Image of the glider from the Game of Life by John Conway
Skip to content

Aptitude Full-Upgrade Versus Safe-Upgrade

I've been running Debian Sid on my new Lenovo Thinkpad T61 that I received about a month ago. It's been rock solid. However, lately, aptitude update has been keeping a lot of packages back, namely and Curious why, I visited #debian, only to be told to upgrade and RTFM. Nice. So, I upgraded, then set out on my own to find the adequate and appropriate help I was seeking. Surprise, I found several answers on Here's the low down on what I've discovered:

  • aptitude safe-upgrade will not upgrade packages if:
    • relied dependencies have not been updated to the required version.
    • installing the upgrade means removing dependencies that other packages need.
  • aptitude full-upgrade will update packages unless:
    • the upgrade removes dependencies that other packages need

In my case, and both relied on newer package versions that had not come down the pipe yet, so they were held back. Unfortunately, I made the hasty upgrade, at the request of #debian, before receiving this information. Now, X is extremely unstable. It crashes intermittently, completely unpredicted. So far, I have yet to find what the cause is.

So, here's my advice: when using aptitude to update/upgrade your system, be conservative, and use 'aptitude safe-upgrade' unless you're adventurous and willing to debug unstable systems.

{ 20 } Comments

  1. bapoumba | September 25, 2007 at 1:47 am | Permalink

    full-upgrade is the former dist-upgrade 🙂

  2. Anonymous | September 25, 2007 at 4:37 am | Permalink

    ..and maybe use a distro that refrains from telling you to RTFM? Just a thought.

  3. poor man | September 25, 2007 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    how about running testing, nobody asked you to run the development version 🙂

  4. zulu9 | September 25, 2007 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    debian and esp. #debian do not really support sid. If you run it you are on your own. Anyway, there is a distro dedicated to make sid more useable for mere mortals (with upgrade warnings and support via forum and irc) named sidux.
    Maybe give it a try.

    They recommend (and support) using the classical apt-get dist-upgrade only to upgrade a sid system and always watch for current alerts in their forum or irc-channel before doing so. There are also some small tools to make this more easy (alert icon, update script etc).

  5. monkey | September 25, 2007 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    For me this easier to try man xxxx first, then googling, and then irc.

    But using sid is like using an alpha version of ubuntu, it is not recommended for serious work.

  6. Aaron | September 25, 2007 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    @bapoumba- Yeah. Which is fine, it's just the 'full-upgrade' that killed me. I knew about it before hand, however.

    @poor man- Ok. I'll run testing when the 2.6.22 kernel reaches the trunk. Until then, I need Sid.

    @zulu9- apt-get dist-upgrade was the recommendation of someone else, only to remove several gnome packages end leave me further wishing I had never gotten in this mess.

    @monkey- I would recommend Sid over Ubuntu. I have less stability issues and problems with Sid than with Ubuntu, although Dapper is still a beautiful release. With that said, I need the 2.6.22 kernel, and I'm not going to roll my own, as I like what Debian does to it.

  7. MJ Ray | September 25, 2007 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Anonymous, the distribution didn't tell him to RTFM. One support channel did.

  8. bla | September 25, 2007 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    2.6.22 from sid just installs fine in testing.

  9. Jason | September 25, 2007 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    "..and maybe use a distro that refrains from telling you to RTFM? Just a thought."

    Yeah, that doesn't exist...

  10. Wagner Volanin | September 26, 2007 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    [Content removed by the discretion of the administrator due to it's nature.]

  11. Aaron | September 26, 2007 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    @Wagner Volanin- This sort of comment is inappropriate for this discussion, and I consider it spam. I've removed the content of your comment due to it's nature. If you wish to reach a large audience through my blog, use the contact link above, and send me an email, and most likely, I will post about it. Thank you.

  12. James Stansell | September 27, 2007 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Running Sid pretty much signifies that "you're adventurous and willing to debug unstable systems." Even testing can be adventurous at times.

    As bla said above, you might do better sticking with testing and just installing any additional packages from sid as required. I actually did that with fair results for a few years.

  13. Matt | November 29, 2007 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    "Curious why, I visited #debian, only to be told to upgrade and RTFM. Nice."

    Oh yeah, I heard THAT!
    That's one reason why Debian is the worst Linux to use (even though I use it).
    It's a sad fact that there are far to many people like this. These e-cowards are one reason why Linux will never be as popular as Windows.
    But you know, the openSUSE people are a very helpful crowd. I guess maybe Europeans have much more manners that stoopid amewikans.

  14. fellini | August 14, 2008 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately, what makes it difficult for users to achieve competency in various Linux distributions is that enlightened users tend not to have time to share best practices with their peers. Linux software and distributions tend to progress faster than the documentation, so it makes it difficult for some users to correlate rtfms with current versions and best practices. This bog answered my question quite concisely.

  15. 8cb8 | October 19, 2008 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    Yeah, the safe-upgrade is a good suggestion. I've been running a Debian Testing/Lenny system for a while and am only moderately good at debugging. But I've found with the safe-upgrade instead of full-upgrade, I have far fewer problems arise.

  16. loljak | December 18, 2009 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    I think that full-upgrade is only for upgrading your distro (from lenny to squeeze, for example). And you can do this hazardous task only if you have a "not too old" install with standard packages (from the debian repositories, I mean ) . And also it's better to do that without your X server running. If after upgrading you're still getting a functional system you should use safe-upgrade for maintenance.

    An helpful french ; ))

  17. amir | November 6, 2010 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    thanx ,

  18. ali | December 26, 2010 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    thanks !! 🙂

  19. Steve | February 11, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    where is the KPackageKit in Debian Testing?

  20. infestør | March 2, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    i once paid the price using dist-upgrade (same as "full-upgrade")

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared.