgrade from Debian 10 Buster will say Debian 11 Bullseye at the time when Debian 11 Bullseye is indeed still an Unstable version of Debian. See picture below.

Check Packages

As a proof you are in Debian Stable right now, you may check your packages versions. For example:
$ dpkg -l | grep -i gnome # should return latest GNOME versions available in Debian

$ apt-cache policy libreoffice-writer # unstable should have 7.0 or later

$ apt-cache policy gimp # unstable should have 2.10.22 or later
$ apt-cache policy gnome-shell # unstable should have 3.38.4 or later
$ apt-cache policy plasma-desktop # unstable should have 5.20.5 or later
$ apt-cache policy emacs # compare the result with

(Debian Unstable running gracefully)


Finally, post-upgrade may introduce you to multiple packages need to be removed. This can be known by running simply $ sudo apt-get install without argument. It may say "some packages need to be removed by command line apt-get autoremove. So do it and free some disk space of yours:

$ df -h / # check disk space percentage

$ sudo apt-get autoremove # do the cleaning

$ df -h / # check disk space after

Happy upgrading!

This article is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.