Linux upgrading policy

How often should you upgrade a Linux Debian distribution ? There is no hard rule but there are some guidelines that can help you. You should upgrade:

  • When you are aware of a security issue that is fixed in an update
  • When you suspect that an updated version might fix a bug that you are experiencing
  • Before reporting a bug to make sure it is still present in the latest version that you have available
  • Often enough to get the security fixes that you have not heard about

There are also cases where it is best to not upgrade. For example, it might not be a good idea to upgrade:

  • If you can’t afford any breakage (for example, because you go offline, or because you are about to give a presentation with your computer); it is best to do the upgrade later, when you have enough time to troubleshoot any issue introduced in the process.
  • If a disruptive change happened recently (or is still ongoing) and you fear that all issues have not yet been discovered. For example, when a new GNOME version is released, not all packages are updated at the same time and you are likely to have a mix of packages with the old version and the new version. Most of the time this is fine and it helps everybody to release those updates progressively, but there are always exceptions and some applications might be broken due to such discrepancies.
  • If the apt full-upgrade output tells you that it will remove packages that you consider important for your work. In those cases, you want to review the situation and try to understand why apt wants to remove them. Maybe the packages are currently broken and in this case you might want to wait until fixed versions are available, or they have been obsoleted and you should identify their replacements and then proceed with the full upgrade anyway.

In general, we recommend that you upgrade your distribution at least once a week. You can certainly upgrade daily but it doesn’t make sense to do it more often than that. Even if mirrors are synchronized four times a day, the updates coming from Debian usually land only once a day.

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