How to Properly Update Debian Linux

If you’re new to Linux learning the command line can be daunting but is an essential skill as everything can be done there including updates.

Understanding Packages and Repositories

  1. Packages: A package is a collection of files, libraries, executables, configuration files, and metadata that make up a software application or component. Packages are bundled together to simplify the installation, upgrading, and removal of software on a Linux system. Each package typically corresponds to a single application or library. Packages are designed to be easily managed by package management tools like apt, dnf, yum, and others. These tools handle tasks such as installing, updating, and removing packages while managing dependencies (other software components required for a package to work).For example, if you want to install a web browser like Firefox, you can use a package manager to download and install the corresponding Firefox package, along with any dependencies it requires.
  2. Repositories: A repository (or repo) is a collection of software packages hosted on a server or online platform. It serves as a centralized location where packages are stored, organized, and made available for distribution. Repositories are curated by the Linux distribution maintainers or third-party organizations to ensure the quality, security, and compatibility of the packages.When you use a package manager to install or update software, it connects to the appropriate repositories to retrieve the necessary packages. Each Linux distribution has its own set of official repositories that are pre-configured during installation. These repositories include packages that have been tested and approved for use with that distribution.Additionally, you can configure your system to access third-party repositories that provide additional or specialized software. However, you should be cautious when using third-party repositories, as they might not be as rigorously maintained as the official ones.

In summary, packages are the individual software components that you install and manage on your Linux system, and repositories are the sources from which these packages are obtained. Package management tools make it easy to handle the installation, upgrading, and removal of software while resolving dependencies and ensuring your system remains stable and secure.

To view your repositories try:

cat /etc/apt/sources.list

How to update

So when we update our Linux machines we are utilizing a package managing tool to reach out to repository (which is stored in a file on our system) and automatically handle the tasks of updating and installing our current system.

On Debian systems you will most likely be using apt for your package manager. I run a a debian based distro so I will be providing examples for that package manager.


Update Package Lists

sudo apt update

This command updates the package lists from the repositories so that you have the newest information about available updates


Upgrade Installed Packages

sudo apt upgrade

Once the package lists are update we upgrade all currently installed packages. This command will show you a list of all packages that can be upgraded then ask for confirmation to proceed



sudo apt dist-upgrade

This command handles package changes that require the removal or installation of new packages. It’s often used when transitioning between major releases. This step is optional and doesn’t need to be done every time.


Clean Up Unused Packages

sudo apt autoremove

This will remove packages that were automatically installed as dependencies but are no longer necessary



It’s good practice to always reboot after an update