Debian Testing as a Rolling Release

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Here is my configuration that keeps Debian testing as a rolling distro

Step 1: File /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/70debconf

DPkg::Pre-Install-Pkgs {"/usr/sbin/dpkg-preconfigure --apt || true";};
APT::Default-Release "testing";

Step 2: File /etc/apt/sources.list

deb testing main non-free contrib
deb-src testing main non-free contrib
deb unstable main non-free contrib
deb-src unstable main non-free contrib

deb experimental main non-free contrib
deb-src experimental main non-free contrib

deb testing/updates main
deb-src testing/updates main

Step 3: Updating your system

aptitude update
aptitude full-upgrade


  • This configuration will keep your system as an “always testing release”
  • If you want a package that is listed in unstable, just do the following:

aptitude install -t unstable your-package


5 thoughts on “Debian Testing as a Rolling Release”

  1. I’ve been doing this for some years now with only a few minor gotchas. May I suggest making the following
    additional changes to your system:
    In /etc/apt create a file called ‘preferences’ with the following contents:
    Package: *
    Pin: release a=testing
    Pin-Priority: 990
    Package: *
    Pin: release a=unstable
    Pin-Priority: 500
    Pin: release a=experimental
    Pin-Priority: 100
    Package: *
    Pin: release o=Debian
    Pin-Priority: -10

    Install a package called ‘apt-listbugs’. I use apt instead of aptitude:
    apt-get install apt-listbugs

    Many developers and users prefer the unstable version of Debian for its new
    features and packages. APT, the usual upgrade tool, can break your system by
    installing a buggy package.

    apt-listbugs lists critical bug reports from the Debian Bug Tracking System.
    Run it from within the APT session, in order to see whether an installation
    or upgrade is known to be unsafe.

    Testing is the “stable” branch of unstable so this applies as well. Also use the ‘Synaptic
    Package Manager’. It allows you select the branch from which you want to install packages ( see
    ‘Settings’ > ‘Preferences’ > ‘Distribution’. Normally prefer versions from testing.

    Consider adding the Deb Multimedia repositories to your /etc/apt/sources.list. They provide non-free
    proprietary packages like Adobe Flashplayer as well as more bleeding edge multimedia software.

    deb testing main non-free
    # deb-src testing main non-free
    deb unstable main non-free
    # deb-src unstable main non-free

    For more info see:
    See the mirror list for a repo closer to home:

    May the force be with you.

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